Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Does Faith Mean Believing I Will Receive What I’m Praying For?

An unanswered question

Last week I wrote a post on what it means to pray by faith — but left one crucial question unanswered.

The question is — does Mark 11:23-24 urge us to have faith that we will receive exactly what we are asking?  And if we don’t believe that — are we not praying with faith?

That’s what it sounds like

Here’s Mark 11:23-24 —

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

It sounds like Jesus always wants us to believe that we will receive exactly what we are asking.

But there’s another passage that makes this interpretation doubtful.

Paul’s thorn in the flesh

We’re not sure what the thorn in the flesh was — but we know Paul longed for it to be gone.

So Paul prayed earnestly three times for the Lord to remove it (2Cor 12:8).  But the Lord answered “No.”  Why?

The Lord tells him why.  And it’s not because Paul lacked faith.

It’s because the Lord was going to give Paul something better — a deeper experience of Christ’s grace and power than he would have had without the thorn.

Here’s the point — sometimes God chooses not to give us what we are asking, because He’s going to give us something even better.

So how should we pray?

Does praying with faith mean believing that God will always give us what we are asking?  But how can we believe that — when Paul’s thorn in the flesh shows that’s not always the case?

So praying with faith doesn’t mean believing that God will always give us what we ask.

Praying with faith means believing that God will always give us what we ask, or something better.

But how does that fit what Jesus seems to say in Mark 11?

Paul on mountain-moving faith

What helps me is 1Corinthians 13:2 —

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Here Paul is referring to Jesus’ teaching in Mark 11 about faith that moves mountains.

But Paul does not think mountain-moving faith is something we all have — it’s a spiritual gift some of us will have.  Here’s why I say this —

  1. In 1Cor 12-14 Paul is talking about spiritual gifts.
  2. One of these spiritual gifts is faith, as mentioned in 1Cor 12:9.
  3. In 1Cor 13:2 Paul lists mountain-moving faith along with other spectacular spiritual gifts — prophetic powers and understanding all mysteries and all knowledge.

So it seems likely that Paul understood mountain-moving faith as a spiritual gift — which means that some, but not all, will have it.

So sometimes some people, as they are praying, will receive a supernatural confidence that God is going to do exactly what they are praying.  It’s not something they stir up themselves — it’s a gift from God.

That’s the spiritual gift of faith.  And when that happens, they can be confident that God will do exactly as they ask.

So what was Jesus saying?

Jesus says “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Isn’t he urging us to believe that we will receive what we requested?  Not necessarily.

Sometimes in biblical language what sounds like a command is actually an “if”-statement.

For example, Eph 4:26 literally reads “be angry, and sin not.”  But it probably means “IF you get angry, sin not” (see P. T. O’Brien, “Ephesians,” p.339 and Marcus Barth, “Ephesians,” 2:513).

So Jesus is saying — “whatever you ask in prayer, IF [through the spiritual gift of faith] you believe that you have received it, it will be yours.”

What Jesus calls us to do

Jesus calls us to earnestly desire and pray for spiritual gifts, including the gift of faith (1Cor 12:9 and 1Cor 14:1,13).

And He calls us to pray earnestly for whatever is within His general will, believing that He will give us exactly what we are requesting, or something even better (Matt 7:7-11; 1 John 5:14).

Sometimes as we are praying, we might feel the Holy Spirit giving us a supernatural certainty that God is going to do what we are asking.  When that happens, that’s the spiritual gift of faith, and we can be assured we will receive exactly what we request (Mark 11:23-24).

But if we don’t receive the spiritual gift of faith, we should not be discouraged.  The Spirit gives the gifts as he wills (1Cor 12:11).

So we just keep praying in line with His general will — knowing that we will receive what we are asking, or something even better.

How does this impact you?

Have you ever received the gift of faith?  Tell us your story — or other ways this post impacts you.  Feel free to leave a reply below — thanks.

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(Picture by dlockeretz on stock xchng.)

Category: Help with Prayer, The Work of the Spirit


11 Responses

  1. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    I am completely stunned, Steve.

    If I needed any hint for God is leading His people permanently, then this post would be the proof for it.

    Yesterday in the late evening (i.e. time difference between Germany and California comes to 9 hours later in my country), I felt somehow nudged to write a comment on “faith as a spiritual gift of God” including some different Scriptures and 1 Cor 12:9 as you mentioned above together with 2 Peter 1:1 that you recently attested to me being related with the whole matter.

    To serve as a proof of my assertion, here is the copy of my two comments over there at (Tullian Tchividjian, “What does it mean to please God?”).


    Susanne Schuberth (Germany)
    January 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Without faith it is impossible to please him. – Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

    That’s so true. Faith is nothing we can achieve and multiply by ourselves, it is a spiritual gift of God (1 Cor 12:9 + 2 Cor 4:13) we have to receive from Him (2 Petr 1:1) through hearing the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). As far as the spiritual part of our life is concerned, we have to be “in Christ” to please God, and it is Christ’s Spirit dwelling in us (Rom 8:9) who enables us to be spiritual* because “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8)

    * “spiritual” (German Luther Bible 1984) = “in the spirit” (ESV)

    But what about our doing that pleases God?

    “IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself when he does what is good or what is not good; for if he finds his heart confident that it pleases God, the work is good, even if it were so small a thing as picking up a straw. If confidence is absent, or if he doubts, the work is not good, although it should raise all the dead and the man should give himself to be burned. This is the teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv:
    ‘Whatsoever is not done of or in faith is sin.’ Faith, as the chief work, and no other work, has given us the name of ‘believers on Christ.’ For all other works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a sinner, may also do; but to trust firmly that he pleases God, is possible only for a Christian who is enlightened and strengthened by grace.”

    (Martin Luther, A treatise on Good Works, 1520)

    Susanne Schuberth (Germany)
    January 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm


    I meant, “we have to receive from Him 2 Peter 1:1 through hearing” instead of “2 Petr 1:1″ (“Petrus” would be German resp. Latin).



    Steve, I’m still confused about our amazing God. In the first place I never know how He will lead me but I can feel it deep in my heart that He does it. Later, when I am able to look at the results, I always realize that He was the author of “my own” doing.
    What a surprising God He is…


    Back to your post.
    You wrote about mountain-moving faith, Paul’s thorn in the flesh. and that God didn’t give Paul what he asked for. You are so right saying

    “Here’s the point — sometimes God chooses not to give us what we are asking, because He’s going to give us something even better.”

    Wasn’t it God’s grace that should have been enough for Paul though he certainly severely suffered from the demon’s tortures? I personally assume that “the thorn in the flesh” wasn’t some kind of physical illness but a pure spiritual agony which hindered Paul from becoming conceited due to those awesome revelations he experienced.

    As for me I can definitely confirm that not only God’s spiritual love and His caressing touches of my soul are most often a thoroughly bodily experience (“in the flesh”), but Satan’s spiritual threats can be discerned physically as well. His mostly verbal assaults often leave me fully devastated until Jesus uplifts me again. I guess that God bestows such frightening attacks on Satan in order to humble his children. It’s a kind of precaution against pride. Because when we are weak afterwards we’ll need Him more.
    Admittedly, it’s a horrible experience but very helpful to stay “grounded”. Otherwise it would be easy to lose ground and to become insane with first “godly” happiness about any revelation and then, unfortunately, with boastfulness about such a gorgeous experience.

    You – rightly again – showed that 1 Cor 13,2 “lists mountain-moving faith along with other spectacular spiritual gifts — prophetic powers and understanding all mysteries and all knowledge.”

    It appears to me that no matter how much faith (or whatever) we still have received from Him – if there is no love to find in our hearts, nothing else matters. Love is basically the “more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).

    Sorry, Steve. I’m afraid I could continue writing for hours but I didn’t plan to write a novel…

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for your encouraging comment, Susanne. How kind of the Father to have you thinking about the gift of faith at the same time.

      And I was strengthened reading your quote from Luther about pleasing God.

      May the Father richly bless you today.

  2. Doug Boys says:


    I love this particular post, so I keep coming back to it. It isn’t just about answered prayer. It also has great insights about spiritual gifts.

    You wrote: “So sometimes some people, as they are praying, will receive a supernatural confidence that God is going to do exactly what they are praying. It’s not something they stir up themselves — it’s a gift from God.”

    Can you think of several other ways that people report operating (on a practical level) with this gift besides receiving the confidence just when they pray?


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Doug,

      It’s so good to hear from you — thank you for sharing such encouraging and helpful thoughts.

      I think the gift of faith can also operate when you know (supernaturally) that God is going do work through you as you do something.

      In that case it’s not that you are praying about something; it’s that you are doing something.

      One small example is a few Sundays ago when I had a strong sense that God wanted me to call people forward who struggled under guilt so we could pray for them. I knew (supernaturally) that if I gave that call, God would have people come, and they did.

      I hope that helps some.

      And may the Lord continue to richly bless you,


  3. Doug Boys says:


    I’m still lovin’ this post. I’ve bookmarked it so that I can return to it at least monthly. Returning–but not too frequently–keeps is fresh each time I read it.

    Thanks for your most recent reply. I found it helpful because I’ve experienced the same thing over and over again, but not necessarily in prayer.

    As you described, I’ve sensed from God that a particular course of action is going to be successful if I just do it.

    And each time, when I’ve started out with that sense from God, the course of action has been successful.


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Doug,

      I’m encouraged that you have experienced the gift of faith in that same way. And hearing your story is also stirring me to ask the Father for more of that gift.

      Onward, brother!


  4. sherry says:

    Hi Steve

    I have some scary things coming up this week, I still don’t have a job, but I do have bills that are due, like my car insurance and another insurance. I have no money for tis, but I feel so calm about it all. I believe this is God telling me that it’s all taken care of

  5. Alex says:

    Hi, Steve!
    First of all, thank you so so much for posting this! It has helped me a LOT! See, a month or two ago I prayed to God for something, and (since I’m kinda of new on this) I didn’t know if I felt it o it was He talking to me, but the message was clear and I felt that this person it’s meant to be for me but not now. So I felt calmed and sure, I was fine but as I continued to pursuit this prayer I started to felt less sure and calmed, my faith started to felt weak and I, even I was torn, I still believed in that message, a few chances what I prayed for was shown for me, I was so happy and thankfull but then again, everything went down. I don’t know what to do or think or feel, or even believe, silently, behind all this pain I claim to believe in that message for it was said to me for something and in the right time! So I ask God for patience but still, I’m sad and heartbroken. What should I do? I posted here because of what you said

    “So sometimes some people, as they are praying, will receive a supernatural confidence that God is going to do exactly what they are praying. It’s not something they stir up themselves — it’s a gift from God. ”
    Only that God also mentioned that won’t be now, and that I have to do something first (I keep asking without knowing what it is)

    Hope you can add something, but for now, I’m really glad I found this post since it means something wonderful to me, and I’m gonna try to keep believing even thought everything seems like not right now!
    Thank you and God bless you! 🙂

  6. Amy Faith says:

    I recently found this post and have been so encouraged by it. I have been praying and praying for months with no sign of any change in my situation. Recently I’ve been feeling like God is whispering to my heart that he is taking care of it & fixing what is broken and that the desires of my heart will be fulfilled in the way I have been asking. I am still not sure if this is my own wishful thinking- but reading your post made me realize that it could actually be God’s reassurance. I can only say that if he does fulfill this request in my life my faith will be forever strengthened because I will know his voice moving forward and will trust that it is him and not me that I’m sensing in my heart. I don’t want to mistake my own feelings for the voice of God, but the thought of Jesus whispering assurance to me fills me with hope and it has renewed me to persevere in prayer and trust! Thank you for sharing these truths!

  7. Sandy says:

    Yes, a couple of times. In praying for a girl named Kayla Kime who had been abducted. A friend and I prayed and had an assurance that she would be found unharmed. She was found just before she was supposed to be taken into Mexico. One other time, I was given a prophetic dream. A friend of mine had tried to have children and had saved up and was beginning the adoption process and waiting to go back on birth control to stop her endometriosis from spreading since she had been off of them. I saw her daughter in a dream – which wasn’t like any dream I had ever had. I told her she would have a daughter, which was hard because they had tried for so long. Not long after, she called and said she was pregnant. She bled some a few months into it and was understandably afraid, but I kept reminding her of God’s promise. She said she thought it might be a boy, but I reminded her what God had shown me. Sure enough, she had a beautiful little girl. She is 10 now and 6 months younger than my own daughter- just like my friend and I. Wow, I have just really been encouraged by recalling that. God did not have to do that and I wasn’t looking for it, but it just reminds me how He really is Lord over all life and all death. That’s a great thing for me to be reminded of. We’ve had a lot of young people die in our small community over the last couple of years. Truly before He forms us He knows us and writes our days in His book.

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