Sadly, we American Christians aren’t known for our prayer. So when we come across Jesus’ teaching on prayer, we’re left either confused or frustrated. “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,” Jesus told us, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20). That’s an astounding promise—so astounding, in fact, that I think most of us just don’t believe it.
Our unbelief is, in one sense, understandable. After all, many of us know what it’s like to ask God to move a mountain, only to have it stubbornly sit there, immobile. If we’re honest, few of us even look for God to move mountains; we’d be satisfied with our prayers leading God to move an anthill. But even that seems foreign to our experience.
When our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, our natural response is to assume something is wrong with us. Maybe we don’t have enough belief. Maybe we need to work up a little bit more feeling to qualify as “mustard seed” faith. But faith isn’t simply a positive emotion toward God. It’s not some presumptuous optimism that God will give us what we want if we just believe hard enough. No, in Scripture, faith is a response to what God has revealed. So if you want to pray in faith, discern what God has revealed, and then ask him for it.
God reveals himself through his Word. So if we want him to move mountains, we need to first look to the Word to find out which mountains he wants us to move. The more we ground ourselves in his revealed promises, the more we can pray with boldness. The prayers that are heard by heaven are the ones that start in heaven.