Prayer that Moves Mountains: Can God or Will God?

In Mark 11:22-23, Jesus talks about mountain moving prayer. But what was He really saying? Was He really saying that if we have enough faith and pray hard enough that we can see mountains literally moved? Or is there another meaning intended here? Here is what the passage says:

“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.”

Jesus is actually responding to the disciples in this way because they were asking questions in amazement over the fig tree’s death. If you read a bit earlier, Jesus (the night before) had cursed the fig tree because it bore no fruit. The next day, the disciples saw the tree and that it had died. They were greatly amazed - even after all they had experienced walking with Jesus and what they had seen Him do. So Jesus begins to use hyperbole or exaggeration to make a significant point about their faith. He is wanting them, like us, to understand and believe that God CAN do the impossible! He begins teaching them about mountains moving faith. Now mountain moving is hyperbole for the impossible being accomplished and if you believe that God can then it is possible!

Of course, there is no record of Jesus moving a mountain. No record of the apostles moving mountains. No record of Christians moving mountains. What we do have a record of, however, is that ‘moving mountains’ was an expression used by rabbis at that time. It was used to refer to something that was insurmountable. So moving mountains = things that are impossible. Jesus is saying that if you believe God, then the things which are humanly impossible, become possible. But the question is never if God CAN, but whether or not God WILL! God can do all things but God WILL NOT do everything that He can do.

There is no doubt about God’s ability and there’s an interesting interaction in Mark 9:21-24, it says,
“And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ 23 And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.’ 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’”

I love Jesus’ response. He says back the father who said “If you can!” And Jesus says, “IF YOU CAN?!?” almost as if He were saying, “Do you know who you are talking to?” The questions is never CAN GOD, WILL GOD! This is what Jesus was trying to convey to the disciples. It was as if they still had doubt about the ability of God and were amazed that Jesus could kill a tree with just a word.
Answered prayer is contingent on whether or not the thing asked for is in God’s perfect plan or not.

Consider Jesus who always perfectly believed in His Father’s ability and while in the Garden praying He asked that the cup pass from Him. But not as He willed but as the Father willed. CAN God deliver Jesus from the cross? Of course, but WILL He?

Paul’s had a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) and Timothy had frequent stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23). Could God deliver them both? Of course. But God must have had a greater reason to leave these things in the lives of these two men rather than to deliver them.
The key things that I have discovered in God answering prayers are:

- Will answering this prayer bring God the ultimate glory?
- Will answering this prayer accomplish the perfect plan and purpose of God? 

- Will answering this prayer be the most beneficial thing for the one praying?
- Will the attitude of the one praying be one of praise and worship even if not