Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
This instructive story took place within five years of 1857
"You may remember that some time ago I asked you to pray for a young man. I want to tell you something about him. That young man had a pious father and mother, and a very pious sister, who prayed much for him. One day I was at the house, and this sister said to me, ‘I do not believe George will ever be converted.’ ‘Why not?’ said I; ‘do you not pray for him?’ ‘Yes, I pray for him, but I do not believe he will be converted.’ ‘Then,’ said I,’ what you call prayer is not prayer. You must believe he will be converted, else all your prayers for his conversion are mockery.’
“The sister saw at once her error, and determined she would believe as well as pray, and be confident that God could convert even her brother George, far gone in sin as he was. And he was far-gone. He had not been inside of a church for six years. He frequented theatres, and all such places of dissipation and amusement. He had six friends, young men like himself, and they were continually going with him, every night, from place to place.
“Weeks passed away. One day I met George, and had a few words with him. I found him in great distress of mind, and he had been so for weeks. Sometimes he had not been able to shut his eyes in sleep all night long for anxiety and distress of soul. One morning he rose from his bed after such a night of agony, and said to himself, ‘I will go to the prayer meeting with my father and mother and sitter, if one of them will ask me to go.’ The same day, coming to his business downtown, one of his young friends came running in, and said, ‘Oh, George, they are going to have a new actor at Nibble’s Theatre tonight, and I want you to go with me. Will you go? George forgot all about the prayer meeting, and agreed to go, and they settled the place where they were to meet, and all about it. When the friend had gone he remembered his promise, and was in an agony of mind.
That evening, after tea, the parents went off to the prayer meeting, as did the sister; not one word of invitation was given to George. They had often invited him in the past, but he had always refused. At length a young lady, a friend, came into the room, and said, ‘I want to go to the prayer meeting. Will you go with me?'
In a few minutes he was in the prayer meeting. His parents, who knew nothing of his state of mind, but who had been for weeks engaged in earnest prayer on his behalf, were surprised to see him enter. The next day he came to another prayer meeting, and there God met him and spoke peace to his soul, and he went away a new man in Christ Jesus—went away rejoicing. He then went to his room and wrote six letters, addressed to his six friends, frankly confessing the great change which had been wrought in him, and urging them to come and find for themselves what a blessed Savior he had found.
By the time the story was recorded, four of the six young men had been converted.
Though Christ made it clear that we have to believe if we want to obtain answers to our prayers, many people only pray half-heartedly because they are not assured of getting an answer. Charles Finney, famed revivalist of the 1700s discovered this for himself, once, when he was attending a prayer meeting in his early days as a Christian. At this prayer meeting the attendees offered to pray for him. Though the offer was generous, he declined because he couldn’t tell that any of their prayers were being answered. This caused quite a struggle for a time because he initially questioned if the Bible was true if the promises regarding answers to prayer were not true. Later he realized prayers were not being answered in that church due to: (1) the people were not praying according to what the Bible taught on prayer; (2) they didn’t believe they would receive answers to their prayers. The story which you just read regarding the sister’s “believing” prayers for her brother, affirms Mark 11:24’s command to believe when praying, supports Finney’s contention that answers only come when we believe the answers will come.
The story comes from Five Years of Prayer by Samuel Prime