This was my Grandma’s cheery greeting at the farmhouse door when people stopped by for eggs. “What can I do for you?” It was the question her very life exuded. She was a servant, a reflection of Jesus’ own attitude…
It was His last week before the cross and Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, forewarning his disciples of the shameful treatment and death that were just around the corner for Him, when he came within earshot of an outspoken beggar on the roadside. I’d have been pre-occupied with my own upcoming trauma. Not so Jesus. He was forever the servant. This blind beggar was crying out for mercy, so Jesus called him near and asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Lk.19:41)
That question first jumped off the page for me years ago when I heard it echoed, in an irritated tone, by a rheumatologist I’d been referred to for answers about an extremely painful and inflamed finger joint that defied explanation. Exasperated by my naïve expectation of help he blurted out: What do you want me to do for you?! He had no answers, no real help to offer.
By contrast, I thought of Jesus. When we’ve exhausted other sources of help that seemed so surefire, he waits to hear our cry for mercy. And He calls us to draw near and tell Him just what we perceive we need from Him.
What do I want Him to do for me anyway?
God welcomes his children to ask, to seek, to knock, and promises to supply all that’s needed. But there’s more to it than just asking for stuff. John says. “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (15:7) Sounds like a rendering of service, a doing something I cannot do for myself. And what’s the objective? It’s all about me bearing fruit–the evidence that I’m in fact sticking close to Jesus and hanging on His every word. My fruitfulness makes the Father look good.
And the connectedness to Jesus does something else–it lets me share His JOY so that my own joy quotient is full. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This joy is my strength. This is the joy that carried Jesus through “Passion Week”—as He looked ahead to the people He was purchasing for God’s own precious possession. That would be me, and you.
This asking and receiving is nothing like an absent-minded grandpa doting over his cute grandkids to their own eventual spoiling. It’s not about my wishlists or my agenda at all, unless my heart is captured with what delights my Father. Yes, He promises to grant the desires of my heart but only when my heart is full of Him. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps.37:4) That’s the only way such a promise is safe from doing me harm. So what do I want Jesus to do for me? What is it that I most need in order to carry out the business of the Kingdom that’s been entrusted to me?
The blind beggar had clearly in mind what he needed. He was ready with the response: “Lord, let me recover my sight.” (Lk.18:41) And Jesus did for him precisely what he asked, and then some, for he said: “your faith has saved you”, this same ‘saved’ (sozo) is used of Jesus coming ‘to seek and to save the lost’. Was it more than mere physical sight this blind beggar received? Likely. For he immediately set off trotting after Jesus and glorifying God.
That’s what I want to be the product of my prayer life. I want to ask for that which I most need in order to glorify God. Will it be a nicer house, a more beautiful garden, a wiser parenting style? Could be. Or maybe, just maybe, a clearer vision—one that sees exactly as Jesus sees and then extends the offer: “What can I do for you?”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn.16:23,24)
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt.6:33 NASB)
P.S. Just wanting to commend to you Larry Crabb’s book: The PAPA Prayer (Integrity,2006), a book I read a few years back that has resurfaced this week in light of these Scriptures. It encouraged me to alter my view of prayer as a sort of wishlist session with God and to begin to think more relationally about my prayer life. This is a reminder I need often. —LS