Here is an excerpt from a sermon by Charles Finney, Lecture V The Prayer of Faith:
WHAT WE ARE TO BELIEVE WHEN WE PRAY.
- We are to believe in the existence of God. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is”–and in His willingness to answer prayer–“that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). There are many who believe in the existence of God, but do not believe in the efficacy of prayer. They profess to believe in God, but deny the necessity or influence of prayer.
- We are to believe that we shall receive–something–what? Not something, or anything, as it happens; but some particular thing we ask for. We are not to think that God is such a Being, that if we ask a fish He will give us a serpent; or if we ask bread, He will give us a stone. But He says: “What things so ever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” With respect to the faith of miracles, it is plain that the disciples were bound to believe they should receive just what they asked for–that the very thing itself should come to pass.
That is what they were to believe. Now, what ought men to believe in regard to other blessings? Is it a mere loose idea, that if a man prays for a specific blessing, God will by some mysterious Sovereignty give something or other to him, or something to somebody else, somewhere?
When a man prays for his children’s conversion, is he to believe that either his children will be converted or somebody else’s children–it is altogether uncertain which? No, this is utter nonsense, and highly dishonorable to God. We are to believe that we shall receive the very things that we ask for.