Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 15 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We have made it through two weeks of 2021! We are reading Mark 11 today, and our focus is on praying effectively. Thank you for joining us for Bible 2021! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Andhra Pradesh, India, Southeast England, Birmingham, Alabama, Indianapolis, Indiana and Detroit Michigan Thanks for listening! Our focus this year is on DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan!
Mark 11 is an important passage. Even though Mark is shorter than the other Gospels, Marks’ account of the life of Jesus expands at the end of Jesus’ life, and pays much attention to the events in the days before His death, and in this chapter, we see the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, as the people acclaim Him and cast down palm branches. Jesus cleanses the temple in this passage, again displaying His passion and zeal for the House of God, and the chapter ends with Jesus confounding the Scribes and Pharisee’s attempts to challenge and interrogate Him. But, in the middle of all of that, is the most curious incident with the fig tree. As my daughter Abbey asked tonight when we read the passage, “why did Jesus curse the fig tree if it wasn’t in season?” That is a most excellent question, and there has been much speculation as to the answer. Though the Bible never fully explains the reasons behind Jesus’ actions here, I have read two reasons that seem quite credible. First, it would appear that fig trees in this region have more than one fruitful season, and that there should have been edible buds on the tree if it were going to have actual figs during the season. In other words, there should have been something edible on the tree at this point, and the fact that there wasn’t showed that the tree was not going to be fruitful – it was barren. Of deeper significance is fruitlessness itself – this fig tree seems to be symbolically connected to Israel (compare with John 15:1-8) and it would seem that Jesus is teaching the disciples a strong, but veiled parable about the dangers of fruitlessness. That said, we aren’t focused on the fig tree today, but on the amazing teaching about prayer that Jesus gives after this episode.
Two very important keys to prayer are demonstrated here – let’s read the passage, and listen out for them.
Key #1, according to Jesus, is faith that doesn’t doubt. Verses 22 and 23 are amongst the most challenging teachings of Jesus in the entire Bible. Listen again:
22 Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God.23 Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him Mark 11:22-23
This is a struggle verse for many, and I can understand why, but I take it at face value. Jesus is saying here, I think, that if one prays with perfect faith and zero doubt, that miracles will happen. Thus could Jesus curse a fig tree, and it die, and thus could Jesus call the dead and rotting Lazarus out of his tomb, and he responded, being perfectly restored to life. There are other keys to prayer as well, including asking according to God’s will, as we see in 1 John 5:14-15
14 This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.
So this tells us that a lack of faith without doubting is NOT the cause of every unanswered prayer we have, but Jesus is pointing us to faith as a key. How can we have increased faith? The obvious biblical answer is that the Word of God brings faith, according to Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”
Key #2 in effective prayer, according to Jesus, is, perhaps surprisingly, forgiveness. Here is our key verse of the day:
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.” Mark 11:25
That this is a 10ish minute podcast limits our ability day to day to dive to the deepest depths of these truths, but we should learn from Jesus here that faith and forgiveness are two massive keys to answered prayer. (I think the depth comes over time) Let’s close with some wise words from John ‘Amazing Grace’ Newton, pointing us to the power and necessity of forgiveness.
This sense of God’s goodness, and the continual need you find of his renewed mercy from day to day, will soften your spirit (if you are a believer), disarm and gradually weaken every proud thought that would plead for the exercise of anger and resentment towards those who have offended you. You will be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; you will put on (as the beloved of God) bowels of meekness*, long-suffering, and compassion, forbearing and forgiving, if you have ought against any; because God for Christ’s sake has freely forgiven you. If you find this practice difficult, it is owing partly to the remaining depravity of your nature, and partly because you have had but a faint sense of his mercy. Pray for a more powerful manifestation of it, and you will do better; mercy will be your delight.
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 2 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 548–549.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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