Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want?’” – Mark 10:51
One reason that many Christians do not experience great excitement, joy, or success in their prayer life is because their prayers are not definite. We do not specify our supplications to God, and therefore there is little clarity, faith, or power in prayer. No passage of Scripture reveals this truth more clearly than the healing of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52:
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
The blind man cries out in desperation as Jesus passes by, but with a vague cry for mercy: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Surely, the blind man wanted something more specific than mercy. The stories of Jesus’ healings were everywhere. Surely, this man was crying to Jesus out of knowledge that Jesus could heal his blindness. Yet, he does not ask for that specific healing, but for mercy in general. Why? Perhaps he is trying to be respectful to the Lord, giving Him the freedom to interpret “have mercy” however He wills. Perhaps he’s afraid to ask for such a specific desire for fear of being denied. Whatever the reason, Jesus, somewhat shockingly, stops, calls him forth, and asks him to clarify his prayer.
What about the man’s cry made Jesus stop? Perhaps it was his persistence in the face of persecution (many others were telling him to cease his please, but he admirably refused). Perhaps he had compassion on the man’s inability to ask for what he truly desired. Perhaps he simply had compassion on his desperate situation. Whatever the reason, Jesus does stop, and asks him point-blank, “What do you want me to do for you?” I often translate this phrase, “What do you want?” to help communicate Jesus’ blunt, earnest tone here. Bartimaeus asked for mercy. Jesus knows that that isn’t exactly what Bartimaeus wants (needs?). Jesus asks Bartimaeus to be “real” with Him. “What do you want?”
“I want to see,” says Bartimaeus.
“Go, your faith has healed you,” says Jesus.
Why does the Jesus demand that prayer be specific?
1.) Relationship. God wants us to be honest with Him, to share the desires of our heart with our Daddy. God knows what we truly desire – why hide our requests from Him behind vague, wimpy language? Who are we fooling?
2.) Understanding of our desires. Specifying our desires before God helps us to realize what it is we truly desire! It forces us to actually think about our desires and confess those desires before Him. It reveals the desires that are righteous and those that are unrighteous. It helps us understand ourselves and evaluate our hearts before Him.
It also helps us to “pray bigger” than we normally would. Instead of settling for the same old vague requests that never bring much direction or closure, God encourages us to look deeply into our hearts and express our innermost desires. What do we really want to see happen in our lives? In our schools? In our home? What do we really want God to do? Are you praying like God can do “exceedingly more than we ask or think,” or like God can do very little? Are you praying a specific, godly desire and expecting to see it?
3.) Knowledge of an answer. How will we ever know a prayer is answered unless we ask for something specific? Knowing a prayer has been answered clearly builds up our faith, builds relationship with God, and encourages us to pray more boldly and specifically in the future. Vague prayers don’t build up much anticipation. Vague prayers don’t cause us to wait expectantly for an answer from God. Specific prayer does. Again, this concept goes back to relationship. When we pray with specificity, there is transparency and clarity between us and God.
As you pray, hear the words of Jesus to Bartimaeus, the blind man by the road: “What do you want?” Tell him specifically, and your prayer life will take on greater depth and purpose.