The Theological Component of Prayer (11:22)
The Lord’s response to Peter’s comment, “Have faith in God,” is a call to trust in God and not doubt Him (Matt. 21:20). The theological component of prayer is not concerned with the nature of personal faith but the character of the living God. To have an effective prayer life requires trusting God’s power, purpose, promise, plans, and will. Prayer focuses on honoring God’s name, advancing His kingdom, and accomplishing His will (Matt. 6:9–10). In contrast, selfish prayer will not be answered. “You ask and do not receive,” James warned, “because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3; cf. v. 15). In his first epistle the apostle John stressed that prayer must be consistent with God’s will: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14; cf. John 14:13–14).
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul provided an example of trusting God because of what He has done:
Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. (Phil. 1:12–14; cf. 1 Peter 4:19)
God’s faithfulness in allowing Paul’s powerful witness to the Word of God despite his circumstances encouraged other Christians in Rome to trust in God and boldly preach the gospel.
22 We have noted that the cursing of the fig tree is closely related to the cleansing of the temple, with both symbolizing God’s judgment against Israel. Yet oddly, Jesus does not make this connection explicit. Instead, in this verse and in the teaching that follows, he links the miracle of the fig tree’s destruction to the power of faith and prayer. This feature suggests to some commentators that the sayings of vv. 22–25 have no historical connection with what precedes and that Mark (or the tradition before them) has added them out of a misunderstanding of the symbolism of the fig tree’s destruction. While this is possible, it is more likely that Jesus took this opportunity to draw a second application from the miracle and that Mark (and Matthew, who follows him) has retained this application. Jesus uses the incident of the fig tree to teach critical lessons on faith and prayer. The source of the power for performing the miracle is God. He must be the object of our faith.
11:22 Have faith in God. It is commonly thought that this was not originally a part of this section and was added by Mark. However, the sayings of verses 22–26 constitute a valid response to Peter’s statement in verse 21, and Jesus builds on the authority behind his actions and invites the disciples to participate in that authority by faith. It makes perfect sense here. Prayer enables us to tap into the same power source that was behind Jesus. As David Garland concludes, “these sayings … are integrally related to context. They reveal the essence of the new order that replaces the old. The new order is based on faith in God (11:22) that overcomes insurmountable odds (11:23), is sustained by grace (11:24), and is characterized by forgiveness (11:25).” Jesus’s statement could be an indicative (“You have the faithfulness of God,” assuring them that God is on their side) but in this context is better seen as a command, exhorting them to a greater awareness of God and presenting faith as the only way they can participate in the authority that Jesus has just demonstrated. In Mark faith is more than trust in God; it is a completely God-dependent perspective on life. R. T. France notes that the plural verbs in verses 22, 24–25 emphasize the importance of communal prayer.
Ver. 22. Have faith in God.—
Have faith in God:—
- What faith is. 1. Taking God at His word, about things unknown (Heb. 11:7), unlikely (Heb. 11:17–19), untried (Heb. 11:28). 2. Trusting Jesus at His invitation. Trust your soul to His care; your sins to His cleansing; your life to His keeping.
- Whence faith comes. 1. From God’s grace (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 12:3) 2. From God’s Word (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:15). 3. From God’s working (1 John 5:1; Col. 2:12). 4. Out of the heart (Rom. 10:10).
III. How faith works. 1. It overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). 2. It purifies the heart (Acts 15:8, 9). 3. It works by love (Gal. 5:6). (J. Richardson, M.A.)
Have faith in God—God will not desert those who trust in Him:—Many years ago, when in my country charge, I returned one afternoon from a funeral, fatigued with the day’s work. After a long ride, I had accompanied the mourners to the churchyard. As I neared my stable-door, I felt a strange prompting to visit a poor widow who, with her invalid daughter, lived in a lonely cottage in an outlying part of the parish. My natural reluctance to make another visit was overcome by a feeling which I could not resist, and I turned my horse’s head towards the cottage. I was thinking only of the widow’s spiritual needs; but, when I reached her little house, I was struck with its look of unwonted bareness and poverty. After putting a little money into her hand, I began to inquire into their circumstances, and found that their supplies had been utterly exhausted since the night before. I asked them what they had done. “I just spread it out before the Lord!” “Did you tell your case to any friend?” “Oh no, sir; nobody knows but Himself and me. I knew He wouldn’t forget, though I didn’t know how He would help me, till I saw you coming riding over the hill, and then I said, “There’s the Lord’s answer.” Many a time has the recollection of this incident encouraged me to trust in the loving care of my heavenly Father. (G. Macdonald, D.D.) One winter morning, a poor little orphan boy of six or eight years begged a lady to allow him to clean away the snow from her door. “Do you get much to do, my little boy?” said the lady. “Sometimes I do,” he replied, “but often I get very little.” “And are you never afraid that you will not get enough to live on?” The child looked perplexed a moment, and then answered, “Don’t you think God will take care of a boy if he puts his trust in Him, and does the best he can?”
Have faith in God:—Gotthold saw several sailors step into a boat to cross a river. Two took the oars, and, as usual, turned their backs upon the shore to which they intended to sail. A third stood and kept his face unaverted on the place where they wished to land, and which they very speedily reached. “See here,” he said, to those about him, “what may well remind us of our condition. Life is a mighty river, rapidly flowing into the ocean of eternity, and returning no more. On this river we are all afloat in the bark of our vocation, which we must urge forward with the oars of industry and toil. Like these sailors, therefore, we ought to turn our back upon the future, put our confidence in God, who stands at the helm, and by His mighty power steers the vessel to where happiness and salvation await us, and diligently labour, unconcerned about anything else. We would smile, were these men to turn round and pretend that they could not row blindfold, but must needs see the place to which their course was directed; and it is no less foolish in us to insist on apprehending, with our anxieties and thoughts, all things, whether future or at hand. Let it be our part to ply the oar and toil and pray; but let us leave it to God to steer and bless and govern. O my God, be with me in my little bark, and bless it according to Thy good pleasure! I will turn my face to Thee, and, as Thou shalt enable me, I will diligently and faithfully labour; for all else Thou wilt provide.”
The orphan’s prayer:—A little child, whose father and mother had died, was taken into another family. The first night she asked if she might pray, as she used to do. They said, “Oh, yes.” So she knelt down, and prayed as her mother had taught her; and when that was ended, she added a little prayer of her own: “O God, make these people as kind to me as father and mother were.” Then she paused, and looked up, as if expecting an answer, and then added, “Of course you will.” How sweetly simple was that little one’s faith; she expected God to “do”; and, of course, she got her request.
Have faith in God—Never give up in despair:—An industrious tradesman had fallen on bad times; his business would not prosper, and he lost heart. His wife, however, kept cheerful; she went on praying, and tried to hearten up her husband. But it was no use; he kept on saying there was no hope for him, and he might as well go out of life, for there was nothing good to be looked for. One morning the cheery wife came down with a face as sad as her husband’s. “What’s the matter?” said he. “Oh,” she replied, with a shudder, “I’ve had such a dreadful dream. I dreamt God was dead, and all the angels were going to His funeral!” “What nonsense!” said her husband. “How can you be so silly? Don’t you know God can’t die?” She thought a moment, and then brightened up. “That’s true,” she answered. “But, oh, husband! if He can’t die, He can’t change, either. He has taken care of us all our lives: why should we begin to think He has forgotten us now? It’ll only be a passing cloud, may be, that’s hiding the sun, just to try us. Let us trust Him through it all.” “You’re right, wife,” said the man. “Seems to me I’ve believed in God without trusting Him. Let us ask Him to forgive me this sin of mistrust. May be my ill-luck has been a punishment for that same, sent to open my eyes.” However that may have been, the tide did turn, and neither man nor wife ever mistrusted God again.
Have faith in God—Wonder-working faith:—It is not only to faith, as a general spiritual force of boundless potency and value, that our Lord here directs our thoughts; but also, and more particularly, to the faith which sees what things are useless and ready to die, and puts them out of the way; the faith which confronts obstacles as big as solid mountains, and yet is sure that it can remove or surmount them; the faith which faints at no difficulty, no apparent impossibility even, but attacks even the greatest of them with courage and good hope. This is the faith to which Christ here invites us—the faith which He Himself exercised, not only when He banned the fig-tree, but also when He set Himself to save and raise the world against its will, and had therefore to face a world in arms. It is the faith which believes truth to be stronger than error, righteousness than unrighteousness, good than evil, even though all the world should have espoused the losing cause. It is the faith which believes not only that spiritual energies are stronger than material forces, but also that the good spiritual forces of the universe are stronger than its evil forces, and are sure to overcome them in the end. Nothing seems more doubtful to us at times than the victory of faith over the world; yet nothing is more certain. The whole history of the world is one long continuous testimony to the fact, that it is by faith in great principles that men are really swayed. What is the history of every great movement by which the world, or any portion of it, has been raised, purified, reformed, and renewed, but just this: Faith in some great truth or principle—faith in justice, faith in freedom, faith in wise laws and deep convictions—has grown to enthusiasm in a few hearts; and in the power of this faith they have spoken and toiled, facing and gradually beating down all opposition, detecting signs of decay in the most venerable and solidly established institutions, customs, statutes, and dooming them to perish; encountering whole mountains of obstacle and difficulty, yet taking them up and at last casting them into the sea. (S. Cox, D.D.)
Faith in God:—1. There is Christ’s command itself. 2. God’s own character demands this faith. 3. God’s gifts claim and warrant faith. 4. The way in which we specially honour Him is by having faith in Him. 5. Unbelief profits nothing. 6. Faith has done wonders in time past, and it can do wonders still. (H. Bonar, D.D.)
11:22 “Jesus answered saying to them” Peter again acted as the spokesman for what all of the disciples were thinking.
“ ‘Have faith in God’ ” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. This is a common theme in the Gospel. Faith/trust/belief (i.e. noun, pistis; verb, pisteuō in YHWH (and His Messiah) is fallen mankind’s only hope. This current world system and its power structures must not attract our attention and concern. God is with us and for us. Look to Him; only to Him!
This symbolic act of judgment and rejection affected their entire traditional belief system. We can only imagine how radical Jesus’ new teachings and perspectives were to these traditional first century Jewish men! Jesus powerfully and obviously rejected the Temple (as it was functioning) and the leadership, both Sadducees and Pharisees (both liberal, Hillel, and conservative, Shammai).
There is a Greek manuscript variant which adds the Greek conditional particle ei (i.e. “if”) in MSS א and D. This would make it a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL sentence. However, its presence could be a Hebraic idiom denoting a direct quote. It is not included in MSS A, B, C, L, or W, nor in any of the English translations used in this commentary. It probably came from scribes wanting to make it exactly like Luke 17:6 or even Matt. 21:21 (which has ean instead of Luke’s ei).
11:22. The Bible translations have this verse as the beginning of a new paragraph and a new section on the teaching of prayer. But this verse is actually a response to Peter and should finish the scene of the withered fig tree. Brooks links this verse more closely with the following teaching on prayer. “Mark evidently was saying, ‘Despite the cursing of the fig tree (i.e., Israel), continue to trust in God’ because faith and prayer and not the temple are now the way to God” (Brooks, Mark, p. 182).
The disciples understood Jesus’ metaphor and knew that the temple would be destroyed some day. Peter’s fear would have been a natural reaction to the loss of a way of life, no matter how burdensome. This is reminiscent of Habakkuk 2:4. Habakkuk learned that God would punish Israel by using the invasion of the Babylonians. He was horrified but testifies, “The righteous will live by his faith.”
 Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 891–892). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Utley, R. J. D. (2000). The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter (Vol. Volume 2, p. 132). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.