As I mentioned on Sunday, people ask God for all sorts of crazy things. James and John went so far as to ask Jesus to grant them anything they wanted. People pray for positions of honor in clubs, promotions at work, national championships for their favorite teams, and on and on. All of this seems silly to me. I God is all knowing and all powerful, then what role does your prayer have in changing God’s mind on anything? God is gonna do what God is gonna do. Perhaps that’s why, when Jesus was asked to teach on prayer, he quickly came to “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
I’m not sure how new it really is, but there seems to be a growing trend among Christians to approach the Lord with a laundry list of wants and needs. Be they genuine, say for healing or peace, or ridiculous, like those, a while back, who were less-than-subtly praying for our President to die, our prayers that seek after our own will all assume some level of arrogance in approaching the throne of grace. Even our liturgies have made that move over time (see, for example, the differences between Rite I, Prayer I, and EOW, Prayer 2)
Personally, as one who struggles with humility every day, I find it a whole lot easier to let God deal with what he’s in control of, and instead focus on how my heart needs to be changed to be more like Christ. The example of Bartimaeus isn’t a perfect one, but it is pretty darn close.
1) He approaches the Lord with humility – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
2) He is persistent – “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
3) He is obedient – “Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”
4) He listens – “Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
5) He responds in faith – “The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.”
Did he get healed? Yes, he did. Would Jesus have healed him had the encounter not gone this way? We can’t know, but we can guess, probably not. Did prayer change the course of human history? Yes, it did. But what I note, despite all my misgivings up above, is that Bartimaeus’ first posture was that of humility. I use the Jesus Prayer because it forces me to not make prayer about me. Does intercessory prayer flow from it? Sometimes, but sometimes, it is just the chance to encounter the Risen Lord, and that, at least for me, is enough.