Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:18-22)
Faith And Prayer
The humanity and deity of Jesus are found in the story of the fig tree. During the final days of His life, Jesus returns from Bethany to Jerusalem when He notices a fig tree by the road. As it was morning and He had nothing to eat, He went to the fig tree for a quick breakfast. To His surprise, what He thought was a tree burdened with figs was a tree barren of figs with only leaves. He said, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. If Jesus were all deity (God), He would have known immediately if the tree had figs or not. His humanity desired food, and He walked to the tree expecting to find fruit. When there was no fruit on the tree, Jesus cursed the tree, and it immediately withered away. This astonished the disciples who witnessed the event. Using the opportunity to teach a lesson, Jesus taught them about faith and prayer.
Jesus performed miracles by the Finger of God, the Holy Spirit. He healed all manner of diseases, walked on water, raised the dead, rebuked evil spirits, and performed signs and wonders before the people. His power was not limited to exercising miracles simply through the force of the Holy Spirit but His deep connection with the Father. Prayer was a central part of His life. There were many times Jesus would find a quiet place to pray. When it was time to choose the twelve apostles, He prayed the whole night. Offering prayers to the Father cannot be rote arrangements of words and thoughts without the power of God gleaming on its surface. True prayer is presented with a heart entirely devoted and committed to the Father.
When Jesus prayed for the tree to die, He exercised an avenue of faith established with His Father learned since childhood. The lesson taught to the disciples was to move away from the ordinary prayers of a humdrum spiritual kindergarten to prayers that can move mountains. Jesus told His disciples they had the power to curse a tree or say to Mount Hermon to be cast into the sea, and it would be done. The object lesson was not for the men to go around cursing trees or throwing hills and mountains into the sea. Jesus was teaching the need to feel the power of mountain-moving prayer. Faith must believe in the character of prayer that God always answers prayers, and His answer is always “yes.”
What makes praying difficult is that God seldom gives the answer to prayer sought by men. When we say God always answers yes in prayer is to understand that prayer is accomplished according to the word of the Lord. The yes answer by God may be perceived as a no statement from the Father, but if He knows best what His children need, His answer is always the right answer; thus making it always a yes answer. That is power. Jesus is teaching His disciples to realize the power of prayer that can move mountains.
Accepting and believing that God will always give the better answer will change the manner of praying in the heart of the humble. God is not a vending machine where someone can demand a certain outcome. When a man bends his heart to the will of the Father in deep and faithful prayer, he will know and believe God will always answer that prayer. The answer is not how prayer is measured. Prayer is measured by faith. Allowing God to work through the avenue of prayer changes the petitioner’s heart. Find a fig tree and pray about it. You will be amazed at what happens next.