Praying in faith implies having faith, and the act implies the habit. To walk implies a principle of life; so to pray in faith implies a habit of grace. None can pray in faith but believers.
What is it to pray in faith?
(1) It is to pray for that which God has promised. Where there is no promise, we cannot pray in faith.
(2) It is to pray in Christ's meritorious name. `Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.' John 14: 13. To pray in Christ's name, is to pray with confidence in Christ's merit. When we present Christ to God in prayer; when we carry the Lamb slain in our arms; when we say, `Lord, we are sinners, but here is our surety; for Christ's sake be propitious,' we come to God in Christ's name; and this is to pray in faith.
(3) It is to fix our faith in prayer on God's faithfulness, believing that he hears and will help. This is taking hold of God. Isa 64: 7. By prayer we draw nigh to God, by faith we take hold of him. `They cried unto the Lord;' and this was the crying of faith. 2 Chron 13: 14. They `prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers;' ver 18. Making supplication to God, and staying the soul on God, is praying in faith. To pray, and not rely on God to grant our petitions,says Pelican; `it is to abuse and put a scorn on God.' By praying we seem to honour God; by not believing we affront him. In prayer we say, `Almighty, merciful Father;' by not believing, we blot out all his titles again.
How may we know that we truly pray in faith?
(1) When faith in prayer is humble. A presumptuous person hopes to be heard for some inherent worthiness in himself; he is so qualified, and has done God good service, therefore he is confident God will hear him. See an instance in Luke 18: 11, 12: `The Pharisee stood andprayed thus, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' This was a presumptuous prayer; but a sincere heart evinces humility in prayer as well as faith. `The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smoteupon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.' `God be merciful,' there was faith; `to me a sinner,' there was humility and a sense of unworthiness. Luke 18: 13.
(2) We may know we pray in faith, when, though we have not the thing we pray for, we believe God will grant it, and are willing to stay his leisure. A Christian having a command to pray, and a promise, is resolved to follow God with prayer, and not give over; as Peter knocked, and when the door was not opened, continued knocking until at last it was opened. Acts 12: 16. So when a Christian prays, and prays, and has no answer, he continues to knock at heaven's door, knowing an
answer will come. `Thou wilt answer me.' Psa 86: 7. Here is one that prays in faith. Christ says, `Pray, and faint not.' Luke 18: 1. A believer, at Christ's word, lets down the net of prayer, and though he catch nothing, he will cast the net again, believing that mercy will come. Patience in prayer is nothing but faith spun out.
Use 1. For reproof of those who pray in formality, not in faith; they who question whether God hears or will grant. `Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.' James 4: 3. He does not say, ye ask that which is unlawful; but ye ask amiss, and therefore ye receive not. Unbelief clips the wings of prayer, that it will not fly to the throne of grace; the rubbish of unbelief stops the current of prayer.
Use 2. For exhortation. Let us set faith to work in prayer. The husband man sows in hope; prayer is the seed we sow, and when the hand of faith scatters this seed, it brings forth a fruitful crop of blessing. Prayer is the ship we send out to heaven; when faith makes an adventure in this ship, it brings home large returns of mercy. O pray in faith; say, `Our Father.' That we may exercise faith in prayer, consider:
(1) God's readiness to hear prayer. Calvin: Did God forbid all addresses to him, it would put a damp upon the trade of prayer; but his ear is open to prayer. One of the names by which he is known, is, `O thou that hearest prayer.' Psa 65: 2. The aediles among the Romans had their doors always open, that all who had petitions might have free access to them. God is both ready to hear and grant prayer, which should encourage faith in prayer. Some may say, they have prayed, but have had no answer. God may hear prayer, though he does not immediately answer it. We write a letter to a friend, he may have received it, though we have yet had no answer to it. Perhaps thou prayest for the light of God's face; he may lend thee an ear, though he does not show thee his face. God may give an answer to prayer, when we do not perceive it. His giving a heart to pray, and inflaming the affections in prayer, is an answer to prayer. `In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.' Psa 138: 3. David's inward strength was an answer to prayer. Therefore let God's readiness to hear prayer encourage faith in prayer.
But so much sin cleaves to my prayer, that I fear it is not the prayer of faith, and God will not hear it.
If thou mournest for this, it hinders not but that thy prayer may be in faith, and God may hear it. Weakness shall not make void the saint's prayers. `I said in my haste, I am cut off.' Psa 31: 22. There was much unbelief in that prayer: `I said in my haste:' in the Hebrew, `in my trembling,' David's faith trembled and fainted, yet God heard his prayer. The saints' passions do not hinder their prayers. James 5:17. Therefore be not discouraged, for though sin will cleave to thy holy offering, yea, these two things may comfort, that thou mayest pray with faith, though with weakness; and God sees the sincerity, and
will pass by the infirmity.
How shall we pray in faith?
Implore the Spirit of God. We cannot say, `Our Father,' but by the Holy Ghost. God's Spirit helps us, not only to pray with sighs and groans, but with faith. The Spirit carries us to God, not only as to a Creator, but a Father. `God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' Gal 4: 6. `Crying:' there the Spirit causes us to pray with fervency. `Abba, Father:' there the Spirit helps us to pray with faith. The Spirit helps faith to turn the key of prayer, and then it unlocks heaven.