While mere Christian information can be as dry as the Atacama Desert, the knowledge of the Holy is a inner stream that can keep us alive in times of drought and cause us to bear fruit even in the most austere and barren wilderness. For as much as God would not be God without His infinite knowledge, Christians are reduced to skeletons when separated from the fruit of revelation. The Bible is literally flooded with scriptures asserting the vital importance of practical knowledge.
One of them is found in the Gospel of John chapter four. Jesus is therein explaining to a Samaritan woman the relevance of knowledge to the practice of prayer. “If you knew the gift of God,” He told her, “and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). These words express clearly that a lack of knowledge can affect our prayer-life as negatively as a lack of faith. At worst it will suffocate it; at best it will limit it. No wonder the heart of the prudent gets knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it (Proverb 18:15).
A Twofold Knowledge
The point Jesus is making with the Samaritan woman could be resumed in these words: “If you knew, you would have asked Him and would have received.” It is interesting to notice that Jesus puts the emphasis on knowing rather than on believing. This is due to the fact that knowledge always coexists with its corresponding faith as I have written elsewhere, that is, the person who believes knows what he believes, and the person who claims knowledge believes what he claims to know.
In the verse under consideration, the objects of knowledge are twofold. First we have the ‘what’ expressed with the words: “If you knew the gift of God,” then we have the ‘Who’: “and who it is who says to you”. Although Jesus refers here to a specific request, the principle He enounces is pertinent to any request. In other words, every time we ask with the certitude of receiving, i.e. with faith, we reveal there are two things we know: First the nature of what we ask (the ‘what’); then the person to whom we ask (the ‘Who’).
In the Gospel of Mark Jesus points to the futility of asking something we know little or nothing about. In the passage I am referring to, James and John—the sons of Zebedee—were coming with a request. Talking to Jesus they asked: “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:10:37). Jesus’ answer was sharp and to the point: “You don’t know what you ask” (Mark 10:38). The main problem these disciples were facing had to do with ignorance. They didn’t know the object of their request, or not sufficiently. Hence their petition was lacking substance.
When Jesus says: “And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13), He thereby excludes whatever is not asked in His name. But how can we know what we ask is in His name? The only way we can reach this knowledge is by knowing the ‘what’ and the ‘Who’ sufficiently. If this knowledge is actual in our practical life we will know if the ‘what’ is in essence acceptable or pleasing to the ‘Who’. Hence the prayer of faith emerges. No wonder Martha could say to Jesus: “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (John 11:22). It was so and continues to be so because when the Son prays He always has full knowledge of both the ‘what’ and the ‘Who’. Consequently He unfailingly prevails in prayer.
Confirming the Principle
Another portion of scripture where the principle is sustained is found in 1 John 5:14,15: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” These two verses confirm what we have seen so far: We must know the ‘what’ is according to His will, otherwise the prayer of faith would lack substance. And the only way this knowledge can be substantialized is in knowing the ‘what’ and the ‘Who’ sufficiently. This way we can come to know the relation existing between them.
When such knowledge is reached our prayer is no longer floating on our best wishes but rather established on factuality; it has past from religious mysticism to practical and effectual faith. This is precisely what Jesus was transmitting to the Samaritan woman: “If you would have known the ‘what’ and the ‘Who’ you would have asked Him and you would have prevailed.” This principle epitomizes beautifully the practical impact of effectual knowledge.
The Heartbeat of Knowledge
The Christian who is truly endued with knowledge coming from above will have more than a name to offer. Not only will he pray with greater understanding, he or she will also manifest the Life which sustains that knowledge in his daily activities and behavior.
The apostle James, in his practicality—a practicality often lacking in the warp and woof of modern evangelicalism—writes, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). The apostle knew that ultimately this is the final test. A mechanic for instance can have a diploma, but if he doesn’t know how to fix a broken car, what advantage does he have over a mechanic without a diploma able to fix it?
Christianity is not an academic exhibition but rather a manifestation of moral beauty. It follows that knowledge without its corresponding manifestation is twice dead. Referring to this sort of ‘static information’ Paul writes: “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). Brethren! Let us flee from that ignorance that can destroy us (Hosea 4:6), and pursue the knowledge of the Lord (Hosea 6:3) by which we can live, work, and pray.