Mark 11:20-33 (ESV)
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” 27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The next day, Jesus and his disciples passed by the fig tree Jesus cursed. When they passed by it this time, it was withered all the way down to its roots. The Greek words used for “withered” and “roots” here are the same ones Jesus used when he taught the parable of the soils (6:4). “Wither” means “to dry up” and typically occurs when the roots of a plant are bad and don’t function properly. Some believe Jesus allowed this to foreshadow the destruction of the temple. Others believe it was a picture of the failure of Israel. Peter was surprised by how quickly the fig tree dried up and remarked to Jesus about it. In response, Jesus taught his disciples about faith in God. Jesus told them that although challenges may arise in the future that seem as large as mountains, even the Mount of Olives, faith is able to move those mountains if the faith is in God. Jesus then transitioned to the subject of prayer. He taught his followers to pray in faith, knowing that the things they asked for within God’s will could be considered as done. After that he taught them to forgive one another. Those who have been forgiven by God would be foolish to come before God with unforgiveness in their hearts.
Jesus made a strong connection between faith and prayer in verses 23 and 24. Faith is a confidence in God’s ability to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and however he wants. When we pray, if what we ask for is in line with God’s desires, we will have it, even if it includes moving mountains. When we pray and ask for things that aren’t in line with God’s will for us, we are probably not going to get them. It’s funny how we can get mad, frustrated, or even lose heart when God doesn’t give us what we want. But if something is not in God’s perfect will for us, why would we want it anyway? Why do we resist his will for us? Take a few minutes to pray about things that have been troubling you. Let God know that you trust in his ability to answer. Let him know that you would like to see things done as you request, but if that’s not best, then you are totally content with whatever he sees fit.