To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given . . . faith by the same Spirit. —1 Corinthians 12:7, 9
The faith that St. Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12 as a spiritual gift is not “saving faith” or justifying faith. Neither is it faith in particular doctrines. Rather, this is the faith that makes things happen. It is amazing that Scripture says the same thing about God, who is omnipotent—“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37)—that it does about faith: “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
The Power of Faith.
Many years ago, the Lord prompted me to pray for the gift of faith for greater miracles. I committed to doing so each day for a week when ministering at a family conference. At the end of the conference, God prompted me to pray for a woman with a chronic condition that kept her in a wheelchair. I stepped out based on only the smallest feeling of faith. All my emotions were screaming, “She won’t be healed—you’re going to look like a fraud. God’s never used you to heal anyone in a wheelchair before!”
I took what felt like a great risk and acted with the tiny faith I had. The woman was wonderfully healed; she ran around the hall and was still walking twelve years later. This experience was a watershed moment for me and embedded in me a principle about faith that has helped release a new level of miracles in my life.
People often think that they must be content with the level of faith they have for God’s supernatural intervention in their lives, in the same way we have to be content with some attribute of birth, such as freckles or big feet. We often hear people say, “Well, I don’t have faith for that,” or, “Well, you’re just gifted with more faith.” But Jesus did not accept such thinking.
In fact, one of the only times Jesus got really angry was when his disciples displayed a lack of faith for deliverance of a boy with an unclean spirit: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” (Matthew 17:17). The reason Jesus was angry with this lack of faith was, in my opinion, because unbelief mysteriously shuts out the works of the kingdom and leaves people without help and suffering needlessly.
Jesus proclaims such incredible things about faith that, ironically, it’s difficult to believe he actually means what he says. But the truth is, he does, and those who dare to believe him have access to astonishing possibilities. In our experience, five minutes of faith can achieve what years of interceding with only a vague hope failed to accomplish. Faith is the key that opens the door to the world of miracles. Most people pray with hope. However, the promises of Jesus do not relate to hope but to faith.
In my journey of pursuing the promises of Jesus for the miraculous to confirm the gospel message and demonstrate the presence of the kingdom, it was when I began praying for an increase of faith for specific things that I experienced a shift to another level.
If I were to ask you if you believe miracles are happening in the Church today, you would probably answer that you believe they are. If I were to ask you whether you are regularly performing them in your own life, you would most likely answer that you are not. People often tell me about their failures and disappointments when praying for the sick. They say, “I don’t understand it, Damian, I’ve prayed for lots of people, and they just don’t seem to get better. I do believe God can do it, so why doesn’t he?”
My response is simple. You are confusing two kinds of faith. The faith you have is what I call “creedal faith,” belief in something. You believe that miracles are possible today. That is good, but it is only an intellectual assent to the possibility of miracles happening today. The gift of faith is the gift of belief for miracles to happen today; it is an empowerment of the Spirit to make miracles happen.
Steps for Increasing Our Faith
The question naturally arises, “How can I increase my faith?”
1. Repent. First, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and acknowledge the poverty of our faith, which is revealed by the level of the supernatural results we see—no more, no less. Facing this, our response must be to repent. Even though we see much through God’s mercy, until we see all that Jesus promised, we continue to repent for the smallness of our faith.
2. Feed faith. Much of society, and often even our own experience of Christianity, has taught us to doubt the supernatural interventions of God. The answer to this is to feed and water our faith by reading about miracles, watching film clips of miracles, listening to stories of miracles, and attending events where miracles happen through respected Christians. Get alongside ministries that are experiencing them. Filling our minds in this way helps cram out the doubt, so that when we next find ourselves in a situation that requires a miracle, we are well prepared to believe for one. Also, we need to fill our minds with the promises of Jesus in the Bible about faith and miracles in the lives of believers.
3. Pray for faith. Faith for miracles, whether big or small, is a gift from God and his work in us with which we collaborate. It is not something we can create by our own efforts, for Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Understanding that we cannot create faith ourselves, we then “beg the Lord to increase our faith” (CCC, 162; cf. Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5; 22:32). I found that interceding for an increase of faith by naming things specifically was very helpful. As we are specific in our requests, the Lord will help us build toward greater levels of faith.
If you’ve never seen a healing through your prayers, it’s normally better to start by praying to free people from aches and pains rather than from their wheelchairs. Then when you have seen some results, give praise and thanks to God, and pray for your faith to increase. It’s much better to grow in steady steps.
However, I do not want to give the impression that this process must take a long time. If people are faithful and pray regularly, they can grow considerably in a few months or even in a few weeks. Occasionally the Lord surprises us, and we take a big leap. But this is unusual; most people grow in stages. If we are faithful (“faith-full”) in little, God will trust us with more.
4. Step out in faith. The fourth element may seem obvious: we actually have to take a step in faith. Especially at the beginning, such steps are often accompanied by trepidation and even real fear. We may be tempted to believe we are acting out of pride and presumption. All we can do, after preparing well, is step out as we feel led, always treating with respect the one to whom we are ministering and trying to keep the focus on Jesus.
The Catholic Catechism says, “Faith is a personal act” (CCC, 166). Occasionally a feeling or sense of great confidence or certainty comes when we exercise a spiritual gift, but in my experience, this is rare. If I only acted when I had a feeling of faith, I would have seen a tiny number of people healed, delivered, or receiving accurate prophecies, rather than, by God’s grace, the huge number who have. In my experience, faith comes with just enough conviction to act, and only occasionally is there no sense of risk.
A step of faith is the moment when my love for another person has to get the better of my fears of failing or looking foolish. My experience is that even if we fail, if we have acted in love, the person feels blessed that we tried. When we see dramatic results, people are often changed forever.
This gift of faith has incredible effects on all the spiritual gifts. Faith is born of revelation, and revelation is given mostly through prayer. We can do all the reading and research we like, but if we don’t pray, the revelation never really takes root, and the gift of faith remains an occasional event in our lives rather than a regular feature of our ministries and lifestyle.
I believe that growing in faith is an obligation of love, because it releases into people’s lives the resources of heaven that would otherwise be out of reach. God wants us to open our eyes through the charism of faith so that we see everything with his perspective. As St. John Chrysostom declares, faith “is the mother of the miracles.”
This is an excerpt from Lord, Renew Your Wonders: Spiritual Gifts for Today by Damian Stayne (The Word Among Us Press, 2017), available at www.wau.org/books