Faith is not believing that God can; it is knowing that God will.
As I completed the homework for my small group Bible study this week I finally admitted something to myself and to God (not that He didn’t already know, obviously) that I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit’s conviction on for quite some time. I pray with doubt. This is not good. Jesus Himself specifically cautioned against this (Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23) and James, Jesus’ brother, boldly states that doubters shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:5-8). Though James’ statement is somewhat absurd as, by definition, doubters don’t expect to receive anything from God or they wouldn’t be doubters. Anyway… In my mind, I resisted acknowledging my doubt in prayer because, well, to do so would prove I’m not a “real” Christian. Of course, this is also absurd and a trap of the Enemy. The Bible gives us accounts of Peter doubting (the walking on water incident in Matthew 14:22-32; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21), Thomas doubting (the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in John 20:24-31), and even the Twelve as a group doubting (Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 22-25 and the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in Mark 16:14). Not once did Jesus say or imply that these doubts made them any less real followers of His. He simply encouraged them to remain close to Him.
Like most humans in their human nature, I tend toward putting God in a box. We like to figure things out, have things under control, know what to expect, and it bothers us that with God we just can’t. But it doesn’t stop us from trying. For some people, this looks like legalism–rule-keeping. Others become ritualistic–keeping a religious superstitious OCD routine. Me, I pray with doubt. It sounds something like this, “God, please cure Diane’s cancer. I know you can. Amen.” Sounds good. It even sounds like I’m trusting in God and believing Him to cure her. But in my heart, I’m thinking it’s really unlikely to happen and preparing myself to be told that Diane has passed away. I’m doubting. I try to disguise the doubt by labeling it as “being realistic.” Obviously, God doesn’t physically cure every person or even the majority of people who suffer physical ailments and are prayed for with genuinely faithful prayers. For someone who has been constantly disappointed by her hopes in life, I find I want to protect myself by preparing for the worst and/or most humanly likely scenario. I want to go with the odds rather than “gamble” on God and have to deal with the emotional fallout when what I believed He should and would do doesn’t happen. And so now I find myself with the prayer of Mark 9:24, “The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!'”