The Focus for Powerful Prayer
What is the focus within our prayer that brings the power? Is it our own faith, worthiness, or God’s grace? These questions must be considered as we want our prayer to be effective This post is the first of a several part series on prayer focus.
First let’s look at two common focuses illustrated in the same person having an encounter with Jesus. Then we will think about why one was not effective and the other was powerfully effective just minutes later. I’ve used Amplified Translation to draw out the inherent original language and added emphasis to key points.
Matthew 15:21-28 (AMP)
21 And going away from there, Jesus withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22 And behold, a woman who was a Canaanite from that district came out and, with a [loud, troublesomely urgent] cry, begged, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is miserably and distressingly and cruelly possessed by a demon!
23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, Send her away, for she is crying out after us.
24 He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 But she came and, kneeling, worshiped Him and kept praying, Lord, help me!
26 And He answered, It is not right (proper, becoming, or fair) to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs. (puppies)
27 She said, Yes, Lord, yet even the little pups (little whelps) eat the crumbs that fall from their [young] masters’ table.
28 Then Jesus answered her, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you wish. And her daughter was cured from that moment.
In verse 22, this non-Jew or gentile woman attempts to approach Jesus in a way a Jew would have denoting Jesus as “Son of David”. We see this phrase commonly used by Jews approaching Jesus as they are seeking healing or deliverance. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus came first to God’s Covenant People so there is an element of “worthy by covenant”–the “Old Covenant”. We will later look at our “worthiness under the covenant of grace or New Covenant” but, in either, the focus during prayer is key.
Jesus clearly made no response to the Canaanite woman’s feigning a covenant position, and, therefore, positionally deserving of Jesus’s attention and action. The “card” she was attempting to play was “worthiness” and it did not work. The disciples were quite irritated with the woman. Jesus, in His kindness, explained the covenant position.
In verse 25, however, the woman realizes she’s been “busted” for her charade and “came and, kneeling, worshiped Him and kept praying.” She is humbly persistent and asks for the smallest token of His mercy and compassion—the crumbs of His divine “bread”. Later, at the last supper, we learn that the use of “bread” in this story was prophetic regarding healing. Nevertheless, this gentile woman realizes even the “crumbs” of Jesus’s great compassion are enough to bring wholeness to her afflicted daughter.
This woman changed her focus from her own “worthiness” to Jesus’s love, compassion, mercy, and grace (unmerited favor). She knelt and worshiped Jesus throwing herself on His mercy. She knew that even the “crumbs” would be powerful enough. She had no thought of the level of her own faith.
When we are praying for healing or favor or protection, often we feel guilt or concern that we are unworthy because of something we have done. Or we worry that our faith may not be strong enough to have God’s own promises come true in our lives. Or worse, we may believe that God may not want to answer “Yes and amen” in our particular case because He’s punishing us. ALL of these focuses are lies from the enemy of our souls and they divert our attention from what we must focus on for powerful prayer.
If we are not spending time in God’s Word, we may not be aware of God’s own promises for our lives under the New Covenant of God’s grace (unmerited favor). We may wonder, like the disciples following Jesus, how to strengthen our faith.
Luke 17:5-6 (NIV)
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
(NOTE: Telling a big tree to move is not a natural event. Faith opens the supernatural realm. Worship also does this because God inhabits our worship as Scripture teaches.)
Mark 4:31 (NIV)
31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.
Jesus said we only need a tiny amount of faith to have what we SAY (not what we wish or hope for or beg for IF it’s God’s will). NO!
However, every indication in Scripture is that the power to see our prayers answered “Yes and Amen” as God promises—that
amazing power we saw in Jesus’s resurrection—that power is NOT within focusing on our own faith but within focusing on God’s compassion, love, and grace. When we SEE His grace, then He sees our faith even though we have not been thinking about our faith when we pray.
In my next post, I will share Scripture that helps us understand where our faith comes from and also look at examples from Jesus’s ministry illustrating the power of focusing on God’s grace rather than one’s own faith as we pray.
We will also look at some Bible translation errors (examining original language) that will help us better understand the subject of faith and powerful prayer. God wants to say “Yes and Amen”. . . Our prayers are powerful when they line up with God’s own Word.