This is 1 of 33 Word of Faith responses from “Correcting the Cults -Expert responses to their scripture twisting” By Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes.
MARK 11:23-24 — Did Jesus promise to give literally anything we ask in faith?
Mar 11:23-24 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
MISINTERPRETATION: On the face of it, this verse seems to be saying that God will grant literally any request we make of Him as long as we believe. Word-Faith teachers often cite this verse in support of their views, (Hagin, 1972, 27-28).
CORRECTING THE MISINTERPRETATION: Limitations on what God will give are indicated both by the context and by other text, as well as by the laws of Gods own nature and the universe.
God cannot literally give us anything. Some things are impossible. For example, God cannot grant a request for a creature to be God. Neither can he grant a request to approve of our sin. God will not give us a stone of we ask for bread, nor will he give is a serpent if we ask for a fish. (Matt. 7:9-10)
The context of Jesus’ promise in Mark 11 indicates that it was not unconditional for the very next verse (v25) says “if you,,, forgive” your brother then God will forgive your trespasses. Thus, there is no reason to believe that Jesus intended us to take his promise to give us “whatever things” we ask without any conditions.
All difficult passages should be interpreted in harmony with other clear statements of scripture. And it is clear that God does not promise, for example, to heal everyone for whom we pray in faith. Paul wasn’t healed, though he prayed earnestly and faithful (2Cor. 12:8-9). Jesus taught that it was not the blind man’s lack of faith that hindered his being healed. Rather, he was born blind “that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Despite the apostle Paul’s divine ability to heal others (Acts 28:9), later he apparently could not heal either Epaphroditus (Phil 2:9) or Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20). It clearly was not unbelief that brought Job’s sickness on him. (Job 1:1). What is more, if the faith of the recipient were the condition for receiving a miracle, then none of the dead Jesus raised would have come to life, since the dead cannot believe! See comments on Isaiah 53: 4-5; Philippians 2:25.
The rest of scripture places many conditions on Gods promise to answer prayer in addition to faith, We must “abide in him” and let his word “abide in us” (John 15:7). We cannot “ask amiss” out of our own selfishness (James 4:3). Even Jesus prayed, “Father if it be thy will let this cup [his death] pass from me”. Indeed, on all except God’s unconditional promises, this “if it be your will” must always be stated or implied. For prayer is not a means by which God serves us. Rather, it is a means by which we serve God. Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven, but a means by which God gets his will done on earth.