As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
–Luke 18:35-43 (NIV)
We continue to look at what insights reading Scripture can offer us about our relationship with God and among ourselves. Today’s passage is instructive about prayer. There is something inherently poignant about this scene. We see one who is literally in darkness reach out to Jesus to heal him, and we can relate. We may not be physically blind but each of us has our own darkness in which we sit and like the man in this story, we desperately want to be healed.
As we read the story, we are tempted to think of times we have cried out to Jesus in prayer only to have our prayer remain ostensibly unanswered and we wonder what is wrong with us. I do not know why some prayer remains unanswered while others seem to get theirs answered. What Luke makes clear to us in this passage, however, is this. God will answer prayer when the results bring him glory. We see this illustrated in the final verses of today’s passage. The man praises God and when the people saw what Jesus had done, so do they.
Therefore, before we ask God for things, we should ask ourselves if our petitions are likely to bring God glory and how it might do so. We should remember that prayer exists to bring God glory; it is not primarily for our benefit. And we must also remember that it is God who knows ultimately whether our petitions will bring glory to him and his Name.
This knowledge about prayer can change the way we pray. At minimum, it forces us to be more reflective about the nature of our praying. What are we asking for and why are we asking for it? Who will benefit most from answered prayer? Do we really want our prayers to bring glory to God or is it really about us and our needs? For example, what a difference it would make in the nature of our prayer if we asked God to help us bring him glory in the way we deal with an illness rather than to ask him first and foremost for healing of that illness. Or what a difference in the nature of our prayers if in the midst of suffering, we ask not that God remove our suffering but that he empowers us to handle our suffering in ways that will make people stop and ask how we can handle our adversity so well and with such grace.
Of course, we will not be able to pray like this unless we have a deep faith and trust in God that he really does love us and really is concerned about us as human beings.
I am not suggesting that we stop asking God for things in prayer. What today’s passage reminds us, however, is that we need to approach prayer in faith and with a proper attitude, a God-centered attitude. When we do that, we can have confidence that more often than not, God will not only hear our prayers but will be pleased to answer them because our primary desire is to please him and bring him honor and glory.