God’s Word tells us to pray. Thankfully, it also gives us insights about what works and what doesn’t.
What Doesn’t Work?
Jesus has just finished telling the disciples about His immediate future: the Romans will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him with a whip, and kill Him. But three days later He will rise again.
You’d think their beloved Teacher’s words would stop the disciples dead in their sandals, but not so for James and John. Can you see these guys in your minds’ eye? “Pssst—Jesus!” they whisper. “We want You to do us a favor.”
“What is your request?” Jesus asks.
Then comes the bombshell. “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
Jesus responds with these words: “You don’t know what you are asking!…I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left.” (Mark 10:34-40 NLT) He not only refused to grant their request, but He pointed out their flawed thinking about leadership.
The moral of the story? Asking with selfish motives doesn’t work well.
A blind beggar calls out to Jesus as He and the disciples pass through Jericho. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” he yells over and over.
Jesus stops and asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
“My Rabbi,” the blind man says, “I want to see!”
Jesus responds with favor. “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” (Mark 10:46-52)
The moral of this story? Asking with humility, recognizing our needs and Christ’s ability to meet them, works. Jesus may or may not answer with an immediate yes as He did for Bartimaeus, but He recognizes humble faith when He sees it, and He honors it in the way He deems best.
I can recall times when I’ve prayed with wrong motives.
“God, I need You to do me a favor,” I’d say—but not aloud, of course. “I need You to help me win that contest, or land that new book contract, or gain a little more recognition.” Guess what happened? Nothing. Literally. And rightfully so. Jesus doesn’t owe me favors to satisfy my selfish heart. He’s already given me everything I need and topped it with a host of promises He intends to keep.
I can also recall times when I’ve cried to Jesus from a desperate state. Hurt and hopelessness had blinded me. I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel. “Jesus—help me see the way,” I cried. “Give me eyes to see this situation as You do!”
Praying in faith made me well. God recognized humility and blessed me for it. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Asking God for favors from a selfish heart never works. Asking Him for help from a humble heart always works. Lesson learned.
How have you found this to be true in your own life?
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