One of the things that reaches into question is whether we can should have a faith that believes in the Lord for more than one thing, rather than a passerby type blessing, where it is almost like that one shot or more of a long shot type deal of winning the lottery or getting that one big favor. There is the call to persistence in prayer, but people sometimes struggle with looking for that one big answer which becomes like the one and only.
But is that really the way to look at the landscape of what to pray for and how the presence of the Lord really is?
From the gospel of John Chapter 1 starting with verse 43 in the NIV translation of the Bible it says: The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Phillip , he said to him, ” Follow me.”
Phillip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Phillip found Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom the prophets also wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathaniel asked. Come and see,” said Phillip. When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said of him,” Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me,” Nathaniel asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Phillip called you.’ Then Nathaniel declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, ” I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son on Man.
The frame of this from Chapter 1 of John is the discussion between Jesus and Nathaniel. Nathaniel, wherever the fig tree was, it wasn’t anywhere near where Jesus could have seen him in natural terms. He couldn’t have known he was under the fig tree. This was enough to bring Nathaniel right into the plains of belief. He expressed his belief in what Jesus had just done and who he was. Jesus did not dispute that what Nathaniel had just experienced was supernatural and not possible in normal human terms.
His response to Nathaniel asking him, how do you know me is quite heartwarming, as he words begin, by saying “I saw you”. The discussion went on though as Jesus initiated that he would see greater things, which also means this wasn’t it, it wasn’t going to be a one shot deal and that would be all. Jesus said that he would be privy to seeing the heavens upon and the angels ascending and descending upon him.
Nathaniel received quite a welcoming for his first meeting with Jesus, who regarded him highly. Jesus outright is telling him, that he has many things for him personally, things that he would see with his own eyes and experience directly.
The catch here might be that Nathaniel was highly regarded by Jesus, and it is the prerogative of the Lord to give as he pleases.
But the general application of this story, is that the discussion in prayer with Jesus can be extended to more than one thing, or that one big thing. Then expectations can and should be rearranged not around just one hoped for answer but the many ways in which the Lord can and could possibly bring forth in terms of great things.
It was a great thing that Jesus did see Nathaniel under the fig tree, although he was at such a distance this was not considered possible in the natural realm. But it wasn’t the only thing and even among great things it was not to be the greatest thing or even counted among the greater things. There was going to be no tail off from that moment in the experience of Nathaniel as far as great things accompanied by the presence of Jesus.
It is interesting that this one great thing was enough to bring Nathaniel to the place of full belief. It wasn’t going to be necessary that Jesus would bring forth more great things for him to augment this belief which was firmly present. But regardless that this was enough, these great things would continue for Nathaniel. These great things done then couldn’t have been for the singly for the purposes of helping Nathaniel believe further, as he was already there in terms of belief. It however was something that was going to happen and Jesus was telling him in advance to expect it to happen. The discussion was extended from that place and moment in time into the future. This indicates that Jesus gives beyond the reason of simply helping someone’s belief or faith.
It might have been even possible that Nathaniel did not expect more, and Jesus was alerting him to the truth that there was going to be much more. What he had experienced was enough to turn the full tide of his belief to Jesus, but his expectations were not necessarily raised to the level of what Jesus was going to bring into his experience.
Something to take from this from prayer is while it is taught that we pray persistently, it is important elevate the prayer discussion to a position where one can understand and see what the Lord could be offering in terms of great things. Nathaniel was smart enough to know right away what was going on and what had just happened. Yet even with that, his consciousness needed to be raised to even greater possibilities.
He wasn’t asking for anything further, but the response of Jesus was very open ended.
This passage reveals that just one great thing from the Lord, is quite unlikely. More likely, for those that are in the good graces of the Lord, it will be many great things and prayer should be contemplated along those lines and broadened as well as specified along those lines.
This is also something to consider in intercessory prayer. Don’t limit the prayer for some or one great thing for others, but increase the prayers to many and greater things for many others.