In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11.20-24)
The cursing of the fig tree the morning before had caused the tree to wither and the disciples notice this as, after a night of sleep, they make their way back into the city. This time Jesus uses the tree as an opportunity to talk about prayer.
So often in the gospels we are told that where there is no doubt that faith is effective. In St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks of faith, ‘the size of a mustard seed’ (Matthew 17.20), being able to move mountains. I find this challenging. I pray every day and not just at the set times for prayer with my colleagues in the Cathedral. But how big is my faith? Is there doubt lurking deep within? I suspect, to be honest, that there is and the beginning of this day of Holy Week challenges me personally.
I have never learnt to swim – all the school lessons I received just didn’t achieve it. What holds me back is a fear that I cannot conquer. People say to me – ‘Just let yourself go; trust in the water; you won’t sink’. But, so far, I haven’t believed them. So I can’t swim. This is the closest experience that I have that I think reflects upon prayer. We have to have the faith, the courage to throw ourselves completely upon God, upon God’s love and mercy and not hold on to the doubt, the disbelief that is not about healthy questioning but unhealthy denying. Jesus asks us not to hold ourselves back but to swim freely in God’s love, to swim freely in prayer.
Lord, in every need let me come to you with humble trust saying, “Jesus, help me.”
In all my doubts, perplexities, and temptations, Jesus, help me.
In hours of loneliness, weariness, and trials, Jesus, help me.
In the failure of my plans and hopes; in disappointments, troubles, and sorrows, Jesus, help me.
When others fail me and your grace alone can assist me, help me.
When I throw myself on your tender love as a father and savior, Jesus, help me.
When my heart is cast down by failure at seeing no good come from my efforts, Jesus, help me.
When I feel impatient and my cross irritates me, Jesus, help me.
When I am ill and my head and hands cannot work and I am lonely, Jesus, help me.
Always, always, in spite of weakness, falls, and shortcomings of every kind, Jesus, help me and never forsake me.