Matthew 21:21–22 ESV
21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

As most of you can probably tell, I’m not ready to move on from the passage on the fig tree. And here’s why. Jesus said,
whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith!

If I took you to the mall or the electronic store and said, “Whatever you ask is yours”, what would you do? Notice that I’m not telling you that I’ll get you any phone that you want, or any TV that you want. I’m telling you I’ll get you whatever you want. That word ‘whatever’ removes the limits on options and quantity.
Now, my word may not mean much to you, but imagine the Creator of the universe standing you on the edge of infinity and telling you – ‘whatever’.
Shouldn’t we just take a step back before rushing in to put the asterisk or the disclaimer on that promise?

Naturally, we don’t believe that such boundless freedom exists. We know that we don’t receive whatever we may ask. We know that it matters what we ask. Then why did Jesus use such a language? Isn’t it misleading?
We resolve this promise by saying that when Jesus meant whatever, he didn’t mean ‘whatever’ whatever, but whatever falls within the scope of his will.
So, in essence, this isn’t a boundless promise but rather a promise with very real boundaries. Therefore, we may pray again and again but only if it is the Lord’s will and if it is his predetermined time, shall such prayers be answered.
And such a conclusion dulls our excitement in such a promise.

If that is you today, then this sermon is for you, to show you how thinking like that is not the way to go.
I want to show you that this is such a boundless promise and the boundaries that are there are not placed around the promise but elsewhere. Jesus is not a cheap kingdom salesman overpromising and underdelivering because he’s got to meet kingdom targets.
I want you by the end of this sermon, to desire so eagerly to go home and be alone in prayer.
Jesus said – whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith!
We’re going to look at these verses very carefully and then move on to a few more similar verses and see how to treasure such a promise.


To bring you back to the context of this passage, we find Jesus walking up to a fully-leafed fig tree looking for fruit and when he finds none on it, he curses the tree and it whithers. The point of this passage is not to harm trees, plants and vegetation but to symbolise what God does with a fruitless tree.

In the Bible, faithfulness is often likened to a tree that bears good fruit. Here we have a tree that is fully leafed, so it has an appearance of fruitfulness on the outside but upon closer inspection, it is clear that the tree is fruitless. This was the condition of Israel as their Messiah, their God walked in their midst. They looked Jesus in the eye and boasted about their outward faithfulness and Jesus condemned their hypocrisy.
This was the condition of Israel, and it remains the condition of many professing Christians and churches to this day.
But in this, we take our hope, that those of us who believe in Jesus, are spared the curse of death because Christ took our place and satisfied God’s displeasure by becoming the very embodiment of that curse when he was himself crucified on a fruitless tree.
On that cross, Jesus stood in the way.
Matthew 3:10 ESV
10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

And Jesus stood in the way for you and me and took the full force of that judgment.
O the despair of those fruitless trees without this Messiah before them.
Now, when the disciples were amazed at the withering tree, Jesus pivoted on that incident and approached the subject of faith from a different perspective. If the judgment against faithlessness was the depiction of Jesus cursing the tree, then now he points to the power of faithfulness that Jesus models when cursing the tree and it immediately withers. In other words, he uses the same incident as a positive indicator of the power of faith.
And so Jesus reminds the disciples not to be like the Pharisees and the scribes and the vast majority of the Jewish people who faithlessly perish, but rather to be faithful instruments in the hands of God.
The point of the text is not meant to show the power that we possess but the power that our God possesses. The point is not about us moving mountains, but about us having faith that God can use to move mountains.
In fact, the passage summarises that nothing is impossible for the truly faithful.

Matthew 21:20 ESV
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”

  • They never got tired of watching these miracles happen again and again. Can you imagine if you and I having spent so much of our lives believing in the power of the supernatural without necessarily seeing it, were to now see, that even a glimpse of that heavenliness reveals itself in such a physical manifestation right before our eyes?
  • You see, they’ve only heard of the pillar of fire and the separating of the seas and the chariot from heaven, but now they were beholding the impossible with their own eyes. This is faith turned to sight. Such was the faithfulness of Christ that it manifested the conviction of things unseen.

So, what does Jesus do with the disciples’ marvel?

Matthew 21:21–22 ESV
21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

  1. He increases/expands/elevates/heightens their wonder.
    He takes their eyes off of the fig tree and points to the mountain, and then he takes their eyes off of the mountain and points to ‘whatever’.
    As far as the east is from the west, are the horizons of impossibility and nothing can keep you from receiving answers to your prayers.
    Jeremiah 32:17 ESV
    17 ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.What is Jesus doing by giving such a response? Is he trying to give the impression of a constrained promise or a boundless one?
    You see, by now the disciples were probably understanding more than before about what Jesus was trying to say. Many times have Jesus given similar promises and we will look at some of them, but each of those promises was made to the faithful.
    I will hash this out as we move on.
  2. You will do
    Now, remember
    John 15:5 ESV
    5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

The disciples know this, those who are faithful know this. Apart from Jesus, I can’t do anything, but with Jesus, I can do all things.
It is Christ’s power to accomplish great things not devoid of me, but through me. The promise here is about what you will accomplish but it isn’t your power.

Isaiah 60:1–5 ESV
1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

The light isn’t yours. Yet you are the one shining so bright and radiant. Why? Because the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Now, here’s the so-called boundary of this boundless promise of asking whatever. You are the vessel of God’s power reserved to accomplish glorious things. But God’s power never works against his will or his purpose.
Answers to prayer then is a hit-and-miss situation in the case of a prayer with boundaries but that is not how Jesus explains the promise now, is it? The point is that the boundaries of what you ask are not fences laid around the act of prayer, but fences laid around your heart as a Christian to begin with.
You see, the prayer of a faithful man is a faithful prayer. Faithfulness precedes the act of prayer. The assumption of the text is not that you will pray appropriately, it is the assumption that you are no longer of this world but of Christ. The assumption is that you are a new creature whose superior and all-encompassing desire is to see your God glorified above all things, whether you eat or drink.
Stop praying as though you were throwing darts. No, that is not how we’ve been called to pray. Pray from faith to faith.
Come to his throne of mercy and grace having put on the white robe of Christ’s righteousness that he purchased for you with his blood.

3.  Faith is the power to do the impossible
Faith in what / in whom? <-> Do not doubt what / whom?

Mark 11:24 ESV
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

4. It will happen -> you will receive
Such confidence in God’s character and his ability to grant anything is the very faith that pleases God to give you whatever you ask for. This isn’t a blind faith blinded to the realities of godliness and holiness. It is a knowledgeable faith.

5. Doing in faith <-> asking in prayer
Jesus summarises this promise by replacing the phrase ‘doing in faith’ with ‘asking in prayer in faith’, and I think that is very intentional. Any faithful act of a Christian must be an act that flows out of his prayer life. As he constantly does, he constantly prays.

Whatever you ask

  • The Glory of God
    John 14:12–14 ESV
    12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

    • Whatever – in my name – so that the Father is glorified
    • God receives the glory when your prayer bears fruit. This isn’t primarily about you.
      The faithful Christian does not fret over the prayers that work because his desire above all things is for the fame of his Father’s name.
  • The Joy of Man
    John 16:23–24 ESV
    23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
  • The Father will give
    • The faithful Christian asks so that his joy may be full. The fullness of your joy is glory to your God!
      Regarding prayer, Christ does not separate his teaching of God’s glory from your joy. Glory to your God is the fullness of your joy!
  • Assurance
    1 John 5:13–15 ESV
    13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

    • Notice that the confidence is toward him not towards answered prayer. It is confidence in him that brings assurance of answered prayer.
    • Answered prayer is the assurance of eternal life.
  • Fruit
    John 15:16 ESV
    16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

    • Here we have fruit bearing as a means to answered prayer rather than answered prayer being fruitfulness.
  • Word
    John 15:7 ESV
    7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

    • What will you ask for if such asking comes from his words abiding in you.


The point is that the Christian is a new creature with godly desires. What such a faithful servant asks will always be bounded by his convictions that are wrought in God’s word.
You see the promise is boundless, but what is bound is your heart, your love for God. Faulty prayers, if we can call it that, are the result of faulty hearts.

But Christ here is inviting us to a boundless promise for those who are bound to Christ!

​James 5:16 NASB95
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Effective Prayer

James 4:2–3 NASB95
You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have to because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

The Gethsemane Prayer

Matthew 26:38–39 ESV
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:42 ESV
42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”