It is not just one Bible verse.
It is many that make the same unqualified promise of answered prayer.
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17:20
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. Matthew 21:21
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:22-24
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. James 5:14-18
If you have any question about the authenticity of these promises, please grab a Bible and look at the greater context. There are no additional requirements other than faith. None.
However, Christians will do their utmost to wrench these verses from their clear contexts and attempt to emasculate them with a shameless contriving of additional qualifications.
And they are helpless to do anything else. They well understand that, if they do take these verses at face value, the lack of answered prayer in their own lives can mean only one of two things; either they lack faith, or the Bible is untrue.
The problem is that, in grossly distorting these verses to preserve their status of faithfullness or the veracity of the Bible, they must employ arbitrary standards of hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) that they then deny others from employing in other contexts of the Bible. And this has always been the major problem of Christianity. It is based on a book that is said to be true, yet, no single consistent standard of interpretation is offered, even within a single denomination.
It is extremely difficult to imagine what principles of hermeneutics Christians could apply to the aforementioned verses that could not also be used to explain away into emasculated gibberish every other biblical passage.
It is easy enough for Christians to see the peril they would place themselves in should they take these verses at face value. The concept of a farmer earnestly praying for rain for his crops while the townspeople of faith downstream pray for protection from floods would introduce a clear case of illogicality, thus disproving the veracity of the Bible.
One dubious way out of this dilemma would be to suggest that, in every single case of this kind, either the farmer or the townspeople would have insufficient faith. This notion does not scale well when considering all the potential Christians that might be praying with diametrically opposed agendas.
Take another look at the verses above. Are they unclear? Do they leave room for reinterpretation? Is there some principle of hermeneutics that can be honestly applied that can miraculously qualify these verses into something less potent than their face value?
Let’s sum things up. Christians must do one of the following when confronting the verses presented above.
- They could take these verses at face value and realize that the Bible is logically incoherent. The logical inconsistencies clearly arise when applied to persons of sincere faith who petition God with opposing requests.
- They could take these verses at face value and imagine that God has somehow made it impossible for persons of faith to petition with opposing requests. Having done this, they would then need to either demonstrate that God is answering their every petition, or imagine that they do not have sufficient faith. This radical position would, at the very least, encourage others to abandon Christianity for fear of falling into a similar embarrassing state of illogical credulity.
- They could emasculate the verses into gibberish, thereby making God impotent in respect to answering the prayers of those with faith, plus introduce hermeneutic gymnastics that open up the Bible to proving or disproving any pet doctrine.
Most Christians opt for number 3, not understanding the implications.