Not believing enough?
He goes on to add:
Amen, I say to you,
if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.
The disciples, already frustrated by their failure, must have been devastated by this explanation.
Indeed, many of us may have had a very similar experience: we pray hard for something that does not happen and then we are told or we think to ourselves that “we just didn’t believe enough.”
A nasty one-two punch to our heart and soul.
But we should not let this or any spiritual setback cause us to doubt or despair.
To begin with, only the Lord can judge the amount of a person’s faith and therefore it is very dangerous for anyone else (not even ourselves) to blame an unanswered prayer (or rather what we think is unanswered) on a lack of faith.
Moreover, in this explanation, our Lord is challenging the disciples to grow in their faith and so also should be our response to any setback in our spiritual lives.
Of course, faith is itself a gift from God and thus the same Lord who challenges us to grow in our faith also gives us the grace by which that faith can grow.
What can we do on our part to help our faith grow?
First of all, we must acknowledge continually that faith is indeed a gift of God and pray continuously for his grace.
Secondly, as I have said before, the analogy of faith as a muscle is helpful (although not perfect).
We can exercise our faith by putting it into action, sharing it with others, and trusting in the Lord no matter what. We can feed our faith through reception of the sacraments, through Scripture, through prayer and worship, through spiritual reading, and through fellowship.
What is important to remember is that faith is ultimately not a matter of making ourselves stronger, like some lone super hero or island fortress, but of drawing closer to God and aligning ourselves with Him.
The closer we draw to God, the better we know what to ask, when to ask, and how to ask, and the greater the work we can do in His name.