Fact Check

Faith Moves Mountains

Congregation's prayer to move a mountain to make way for a new church's parking lot is answered?

Published Aug 31, 2000


Glurge:   Congregation's prayer to move a mountain to make way for a new church's parking lot is answered.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2000]

Faith to Move Mountains . . .

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building.

Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.

Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week.

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o'clock the pastor said the final "Amen." "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."

The next morning as he was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door. When he called "come in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.

"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company over in the next county. We're building a huge new shopping mall over there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We'll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly."

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!

Origins:   The person who attempted to live his life according to the guidance afforded by our popular proverbs would find himself confused indeed, for we have proverbs for all occasions. Did your best friend let something valuable escape his grasp by not acting quickly enough? Be sure to point out that then when nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. If he then loses something important by acting too hastily, you can remind him to look before he leaps. When he reverts to being cautious, don't fail to mention that he who hesitates is lost. Whatever you resolve to do, you can find sayings that support your decision and others than warn you against


Here we have someone's attempt to render the aphorism that "faith can move mountains" as a literal anecdote (while demonstrating some questionable knowledge of municipal building codes and the construction industry). A congregation needed to move a mountain in order to make room for their new church, and through prayer they achieved their goal. It's a charming story about the power of faith.

We might look at the other side of the coin, however, and consider the maxim that tells us "God helps those who help themselves." The characters in this little tale construct a new church without heeding the local building codes, then when they're informed that — because of their own mistakes — they won't be able to use it as built, they do nothing affirmative to rectify the situation. They don't attempt to raise any money, to do any work themselves, or even to consider possible alternative remedies (such as building a parking structure). They want their new church and they want it now, so they simply get together and ask God to solve all their problems for them, giving Him a ten-day deadline to boot. (Worse still, only 8% of them can even be bothered to do this much.) This parable reminds us of nothing so much as a bit of humor usually told as a Jewish joke:

A guy named Saul finds himself in dire trouble. His business has gone bust and he's in serious financial trouble. He's so desperate that he decides to ask God for help. He begins to pray: "God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my house as well. Please let me win the lottery."

Lottery night comes, and somebody else wins it.

Saul again prays: "God, please let me win the lotto! I've lost my business, my house and I'm going to lose my car as well."

Lotto night comes, and Saul still has no luck.

Once again, he prays: "My God, why have you forsaken me? I've lost my business, my house, and my car. My wife and children are starving. I don't often ask you for help, and I have always been a good servant to you. PLEASE just let me win the lottery this one time so I can get my life back in order."

Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as the heavens open and Saul is confronted by the voice of God Himself:

"Saul, meet me halfway on this. Buy a ticket."

Maybe faith really can move mountains, but should we expect the Almighty to do for us what we're perfectly capable of doing for ourselves?

Last updated:   25 February 2007

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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