Real faith is not self-righteous, arrogant, or presumptuous. But neither is it feeble and mealy-mouthed. We are never instructed to pray saying, "Dear Jesus, I'm sorry to bother you. You're busy. You may not even be able to help. I'm not sure I have the right guy. You probably have more important people to attend to. But if you can, and if you don't mind, and if you have a few moments, could you consider my problems?" Jesus loves gutsy faith much more than he loves safe faith. In fact, there is nothing Jesus likes more in the gospels than desperate people expressing their humble confidence that he can take care of anything. Just look at the woman with twelve year's of bleeding, the Centurion with an ill servant, or the Canaanite lady with the sick girl. They all asked for much and Jesus praised them for it.
Obviously, there is a danger that we take these examples, isolate them from the rest of Scripture, and come away with a theology that says God will give us whatever we want, no matter what and no matter when. Such a theology flies in the face of Jesus' experience in the garden, Paul's experience with the thorn, and real life for everyone else. We should not think that faith guarantees all our dreams coming true here on earth.
But if presumptive faith is a danger, so is puny faith. Some of us, when it comes to prayer, are all humility and no confidence. We've stopped asking Jesus for anything, because we've stopped believing that he really can and really cares. We get cautious. And unrelenting caution often masks over cynicism, and cynicism is a close cousin to unbelief. The hows and why of prayer can be a mystery at times, but if there is one thing we know about prayer for sure it's that Christ wants us to pray. There is nothing he teaches more repetitively about prayer than simply "ask." Jesus wants us to pray and not give up. He wants us to ask and keep asking. Christ loves to see bold, gutsy faith, what Ben Patterson calls "holy chutzpah."
Have we lost all confidence in Christ? Do we only ask him for sure bets and safe things? Has our faith gotten so meek that it's hardly even faith anymore? The men and women in the gospels most pleasing to Jesus are those who completely distrust their own piety and worthiness, but at the same time trust him to the uttermost.
Too often we ask for only small things. We except an even smaller response. True, God wants us to be a plodding people who do not neglect the days and years of small things. But God does not want us to be a people of small faith. We worship a Christ who can do miracles upon miracles. He healed the sick, cast out demons, walked on water, raised the dead. He can do whatever he pleasess. And it pleases him when we demonstrate our confidence in that ability by asking him to work on our behalf. For his glory, of course. In keeping with his will, always. Understanding that his ways are not our ways, absolutely. But asking often and with confidence. We do not have true faith unless we have true prayer. And we do not truly pray unless we ask for that which only God can do.
O Lord, we believe, help our unbelief.