And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre
and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and
was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is
severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And
his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is
crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord,
help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s
bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs
eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus
answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you
desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Matthew 15: 21-28
This passage was spurred on in my mind by this phrase being ridiculed
by the current American political pundits and news cycle of thoughts
and prayers. This condolence that has been used recently in the
tragedies that our country has experienced; not just in the last month
but in the last fifteen years. Why is it ridiculed? Yes, there is more
to do than pray in many of the challenges and responsibilities of our
life, including the tragedies.
But, prayer should be for us as
believers, as people of faith, the first thing that we do. We see that
faith is required for effective prayer and that comes through clearly by
the example of this Syrophoenician or Canaanite woman who is obviously a
gentile and a woman. She doesn’t really have a lot of access to Christ.
She cries out in faith and he says to her, “You have great faith. Great
is your faith.”
We can look in the Scriptures about Christ’s
proclamation of other people’s faith. We heard recently about Peter’s
faith from Pastor Mark in Matthew 14. Jesus immediately reached out his
hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith.”
Christ says this roughly on six occasions in his ministry to the crowd
in Matthew 6, but most of the time to his own disciples. But in this
case, a woman, who from what we can tell was not a regular disciple, but
you can see she believed in Christ, she believed in what he said and we
can assume that she was following him, gets the title of great faith.
This is instructive. That is the way we come to God. The two key
prerequisites in prayer James gives to us as believers are righteousness
and faith. To have effective prayers we must be obedient to the
revealed will of God, it is what we know that he requires of us when we
approach him. That is why it is often good for us to deal with our sin
when we are approaching God. And there is no pleasing God without faith.
Our prayers are not going to be effective without faith. We have plenty
of examples of little faith but when you look at the examples of great
faith, as in that passage in Acts 6 where Stephen is described as
someone full of faith and Barnabas is described as faithful in Acts 11.
So the necessity of faith, not only in the Christian life but
specifically in effective praying as a prerequisite, caused me to think
about when I pray, before I pray, what am I believing about God as I am
asking him about the salvation of others, help for the day, that his
will would be done in the church here in Canton, that he would take care
of Punam or provide wisdom for a decision that we have.
question that I am now asking myself is, “What do I believe about God?
Is he able, is he willing? Is what I am praying in alignment with his
revealed will that I know from the scriptures is clear, not hidden.
was instructive in being able to pray with greater faith, pray with
more faith, ensure that our prayers are preceded by faith. And if we
don’t have enough faith as we are praying, my other example is the man
who had the son that was sick, “Help my unbelief.” I have little faith,
Lord, the first thing I need before I continue on, I need help with my
My encouragement to you, brothers and sisters, as we plan
to pray, make requests on behalf of other brothers and sisters in other
churches, on behalf of ourselves, on behalf of unsaved family members
and relatives and friends, we need to have more faith. We need great
faith like this Syrophoenician woman who begged the Lord Jesus for help
with her daughter.