Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Based on the Scripture above, the charismatic stream known as “Word of Faith” teaches that whatever we ask God for in prayer, we must first believe that we have already received what we have asked for. Only after that it will be given to us. From this has evolved the practice of “claiming” whereby a believer “claims” what he has asked God for by believing that he or she has actually already received it, and then reinforcing it with a verbal confession.
Based on this, Word of Faith believers can pray, believe, and then claim for themselves various temporal blessings here on earth: physical healing from sickness, material prosperity, and success in their every endeavor.
This relatively widespread teaching (and accompanying practice), however, is based primarily on a single verse—Mark 11:24. Moreover it does not take into account the general theme of the New Testament and the context surrounding the verse.
The Word of Faith teaching on claiming God blessings focuses on what God can do for us in this life. By contrast, the New Testament overwhelmingly focuses on how we ought to live and what we ought to do for the Lord in this life in view of what He has already done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Regarding God’s provision for His people on earth, Jesus taught us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Next, let us examine the context surrounding Mark 11:24.
Mark 11:12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it…
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Jesus is teaching Peter how he cursed the fig tree. He spoke to it and commanded it to wither with mountain-moving faith—without any doubt in his heart. He knew that the fig tree would have to wither since it was under his authority—therefore it had to obey him.
In Matthew 17 when the disciples failed to heal a boy with severe epilepsy, Jesus explained to them they had failed because of their little mountain-moving faith.
Matthew 17:19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
To get the larger picture, let’s look at the primary purpose of the miracles done by Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament.
John 20:30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
In Matthew 17 Jesus is teaching his disciples how to heal the sick and cast out demons miraculously using mountain-moving faith—as that very evidence mentioned above in John 14:11.
Therefore we may conclude that the primary purpose of the teaching on mountain-moving faith in the gospels actually revolves around its role in performing undeniable and convincing miraculous works to bring the lost to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And that in fact is the primary teaching of the gospels—Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
In the incident involving the fig tree in Mark 11 therefore, Jesus is teaching Peter the use of mountain-moving faith in “moving mountains,” in healing the sick, and in casting out demons. In Acts it is recorded three times that Peter went on to apply this understanding of mountain-moving faith to perform powerful miraculous healings (the third of which was raising the dead) after which many souls were harvested for the kingdom of God on each occasion.
Therefore it is not scriptural for us to use Jesus’ teaching in Mark 11 primarily for “claiming” and receiving earthly blessings for ourselves as does the Word of Faith. Rather in Mark 11 Jesus is primarily teaching us how to be more fruitful for the gospel of the kingdom of God by healing the sick effectively as convincing evidence of the truth of the gospel.
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “
And when we first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).