Off-Topic Thursday: Back to City Hall, What’s the Catch?
On Tuesday, we looked at Jesus and Bartimaeus, in Mark 10, and learned the value and importance of knowing that we can ask God for anything. Bartimaeus asked for his sight, in confidence and faith that Jesus both could and would grant his request, and that’s what happened. But today I want to back up a few verses, because leaving it where we did on Tuesday, though providing a valuable lesson, runs the risk of missing an important part of the picture.
In verses 35-45, James and John come to Jesus with a request. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asks them. They replied, “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at Your left in your glory.” not only does Jesus not grant their request, He tells them that they don’t even really understand what it is they’re asking and explains to them that their priorities are wrong.
Same question from Jesus. Two very different responses to the requests.
The second lesson from City Hall is this: You won’t always get what you ask for. If you go into City Hall and say, “It’s my birthday. Can I have a birthday button and free dinner at the Blue Bayou”, you’ll get the button, but not the dinner. If you say, “I didn’t get the scene combination I wanted on Star Tours. Can I have my admission for the day comped?” you’re not going to get it.
There are criteria for having your request granted. At Disneyland, in part it is asking for something reasonable for the situation, comparable to the problem, and/or within Disney’s power to do. Don’t try asking them to make it stop raining. It won’t work.
“When you ask, you do not receive,because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures,” James continues from the verse above.
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you,” says Jesus.
From John: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.”
Again, John: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of Him.”
I’m not advocating “name-it-and-claim-it”. There are certain conditions (not rules or formulas to compel God to act, by the way). But they’re not surprising, are they?
Think of a child growing up in her parents house. She is neglectful of her parents, never wanting to spend any time with them and disobeying what they tell her to do. If she asks for something, are they going to give it to her? Probably not. She doesn’t respect them. She’s just using them.
If the opposite is true and she shows love to her parents, spending time with them, being respectful and obedient, are they not more likely to grant a request that she makes? Of course they are. It’s not a guarantee, though. She may have asked for something that they know to be harmful.There may be something she needs to learn by not having it…at least not right away. They may have something better in mind for her. Still, she can ask, and be confident in her request.
Let me encourage you to do the same thing. I know there’s something on your heart that you want to ask God, but haven’t. He’s said to you, “What do you want me to do for you?” but you haven’t answered. Ask Him, and if necessary keep asking. Either you’ll get it, or He’ll change your heart and desires. He’ll give you what you need, which may also be what you want, as long as you’re desire is to satisfy and please Him. But this won’t happen if you don’t ask.
Also keep in mind that “confident” and “arrogant” aren’t the same thing. Consider Jacob’s prayer when he was on the way to face Esau. “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'”
This could–and some day may–be a post all its own, but for now, do your prayers sound anything like Jacob’s?
- Rooted in Who God is
- Specific & Direct
- Recalling God’s promises
First, do self-check, asking the Holy Spirit to help. Are you actually spending time with Him and in His word, or do you only come to Him when you want something? Do you do what you already know He’s told you, or is He only Santa Claus and not your Lord? Are you approaching Him with a sense of entitlement and arrogance? Are you asking for something for selfish and sinful reasons?
That last one bears a bit more attention. Clearly it isn’t sinful or wrong to ask for something for yourself. Bartimaeus did, and his request was granted. The question is, what are you going to do with what He gives you? Use it selfishly? Over-indulge in it? Waste it? Or are you going to use it also for the benefit of others? Be wise with it? Use it to glorify God?
If your heart is right, ask, confidently and clearly. Ask in faith, trusting Him to do it. He may say no, but that’s up to Him, not you. If He does, deal with that at the time. For now, answer His question.
Question: Rep-visit your request from Tuesday’s post. Now, do the heart-check. Do you need to reconsider or revise your request? If so, now is a great time to do that. If not, be confident and bold (though not arrogant or entitled). Share it in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.