Matthew 21:22

Read literally, this is a very difficult verse. We cannot see how it is verified in experience. We should be horrified at its exact and verbal fulfilment, because this would be handing over the control of the universe to the praying mortal. The coachman would not put the reins in the hands of his infant son, however much the child begged for them; yet the disaster which would follow such an action would be nothing in comparison with the unspeakable calamities which would visit the universe if we, in our blindness, our ignorance, our folly, could have done for us whatever we chose to wish for, and that merely for the asking. We may indeed be thankful that no such fearful power has been entrusted to us. But then how are we to interpret the very clear and emphatic words of our Lord?

I. IT IS FAITH THAT GIVES EFFICIENCY TO PRAYER. Many prayers are absolutely void and useless because they are not borne upon the wings of faith. They grovel in the earth-mists of unbelief, and never see the light of God's presence. The connection of the verses seems to imply that it was his faith that gave Christ power to bring its doom to the barren fig tree (ver. 21). It is reasonable to suppose that God will give many things to those who trust him, which he will deny to people who will not rely upon him. At all events, the setting forth of faith as a condition of the prayer that is to be answered shows that it is absolutely useless to practise an experiment with prayer by testing its efficacy in order to dispel doubt. The purpose of the experiment, and the grounds on which it is made, presuppose the absence of an essential condition of successful prayer. Therefore, if prayer is heard, as Christ tells us it is, such an experiment is foredoomed to failure. We want grounds for faith, but we cannot find them here; or rather we cannot have our first grounds here. The response to prayer will doubtless confirm and strengthen the faith which prompted the prayer. But there must be this prior faith.

II. THE PRAYER OF FAITH HAS BOUNDLESS EFFICACY. We get slight answers to prayer because we have little faith. Yet we cannot expect to have just what we choose to ask for, even though we ask in faith. No; but observe:

1. Faith is not confidence in our own prayer, but trust in Christ. Now, when we trust him we are led near to him, we begin to understand him, we learn to think as he thinks and to desire what he desires. Thus faith brings us into sympathy with Christ. But our foolish desires are quite un-Christlike. We shall no longer cherish them when he is by our side. Thus faith chastens prayer, purges it, elevates it, and brings it into harmony with the will of God. The prayer of faith will be such a prayer that God can hear, just in proportion as the faith is a spiritual power that unites us with God.

2. The prayer of faith will certainly be answered, though not necessarily in the way in which we expect. Jesus promised to those who lost lands and friends for the gospel's sake, more lands and friends (Matthew 19:29), and his disciples did not receive a literal fulfilment of this promise. But they had a good equivalent. The prayer of faith is answered in God's large, wise way - answered to the full, but by the gift of what he sees best, and not always of what we happen to name. - W.F.A.

And all things whatsoever ye ask in prayer believing.
Alexander the Great had a famous but indigent philosopher in his court. This adept in science was once particularly straitened in his circumstances. To whom should he apply, but to his patron, the conqueror of the world. He no sooner made his request than it was granted. Alexander gave him a commission to receive of his treasury whatever he wanted. He immediately demanded, in his sovereign's name, ten thousand pounds. The treasurer, surprised at so large a demand, refused to comply; but waited upon the king, and told him of the request, remarking how unreasonable he thought the petition, and how exorbitant the sum. Alexander heard him with patience; but, as soon as he had ended his remonstrance, replied, "Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher's way of thinking; he has done me a singular honour; by the largeness of his request he shows the high idea he has conceived both of my superior wealth and my royal munificence." We cannot honour God more than by believing what He says, and acting upon that faith in all our requests at His throne.

Prayer is the bow, the promise is the arrow; faith is the hand which draws the bow, and sends the arrow with the heart's message to heaven. The bow without the arrow is of no use, and the arrow without the bow is of little worth, and both without the strength of the hand are to no purpose. Neither the promise without prayer, nor prayer without the promise, nor both without faith avail the Christian anything. What was said of the Israelites, "They could not enter in, because of unbelief," the same may be said of many of our prayers; they cannot enter heaven, because they are not put up in faith.


Some fifty years ago, one bitter January night, the inhabitants of the old town of Schleswig were thrown into the greatest distress and terror. A hostile army was marching down upon them, and new and fearful reports of the conduct of the lawless soldiery were hourly reaching the place. In one large, commodious cottage dwelt an aged woman with her widow daughter and a grandson. While all hearts quaked with fear, this saintly soul passed her time in crying cut to God that He would "build a wall of defence round about them," quoting the words of an ancient hymn. Her grandson asked why she prayed for a thing so entirely impossible as that God should build a wall about their house, which should hide it; but she explained that her meaning only was that God should protect them in whatever way seemed to Him best. At midnight the dreaded tramp was heard, and the enemy came pouring in at every avenue, filling the houses to overflowing. But, while most fearful sounds were heard on every side, not even a knock came to their door; at which they were greatly surprised. The morning light cleared up the mystery; for, just beyond the house, the drifted snow had reared such a massive wall that it was impossible to get over it to them. "There!" said the good woman, triumphantly; "do you not see, my son, that God could raise up a wall around us?"

By means of this process the features of natural objects are thrown upon a sensitive sheet through a lens and leave their impression upon that sheet. So when the character of God is, by means of prayer, brought to bear upon the mind of the believer — the mind being rendered sensitive by the Holy Spirit — it impresses there the Divine image. In this manner the image of Christ is formed in the soul, the existence of which the Scriptures represent as inspiring the believer with the hope of glory.


This theory has its analogy in the worship of the Jewish economy, and in the worship of all religions. It is also in analogy with the general practice in petitioning or asking as between people and their rulers, children and parents, servants and masters. The principle involved in this doctrine of Christian worship has its illustrations in science. Let one suffice. An astronomer, for instance, has an impression that there is in a certain part of the heavens a star which he wants to discover. .Now what is comprehended in his discovery of this star? The first necessary condition is the spirit of the science. This gives him the impression. By the influences of this spirit he has resort to the use of his glass. He relies on this as being sufficient for his purpose. He adjusts his glass between himself and the heavens. For days or weeks he may be in search of the star. At last his glass brings the object of his search to his sight. Observe the process of this discovery. Through the telescope, by the spirit of astronomy in him, he has found the star. Had he possessed the spirit without the glass, he could not have found the star; or had he possessed the glass without the spirit moving him to use it, he would not have found it. And observe, even with the spirit and the glass looking at the star, after its discovery, he sees not the star itself, but only its reflection through the glass. Thus no one prays without the spirit of prayer; and even with the spirit of prayer, he cannot come to God but through the Mediator, Jesus; and then as he comes through Jesus he only speaks to God through Him, and receives answers through Him. God and Christ without the Spirit are incomplete. The Spirit and Christ without God are insufficient. But God as the Object whom we seek, Christ as the Mediator through whom we seek, and the Spirit as the Agent by whom we seek, complete the scheme of prayer.

(J. Bate.)

I. The object of prayer.

II. The nature of it.

III. The obligations we are under to pray.

IV. The great importance of faith in this holy exercise. Prayer is the unfeigned language of the heart. What we ask in prayer should be according to the Divine will. We must ask all in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ.

(John Townsend.)

The word believing is the key to any difficulty in accepting this declaration literally. We cannot believe whatever we please. It is only the Spirit of God who can enable a man to believe that God will answer his prayer. Then He will grant the petition. Here it is necessary to notice that faith in Christ as your Saviour is one thing, while faith in the favourable answer of a particular prayer is another and distinct thing. You may have a firm faith in your Saviour, and yet not be able to " ask in faith, nothing wavering," when you offer up a particular petition, because you are not sure that it is according to the will of God. When God has absolutely promised any blessing, you ought to believe without doubting that the answer is certain. But we are wanted to pray in other cases when we have no specific promise to plead. "In all things make your requests known unto God." Your child may be dying; you pray for it; but have no specific promise that it will recover. Yet, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible," etc. But there is no promise that this kind of faith will be given. It may please God for the best of reasons to withhold it. Jesus Christ is God; He is King of Kings; He governs the universe. We must be in training with Him before we can be blessed. To this infinite spiritual Power and Presence we are invited to pray. By sense we perceive the visible world; by faith, the invisible. To our completeness faith is not less necessary than sight. It is even more necessary; for a blind man, by faith, may live a glorious life even on earth, where his bodily eyes are closed. And do we not all see in our dreams, when we are asleep, things far more beautiful than we ever see when we are awake? This is significant, surely. Every time we go to sleep we enter upon the confines of a spiritual world which our outward eyes cannot see. When we dream, we are consciously moving in a border-land, a wonder-land, where we see with other eyes than those of our visible bodies. So faith is a kind of spiritual vision. As Christians " we walk by faith, not by sight" merely. Moreover, faith is an inspiration and a power. It is mighty through God to the pulling down of our enemy's strongholds. Faith in God — faith in Christ as God — faith in the promises — faith in the efficacy of prayer — this it is that enables the joyful disciple to look down upon the distinctions which the world values most, as a full-grown man looks upon the painted toys of little children. Faith is not superstition. Faith in the invisible part of the Divine scheme, is the God-given function of every healthy soul. This implies confidence in God as the Hearer and Answerer of prayer — the God of truth whose promises not one word can fail. When He gives a petitioner faith in the success of His petition, then there can be no doubt but that He intends to answer.

(J. Aberigh-Mackay, M. A.)

David, Jesus, John
Bethany, Bethphage, Galilee, Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Nazareth, Zion
Believe, Believing, Faith, Obtain, Prayer, Prayers, Receive, Request, Whatever, Whatsoever
1. Jesus rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey
12. drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple;
17. curses the fig tree;
23. puts to silence the priests and elders,
28. and rebukes them by the parable of the two sons,
33. and the husbandmen who slew such as were sent to them.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Matthew 21:22

     8409   decision-making, and providence
     8607   prayer, God's promises
     8636   asking

Matthew 21:18-22

     1416   miracles, nature of
     2357   Christ, parables

Matthew 21:18-27

     2012   Christ, authority

Matthew 21:21-22

     8024   faith, and blessings

The Stone of Stumbling
Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.'--MATT. xxi. 44. As Christ's ministry drew to its close, its severity and its gentleness both increased; its severity to the class to whom it was always severe, and its gentleness to the class from whom it never turned away. Side by side, through all His manifestation of Himself, there were the two aspects: 'He showed Himself froward' (if I may quote the word) to the self-righteous
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Coming of the King to his Palace
'And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2. Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto Me. 3. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4. All this was done, that it might he fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5. Tell ye
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The vineyard and Its Keepers
'Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

A New Kind of King
'All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass.'--MATT. xxi. 4, 5. Our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem is one of the comparatively few events which are recorded in all the four Gospels. Its singular unlikeness to the rest of His life, and its powerful influence in bringing about the Crucifixion, may account for its prominence in the narratives. It took place probably
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

June the Twenty-First Room for the Saplings
"Children crying in the temple, saying Hosanna!" --MATTHEW xxi. 1-16. Children's voices mingling in the sounds of holy praise! A little child can share in the consecrated life. Young hearts can offer love pure as a limpid spring. Their sympathy is as responsive as the most sensitive harp, and yields to the touch of the tenderest joy and grief. No wonder the Lord "called little children unto Him"! They were unto Him as gracious streams, and as flowers of the field. Let the loving Saviour have our
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

Christ and the Unstable.
TEXT: MATT. xxi. 10-16. WE have lately seen from several examples that what is properly to be regarded as the suffering of the Saviour, that is, His pain on account of sin, and of the opposition which it offered to His divine work, did not begin merely with the time which, in a stricter sense, we indicate as His period of suffering, but accompanied Him from the beginning of His earthly life, and more especially during His public career. We shall consider this to-day more closely in connection with
Friedrich Schleiermacher—Selected Sermons of Schleiermacher

On the Words of the Gospel, Matt. xxi. 19, Where Jesus Dried up the Fig-Tree; and on the Words, Luke xxiv. 28, Where He Made A
1. The lesson of the Holy Gospel which has just been read, has given us an alarming warning, lest we have leaves only, and have no fruit. That is, in few words, lest words be present and deeds be wanting. Very terrible! Who does not fear when in this lesson he sees with the eyes of the heart the withered tree, withered at that word being spoken to it, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever"? [2949] Let the fear work amendment, and the amendment bring forth fruit. For without doubt, the
Saint Augustine—sermons on selected lessons of the new testament

A Sermon to Open Neglecters and Nominal Followers of Religion
If the whole of us were thus divided into two camps, and we could say these have made a covenant with God by sacrifice, and those on the other hand are still enemies to God by wicked works, looking at the last class we might still feel it necessary by way of personal application to make a division among them; for although all unbelievers are alike unpardoned and unsaved, yet they are not alike in the circumstances of their case and the outward forms of their sins. Alike in being without Christ, they
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 13: 1867

Another Royal Procession
When our Lord was here on earth, he was a humble man before his foes, a weary man and full of woes, and only now and then did some glimpses of his native royalty burst forth from him; he had now and then a day in which his regal rights were assumed and his royal position was claimed. He is gone from us now as to his actual presence, but he is with us spiritually, and his spiritual presence here is not unlike what his bodily presence was in the days of his flesh. For the most part, the glory of his
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 18: 1872

The Withered Fig Tree
Flippant persons have spoken of the story before us in a very foolish manner. They have represented it as though our Lord, being hungered, thought only of his necessity, and, expecting to be refreshed by a few green figs went up to the tree in error. Finding no fruit upon the tree, it being a season when he had no right to expect that there would be any, he was vexed, and uttered a malediction against a tree, as though it had been a responsible agent. This view of the case results from the folly
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 35: 1889

Assuredly, this honor paid to our Lord was passing strange; a gleam of sunlight in a day of clouds, a glimpse of summer-tide in a long and dreary winter. He that was, as a rule, "despised and rejected of men", was for the moment surrounded with the acclaim of the crowd. All men saluted him that day with their Hosannas, and the whole city was moved. It was a gala day for the disciples, and a sort of coronation day for their Lord. Why was the scene permitted? What was its meaning? The marvel is, that
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 37: 1891

Sermon for Palm Sunday
How a man ought in all His works to regard God alone, and purely to make Him his end without anything of his own, and shall freely and simply perform all these works for the glory of God only, and not seek his own, nor desire nor expect any reward. Wherewith he may do such works without any self-appropriation or reference to time and number, before or after, and without modes. How the Divine Word speaks and reveals itself in the soul, all in a lofty and subtile sense. Matt. xxi. 10-17.--"And when
Susannah Winkworth—The History and Life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler

"Because the Carnal Mind is Enmity against God, for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. "
Rom. viii. 7.--"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Unbelief is that which condemns the world. It involves in more condemnation than many other sins, not only because more universal, but especially because it shuts up men in their misery, and secludes them from the remedy that is brought to light in the gospel. By unbelief I mean, not only that careless neglect of Jesus Christ offered for salvation, but that which is the
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

PROPHECY. Isaiah iii. 13; liii. "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
William Paley—Evidences of Christianity

How to Work for God with Success.
Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.--MATT. xxi. 28. Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.--LUKE xiv. 23. I am to speak of some needful qualifications for successful labor; and I say:-- First, that there are certain laws which govern success in the kingdom of grace as well as in the kingdom of nature, and you must study these laws, and adapt yourself to them. It would be in vain for the husbandman to scatter his seed over the unbroken ground or on pre-occupied soil. You must plough
Catherine Booth—Godliness

Synopsis. --A Clearer Conception of Miracle Approached. --Works of Jesus once Reputed Miraculous not So Reputed Now
IV SYNOPSIS.--A clearer conception of miracle approached.--Works of Jesus once reputed miraculous not so reputed now, since not now transcending, as once, the existing range of knowledge and power.--This transfer of the miraculous to the natural likely to continue.--No hard and fast line between the miraculous and the non-miraculous.--Miracle a provisional word, its application narrowing in the enlarging mastery of the secrets of nature and life. At this point it seems possible to approach a clearer
James Morris Whiton—Miracles and Supernatural Religion

Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
(from Bethany to Jerusalem and Back, Sunday, April 2, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXI. 1-12, 14-17; ^B Mark XI. 1-11; ^C Luke XIX. 29-44; ^D John XII. 12-19. ^c 29 And ^d 12 On the morrow [after the feast in the house of Simon the leper] ^c it came to pass, when he he drew nigh unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, ^a 1 And when they came nigh unto Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage unto { ^b at} ^a the mount of Olives [The name, Bethphage, is said to mean house of figs, but the
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Barren Fig-Tree. Temple Cleansed.
(Road from Bethany and Jerusalem. Monday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXI. 18, 19, 12, 13; ^B Mark XI. 12-18; ^C Luke XIX. 45-48. ^b 12 And ^a 18 Now ^b on the morrow [on the Monday following the triumphal entry], ^a in the morning ^b when they were come out from Bethany, ^a as he returned to the city [Jerusalem], he hungered. [Breakfast with the Jews came late in the forenoon, and these closing days of our Lord's ministry were full of activity that did not have time to tarry at Bethany for it. Our
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Finding the Fig-Tree Withered.
(Road from Bethany to Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXI. 20-22; ^B Mark XI. 19-25; ^C Luke XXI. 37, 38. ^c 37 And every day he was teaching in the temple [he was there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but he seems to have spent Wednesday and Thursday in Bethany]; and every night { ^b evening} he went forth out out of the city. ^c and lodged in the mount that is called Olivet. [As Bethany was on the Mount of Olives, this statement leaves us free to suppose that he spent his nights there,
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

In Reply to the Questions as to his Authority, Jesus Gives the Third Great Group of Parables.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) Subdivision A. Introduction ^A Matt. XXI. 23-27; ^B Mark XI. 27-33; ^C Luke XX. 1-8. ^c 1 And it came to pass, on one of the days, ^b they [Jesus and the disciples] come again to Jerusalem: ^a 23 And when he was come into the temple, ^b and as he was walking in the temple [The large outer court of the temple, known as the court of the Gentiles, was thronged during the feasts, and was no doubt the part selected by Jesus and his apostles when
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

In Reply to the Questions as to his Authority, Jesus Gives the Third Great Group of Parables.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) Subdivision C. Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. ^A Matt. XXI. 33-46; ^B Mark XII. 1-12; ^C Luke XX. 9-19. ^b 1 And he began to speak unto them ^c the people [not the rulers] ^b in parables. { ^c this parable:} ^a 33 Hear another parable: There was a man that was a householder [this party represents God], who planted a vineyard [this represents the Hebrew nationality], and set a hedge about it, and digged a ^b pit for the ^a winepress in it
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The First Day in Passion-Week - Palm-Sunday - the Royal Entry into Jerusalem
At length the time of the end had come. Jesus was about to make Entry into Jerusalem as King: King of the Jews, as Heir of David's royal line, with all of symbolic, typic, and prophetic import attaching to it. Yet not as Israel after the flesh expected its Messiah was the Son of David to make triumphal entrance, but as deeply and significantly expressive of His Mission and Work, and as of old the rapt seer had beheld afar off the outlined picture of the Messiah-King: not in the proud triumph of war-conquests,
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The Second Day in Passion-Week - the Barren Fig-Tree - the Cleansing of the Temple - the Hosanna of the Children
How the King of Israel spent the night after the triumphal Entry into His City and Temple, we may venture reverently to infer. His royal banquet would be fellowship with the disciples. We know how often His nights had been spent in lonely prayer, [5077] and surely it is not too bold to associate such thoughts with the first night in Passion week. Thus, also, we can most readily account for that exhaustion and faintness of hunger, which next morning made Him seek fruit on the fig-tree on His way to
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

The Third Day in Passion-Week - the Events of that Day - the Question of Christ's Authority - the Question of Tribute to Cæsar - The
THE record of this third day is so crowded, the actors introduced on the scene are so many, the occurrences so varied, and the transitions so rapid, that it is even more than usually difficult to arrange all in chronological order. Nor need we wonder at this, when we remember that this was, so to speak, Christ's last working-day - the last, of His public Mission to Israel, so far as its active part was concerned; the last day in the Temple; the last, of teaching and warning to Pharisees and Sadducees;
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

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