I’ll support them in whatever they are believing for.
Have you heard this kind of talk? It’s what I have heard from some Christian people – almost always charismatic or pentecostal friends – about praying with others in need.
In practice, they might ask, ‘Are you believing for healing? Are you believing for comfort?’ In my words: what outcome do you think God has planned for you?
That’s not the way I speak. I speak of believing in something (usually Jesus). The emphasis is not on the outcome of faith, but on the object of faith. Noting the difference meant it is a good chance to see how the Bible speaks. Perhaps I need to change, or think again.
So I searched the New Testament for the verb ‘believe/trust’ followed by a preposition. I found five different prepositions immediately following the verb ‘believe’, in 62 verses. About four of these were not relevant, when the verb finished one clause and the preposition immediately began the following clause.*
Overwhelmingly the emphasis was trust in Jesus. John 3:16 – so well known – is typical:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The rare uses include the following
- Believing a message. The content could be testimony (1 John 5:10), the prophets (ie., their writings, Luke 24:25), the gospel (Mark 1:15)
- Belief arising through a message or messenger (eg., John the baptist, John 1:7)
- The location of belief (believe in your heart, Romans 10:9). I take this to be more metaphoric than anatomical!
- Belief for an outcome. There were two examples of this. Abraham believed that he would become father of many nations (Romans 4:18). And Romans 10:10 teaches that we believe for justification.
Significantly, the two cases of belief for directly link the belief with God’s spoken truth. Abraham had been told “So shall your offspring be” (Romans 4:18). The belief of Romans 10:9 is that God raised Jesus from the dead. This differs from what I hear from some. Those who state ‘We believe that God will cure your cancer’ have no such promise to point to.
The New Testament’s dominant use of believe is about whom we are to trust: the Lord Jesus Christ.
To believe for is rare. When it does occur, it’s about matters of universal application (Abraham’s family, and personal justification).
In practice, I will still pray for healing, reconciliation, or some other outcome. But I will strive to direct people’s trust toward Jesus. I will ask for an outcome, but I will believe in Christ.
* (The four relevant prepositions, followed by the number of verses in which the construction appears: εἰς (39), ἐπὶ (10), ἐν (4), διὰ (5). Of the four not relevant verses, one included a different preposition (κατὰ).)