Luke 17:5 “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”
What a prayer-one that I was reminded of just this week in one-on-one discipleship with another growing believer! This pray applies to all of us. Who among us doesn’t long for more faith? More bluntly, who among us does not need a deeper faith?
Jesus’ disciples felt this need for increased faith. This challenge in Luke 17:3-4 to forgive the same person seven times per day and “seventy-times seven” (Mt. 18:22) overwhelmed them. Hence the question—actually a prayer with eyes wide open in reeling shock—“Increase our faith.” After all, the most ordinary challenges—never mind those trials faced by believers like Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the others recounted in Hebrews 11—find us needing more faith, more tenacity, in our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our daily lives within God’s sovereign plan constantly confront us with the demands for faithfulness. And so do the doubts that move us to join the desperate father of the demon-possessed child in crying out in the weakness of our faith, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).
Here are two steps to seeing God answer your prayer for increased faith:
Transform your sense of overwhelming need into believing prayer.
The prayer of verse five is literally translated, “Add to us faith.” It is not about our possession of intrinsic faith that we can muster up, but simply going to the God in which we believe. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” God’s expectations are meant to overwhelm us and to move us to desperate, cry-out-to-God kind of prayer.
This sense of being overwhelmed is not the antithesis but the means to greater faith. Therefore, wherever you are overwhelmed should be the catalyst to pray. You don’t go to God from a position of being well-off but of great need. Lose the self-righteous Pharisee profile. Add the “God be merciful to me a sinner” profile of the publican. Our faith is shaped not only by what God says to us in the Word (Ro. 10:17) but by what we say to God in prayer!
Realize that it is less about the quantity and more about the quality of faith.
When the disciples asked Jesus for more faith, He answered that they needed not more faith but the right kind of faith. Even the smallest amount of faith (like a mustard seed, the smallest seed according to Mark 4:31) could do amazingly miraculous things in their relationships and ours as well. As one commentator put it, “Jesus is saying that even a tiny dab of real faith in exercise will move that ‘mulberry tree’ of wounded resentment and move it to the sea of forgetting forgiveness.”
Just as any subtle root of bitterness springs up and defiles many (He. 12:15), so just a little faith increased through prayer can produce a supernatural forgiveness of heart that buries the wrong of another in the sea of God’s forgetfulness. See, prayer allows our hearts and lives to, by faith, become places where the only true God will eagerly do amazing things:
Micah 7:18-19 “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Did you notice the prayer uses the plural pronoun (“our faith”)? Just like the disciples, and for the benefit of all who have yet to experience the gospel-centered forgiveness through you, go to God this week and say, “Increase our faith.” Don’t be selfish in your prayer for more faith. Realize that those who receive an increase in their faith always do so for benefit of their ministry to others. The increasing of faith doesn’t end with you; God will answer your prayer by also increasing the faith of others through you!