We often think of faith as something that we have to work up in ourselves before God will give us what we want. We tell God what we want, and then make every effort to believe that we will receive it. If we were able to work up enough faith, then God will give us what we asked of Him. This notion of faith is utterly foreign to Scripture. The essence of faith is trust, and trust – by its very nature – is always in a following relationship, not a leading relationship. To have faith in God means that we relate to Him in a leader-follower relationship, and we occupy the role of follower. As a follower, we trust Him to lead us appropriately. We do not set the agenda; He does.
This does not mean we cannot ask God to grant us certain requests. By all means we should ask Him to do things for us. But faith does not demand that God do what we want. Faith makes the request, and then trusts in God’s wisdom to either give us what we have asked for or not. Faith says, “I want X, but be it according to your will.”
I’m sure most of you have had the experience of following another car on a road trip. Back in the days before cell phones, if the person in the following position wanted to make a stop, they had to signal their intentions to the person in the leading position, and the leader had to consent to the stop. If the leader was unaware of your intentions, or if he was not agreeable to the stop, but you stopped anyway, you would be left behind. In a similar fashion, we can signal to God in prayer of our desire to make a certain stop, but acting in faith means that if He keeps on going then we keep following Him to wherever He is going. It is not acting in faith to make the stop we want, and then wait for God to follow us there. At best this is presumptuous, and at worst it is disobedience. Faith trusts and faith follows; it does not lead.