The next day John the Baptist was there [in Bethany] again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said:
“Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked,
“What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi,” which means teacher, “Where are you staying?”
“Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” (John 1: 35-39 NIV)
If two people I didn’t know started following me, my response would probably be similar to Jesus’. But it is indeed Jesus talking, and John saw fit to record His response. This suggests there is more than meets the eye as we too seek to follow Him.
Last night, during my insomnia hours, I was listening to a podcast by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson in which he spoke of journaling his prayers and counting how many “Yeses” he received from God. The message was part of a larger story about understanding why God says “No.”
My first thought was that I needed to start journaling my own prayers; what an effective tool for seeing how God moves in your life over time. The next thing that occurred to me was how difficult it would be for me to count God’s “Yeses” because most of my prayers involve lifting up people who are in need of His salvation, comfort, encouragement or healing. My prayers commend people to God more often than they specifically request that He do something.
And that’s when it hit me:
God wants me to be specific in my prayer requests, to seek His “Yeses,” because that kind of prayer invites Him to do two things:
- Teach and refine me.
- Glorify Himself through answered prayer.
Lessons in Prayer
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Matthew 7: 7
Why else would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek and knock? Doesn’t God know the desires of our heart before we even ask? Then why nag the Almighty? Surely He has more important issues to attend to than those on my heart and mind.
Yet, when I ask God to intervene in a situation I acknowledge my need for Him and my submission to His will.
When I seek understanding, I invite Him to direct my inmost thoughts to reveal new truth in my life.
And that leads to knocking, when I act on the truth I’ve been given. This opens the door to deeper intimacy with Him and a deeper perspective of the spiritual story happening below the surface.
To His Glory
This was not the only time Jesus asked someone this blunt question; another is recorded in Mark 10, and it reads like this:
And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.
And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
And they called the blind man saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”
And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
And Jesus said to him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”
And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
It is clear that while Jesus healed many during His earthly ministry He didn’t heal every blind, lame, sick or leprous person who crossed His path. So why Bartimaeus?
Turns out that Bartimaeus’ request followed a day in which Jesus was repeatedly confronted by spiritual blindness:
- First came the Pharisees who attempted to trap Jesus on the question of divorce, intentionally focusing on the letter of the law, rather than God’s heart behind it.
- Then the apostles tried to stop parents from bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus reminded them that open hearts and minds like children’s are the key to the kingdom of heaven.
- Then came the rich young ruler, whose spiritual blindness deceived him into clinging to his worldly wealth rather than the eternal treasure offered by Jesus.
- Turning his attention to his closest 12, Jesus tried for a third time to prepare them for His impending death and resurrection, but still they could not see. (In fact, the story provides a side lesson in unanswered prayer, for when Jesus asks James and John,”What do you want,” they request seats of honor when Jesus comes into His glory. He roundly rejects them, saying they do not know what they are asking.)
Give this context, it is no wonder that Jesus embraced Bartimaeus’ faithful conviction: he asked to recover his sight, he sought Jesus and he knocked relentlessly, believing Jesus had the capacity to heal him.
Here are the lessons I take away from these fellow followers and their response to Jesus’ question.
- First, Jesus invites us to be more specific in discerning what we want from Him when we pray. We then should commit to ask, seek and knock.
- In both encounters Jesus was on the move, and Andrew and Bartimaeus followed him. Jesus does not give us spiritual truth for our own pleasure, rather He challenges us to follow Him by putting that truth to work to invite others to “Come and see.”
- Another benefit of journaling and reflecting on our prayers is the chance to examine how often they are misdirected by personal desire rather than His will, as happened even to James and John.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.