I have spent a good part of my Christian life with one cry in my heart: "Lord, teach me to pray." It's been with me ever since I can remember. It was my prayer as a young believer, and even on this platform many years ago. It’s not so much a technique I have learned; instead, God showed me His heart and Himself little by little. Let’s look at the example of Jesus going into the temple on His way to Jerusalem and overthrowing tables. It’s a story that shows us God’s heart. His house was supposed to be a place of prayer, not a religious money grab. When the temple was used for something other than God intended, He was denied the opportunity to answer the cries of His people. That’s what produced the only anger Jesus shows in the New Testament.
When Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I've heard your prayer. My heart will perpetually be there. Even if I have to send pestilence or the people are captivated within their borders, if those called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven. I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. My eyes will be open, and my ears will constantly be listening for the prayer that will be prayed in this place." How sad that the temple was built on that foundation and became something other than God intended. The tragedy is not just in the deficiency of the religious system; it's the blocked passion in the heart of God to answer prayer.
When was the last time you saw God like that? We often think that God came to the world, died for our sins, returned to Heaven, folded His arms, and waited for us to get enough scripture together. We think He’s sitting there, checking our words, assessing the size of the faith mountain in our hearts, and maybe reluctantly, He'll answer our prayers. The opposite is true. We are reluctant to believe God is passionate about answering us before we ask. I see something in the heart of God that I want to bring to you in the scriptures by way of just consideration.
My message title is: God Will Move Heaven and Earth to Answer You. I'm going to prove it to you. Mark 4:35 says, "On the same day evening had come, he said to them, 'Let's cross over to the other side.' When they had left the multitude, they took him along in the boat as he was, and other little boats were also with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so it was already filling." Does that sound like your life? You got a word from Jesus: If you trust me, I'll take you to the other side. So you got in the boat with Him, and you're halfway across your journey, and the wind and the waves are beating on your boat. You're wondering, will I ever make it through this life? Continuing: "But he was in the stern asleep on a pillow, and they woke him and said, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'"
Has anybody prayed that prayer recently? "God, do you not care that I'm being persecuted at work? Do you not care that I don't have a job? Do you not care that I'm not free yet from this addiction in my mind, body, or how people treat me?" Verse 39: “And then he arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace be still,’ and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Instantaneously, the waves went down. They went flat like a mirror. Jesus says, "Why are you so fearful, and how is it that you have no faith?" Not little faith, no faith. Even though the men were in a boat with the Son of God, they didn't believe they would make it to the other side. They woke Jesus, accusing Him of being unfaithful. Even though their prayer was an accusation with no faith, God still answered.
Psalm 107 in the Old Testament shows us four instances where people are broken beyond hope and seemingly without repair. Yet, when they cry out for help, God answers and sets them free. Verses 4–9 talk about people who are hungry and thirsty and wandering in the wilderness. They're lonely and empty, they find no place to dwell, and their soul is fading. When they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, He delivers them out of their distress. Verse 10 talks about those who sit in darkness in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and iron, because they rebelled against the words of God. Verse 11 says, "Because they rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High, therefore he brought down their heart with labor, they fell, and there was no one to help, and then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses." Think about our present society. Consider the depth of rebellion against the Word of God. We find ourselves captivated by addictions, incivility, and hatred.
Verse 17 says, "Fools, because of their transgression and iniquities, are afflicted, their souls abhorreth all manner of food, and they draw near to the gates of death." They push away the Word of God. They resist the true history of how God has dealt with us as a nation. Verse 19: "Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them out of their distresses, he sent his word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction." Lastly, verse 23 says, "Those who go down to the sea and ships who do business in great waters, they see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep."
In other words, those who have trust in commerce, money, and retirement plans to give them security will see these things collapse in front of them. When this happens in our society, as it has already begun, remember it’s God’s mercy. Some will say it’s the judgment of God, which is true in measure, but mercy triumphs over judgment. I would rather God pull out the carpet of false security than leave us to ourselves. We’re a society heading our way and facing an eternity without God.
Verse 28, "Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm so that its waves are still. Then they're glad because they're quiet, and he guides them to their desired havens." There's no evidence in this Psalm that there's any faith in their cry; it's just a cry of despair and desperation with no scripture behind it. Even though they have embraced false pursuits and trusts, God, in His mercy, answers them. He brings them out of their distresses, calms their storm, removes their waves, and brings them to the place they've always longed to be—into a relationship with Himself. We are created by God, in the image of God, eternally for God. We are the only thing in creation that can decide to accept or reject the lordship of Jesus Christ, and God brings us home.
The last verse of Psalm 107 says, "Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the loving-kindness of the Lord." Amazing. Here’s God, not withholding, drawing back, or saying to the people, "Well, you made a mistake; you decided to walk away from me, so you bear the consequences. You said you didn't need me, so see if you can save yourself. You trusted in money more than me, so let money guide you into the future." God doesn't do that. God will bring us back to Him every time. Hallelujah.
In our opening text, Jesus describes His disciples as having no faith. They are like young believers. They don't fully understand the cross yet (of course, it hasn’t even happened). They know that the Messiah is with them, but they're new to walking with Him, just as many of us are, with prayers of accusation. Next, I want to show you an example of when God answers prayers of some faith. Mark 9 shows a father with a sick boy with a mute spirit, “and wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid.” Verses 22–24 say, “And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” He sees this spirit on his son destroying him and feels helpless, staring at a bleak, unknown future. How many parents feel that way today?
Unbridled passions are being unleashed in this generation, and many young people have been raised without God. They've been told there's no such thing as eternal life, a cross, or salvation. They've been led to believe that if it feels good, do it; there's no consequence. They've been raised without any fundamental morals. Instead of the water of God's Word that brings life, clarity, cleansing, and direction, there's a baptism of confusion. Young people don't know who they are; they don't know whose they are. I can hear the cry of moms and dads who don't know what will happen to their children. Like the father in this scripture, they pray for compassion and healing, even with little faith. If we aren’t walking on water, our faith has limits. The good news is that Jesus has no limits. At the end of this text, He commends that spirit to come out of the boy and enter him no more—and that child is set free. Thank God for His mercy.
Our final scripture will be in 2 Kings 20. We talked about men of no faith, then some faith, and this story is of a man who wants to believe. Verses 1–11 tell the story of Hezekiah and Isaiah:
“In those days, Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.”’ Then he turned his face toward the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day, you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.’”’ Then Isaiah said, ‘Take a lump of figs.’ So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What is the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?’ Then Isaiah said, ‘This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?’ And Hezekiah answered, ‘It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.’ So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the Lord, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.”
Ten degrees on the sundial of that time is 20 minutes, so Isaiah's saying, "Here's what the Lord will do to show you that He's going to heal you." Not that God had to do that, but He wanted to show His faithfulness and that He wasn't offended by the prayer of a man who wanted to believe. Isn't that amazing? God turns time backward because He doesn't dwell in time as we do. We live in this little space in eternity called time, but He spans from eternity past to eternity future. He's the Lord over time and can do whatever He wants. He can go back and heal things that you thought could never be healed in your life. He can go back and give you something that you thought you lost. God can travel backward and give you callings you thought slipped through your fingers. He can go back and make your life into something that sin took from you. Hallelujah.
God is continually unoffended when we fall short. Despite unbelief, He stopped the seas for the disciples, healed the father’s boy, and turned the universe backward for Hezekiah (who has a word from the mouth of God Himself through Isaish and yet doesn't fully believe). I think it is settled once and for all that God will move Heaven and Earth to answer your prayers. What are you waiting for if you're lost, hungry, or bound—if you're dying inside? Why will you not cry out to God? How perplexing must it be to the Lord Himself, thinking, "Have I not shown you my heart? Have I not shown you my passion for answering you? Have I not shown you my power? Have I not shown you my willingness to work with your frailty and lack of faith?" God is not offended by the littleness of our faith, questions or struggles, or even accusations against His faithfulness. The beauty of our salvation is that God’s mercy and grace endure forever.