In Mark 10, Jesus and his disciples were walking to Jerusalem for the last time as Jesus told them about his impending death but also of the third day when he would rise from the dead.
In the comments from his disciples that followed in this chapter, surprisingly to me, the disciples raised no questions, sympathy, or denial of the plan Jesus laid out. Instead, James and John, two of Jesus’s disciples who had followed Jesus for years and still addressed Jesus as “Teacher”—not as Lord or Master-- took this opportunity to seek a position for themselves. Jesus listened to their request though they did not seek something they needed and the request itself seemed untimely and inappropriate. Nevertheless, Jesus used this situation to respond patiently and challenge them in their faith when he asked them if they knew what their request meant because they would “drink the cup and be baptized as Jesus would.” Jesus gave them the gift of understanding what lay ahead for them though may have been disappointed by not receiving what they had asked for.
The petition by James and John was juxtaposed with another petition later in the chapter as Jesus and his disciples encountered a blind man who also wanted something from Jesus. Jesus also patiently asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” just as Jesus had asked James and John. The blind addressed Jesus as his “Master” and asked for his sight—something the blind man needed and trusted the Master could perform.
Jesus’s response to the blind man was restoration of eyesight because the man’s “faith had made him well.” Interestingly to me, the blind man had not followed Jesus for three years as James and John had done but knew who Jesus was and how to petition Jesus in faith. He followed Jesus after that in faith even though the blind man did not know the journey ahead.
Over my lifetime, I have prayed many different prayers—some for specific outcomes and some for help and guidance. In looking back, my prayer requests at times were likely as those of James and John where I was seeking something not needed or I did not understand what I was asking for and may not have asked in faith trusting that Jesus was truly my Master and cared for me and my needs.
When Jesus responded to James’s and John’s requests, he strengthened their faith so that they could stay faithful until their deaths to the One who had become their Master and Lord. Jesus response to the blind man also strengthened his faith so that he could follow Jesus.
These two stories emphasized to me that God knows how to respond to our prayers and petitions to strengthen our faith regardless of how or what we ask for. My prayer requests do not have to be for specific outcomes or needs because God’s response may be that I don’t know what I am really asking for – as in the case of James and John. For all occasions, whether for healing or future opportunities, I should ask God in faith for His guidance and direction when I need help and don’t know what to pray for because God knows what I need.
“Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” Ephesians 6:18