“What Do You Want Me to Do for You?”

In the book of Mark, Jesus posed a question to a blind man that I believe has great implication for us.

“As Jesus was going out from Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road.  And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  And many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he began crying out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’  So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage, arise!  He is calling for you.’  Casting aside his cloak, he jumped up, and came to Jesus.  And answering him, Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?‘ ” (Mk 10:46-51).

As you and I commune, connect, abide, dwell with God through our prayers and the practice of our faith, Jesus is asking us the same question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  Do you have an answer?

I have answered that question a hundred times.  “Yes, Jesus, please have mercy on me!  Yes, Jesus, would you do this specific thing for me?”  This is not too brash of a request or response to our Lord.  We learned from the story of the widow and the unrighteous judge that our prayers honor God.  They don’t annoy, pester at, or bother God.

And this story of Bartimaeus shows us that we can be as specific as God leads us to be in our requests.  We can be specific and be bold.  Ephesians 3:12 says, “We have a boldness and confident access to God through faith in Christ.”  And from the book of Hebrews, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy” (Heb 4:16).  “Therefore, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).  Our confidence, our boldness, to approach the throne of God is because of our faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Why can we be so bold?  Because we have a good Father.  We have a near Father.  We have a present Father.  God is not a distant father, standing back with arms folded, begrudging our requests.  No, God is a generous Father with arms outstretched welcoming us onto the lap of Abba Father; where we “let our requests be made known” (Phil 4:6).

Bartimaeus had a specific answer to Jesus’ question as we continue the story.  “Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’  And the blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’  Immediately he received his sight and began following Jesus on the road” (Mk 10:51-52).

Jesus answered the blind man’s specific request.  He received his sight!  But Jesus’ final response also emphasizes the importance of faith.  Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has made you well.”  Clearly Jesus is doing the healing.  But our faith opens the door.  When Jesus walks through the door, He will decide the answer that is best for us in this moment.  Our faith is our trust in who Jesus is and in His ability to deliver us.

Jesus is asking us, you and I, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And our response is to reply and to believe, by faith, that He will hear us and answer our requests.

The Shield of Faith

The apostle Paul writes, “Take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).  Our second weapon to counter the evil schemes of Satan is faith.

You recall last time that Jesus hinted at this when He told the father of the demon-possessed son, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23).  Jesus expanded on this idea in Matthew’s telling of the same story in Matthew 17:14-20.  Here, after Jesus commands the demon to leave and the child is cured, we see the same question from the disciples as in Mark 9.

“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Because your faith was too small.  For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move.  And nothing shall be impossible to you’ ” (Mt 17:19-20).

Jesus’ words, “Your faith is too small” have haunted me … oh, haunted may not be the best word if it carries negative connotations.  I am using haunted in the most positive way possible.  Let’s just say this phrase has become my constant companion.  At nearly every crossroad, every challenge ahead, every request for prayer, I ask myself, “Is my faith too small?”

Of course, that leads to a follow-up question about what large faith looks like, “If my faith were larger, would the outcome be different?”  A difficult question for another time.  (Well, there actually was another time since I previously wrote about this very thing in these two posts:  Can Faith Change the Outcome? and Can Faith Control the Outcome?)  But for now, let’s return to what clearly lies within our control; the measure of our faith.

Our role is not to predict or control outcomes.  Our role is to practice faith on the largest level possible.  But this increasing faith that we desire to experience is a process.  We can say with the pleading father, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).  “I have faith, but Jesus give me greater faith.  Jesus, show me what large faith looks like.  Jesus, help my unbelief.”

When we encounter the attacks of Satan, even as they appear to be in overdrive in these days, we have a counterattack strategy.  We don’t get angry.  We don’t blame others.  We don’t lose hope.  We don’t abandon our commitments.  But we do fight back; wielding our powerful weapons given to us by God Himself; the weapons of prayer and faith.

On the Counterattack

A story of a distraught father, his demon-possessed child, confused disciples, and a miracle of Jesus, points us to our first weapon in our counterattack against the evil one.

When Jesus returned from the mountain of His transfiguration in Mark chapter 9, he found a crowd gathered.  While He was away, His disciples had failed in their attempt to drive a demon out of a child and the desperate father turned to Jesus.

After describing the child’s pain, the father pleads, ” ‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’  And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If you can?”  All things are possible to him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father cried out, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’  When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.’  After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead!’  But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.  When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’  And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer‘ ” (Mk 9:22-29).

The first weapon in our defense against the evil schemes of Satan is prayer.  The boy in the story was possessed by a demon, a clear expression of a satanic attack.  Jesus defeated the demon, conquered Satan, and restored the child to safety when He cast out the unclean spirit.  And in an incredible revelation, Jesus even tells us how He did it.

The disciples, who had failed at the same task, quizzed Jesus, “Why could we not drive the demon out?”  Jesus replied, “This kind can only come out by prayer.”  Our prayers are a crucial and necessary weapon in our struggle with evil.  Prayer is our number one line of attack.  Let’s look at another story about prayer.

“Now Jesus was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.”  For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.” ‘  And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; how much more, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?  I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ ” (Lk 18:1-8).

Jesus lays out the point of this story in the first verse.  Jesus is teaching His followers to pray at all times and to not lose heart; to not give up.  The widow in this parable is honored for her persistence.  And Jesus connects her persistence to our own persistence in prayer with His promise that “how much more” God will bring justice to His children who call upon Him.

If we see God as represented by the unrighteous judge, we may conclude that our prayers “bother” God to the point of forcing an answer out of Him.  But that is not the point at all.  Jesus is not comparing God to the judge.  He is contrasting God with the judge.  And the key to understanding this is the “how much more” comparison is verse 7.  God is not like the judge – answering our requests out of an attitude of annoyance – but is much more in favor of answering our prayers out of our relationship; we being His children, His chosen ones.

Our prayers do not “bother” God; they “honor” God.  He has given us prayer as a way to connect deeply with Him as we implore God’s intervention in our struggle with the schemes of the evil one.  And this parable teaches us, as my fried Dave Gibson said many times, that when it comes to prayer, “it is never too late to start … and it is always too soon to quit.”

Now there is a second, and I think a little less known, weapon in our arsenal.  Both of these stories hinted at it.  In the first story of miraculous healing, Jesus told the boy’s father, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23).  In the second story, Jesus asks aloud, related to the widow’s persistence, “What kind of faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when He comes?” (Lk 18:8).  Somehow prayer mixed with faith launches us with possibility.  We will explore that connection next time.