So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” (Luke 18:40–41)
It’s common among Christians to find that prayers are often ‘not answered,’ and we gloss over these instances with a glib reference to the ‘sovereign will of God.’ While it may well be the case that the answers to some prayers are ‘no’ – or sometimes, ‘wait,’ which we often interpret as being ‘no’ because the answer isn’t immediately apparent. I so often hear people talk about someone praying ‘powerful prayers’ as if this was some kind of special gift granted to them alone. It’s almost as if we resign ourselves to the false perception that some can pray powerful prayer and the rest of us can’t, even though there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that this is even remotely true.
Powerful prayers are possible for every single Christian.
There are a lot of factors that combine to empower our prayers. A righteous walk with God is one. Real reverence for and worship of God is another. Humility and repentance also play a part, and obedience is critical. Powerful prayers are not possible if we aren’t in a relationship with God and do not believe totally and completely that He is both able and willing to grant our requests. Hearing the voice of God is also important, because this empowers us to pray in line with His will. Unless we worship God, walk with God, hear His voice, and obey Him, we cannot expect to pray powerful prayers.
But there is another factor which so often hinders our prayers, and that is our skewed perception on God’s omniscience – all-knowing – inasmuch as it relates to our requests. It is rooted in the simple truth that God knows everything – every detail, every problem, every need, every circumstance, and every situation. He also knows exactly what is needed, when, and the best ‘how.’ We cannot dispute this. Believing this is fundamental to praying powerful prayers. It’s part of the very substance of our faith. The problem lies in the fact that we so often overlook the simple truth that God wants us to ask specifically rather than vaguely.
Today’s verses highlight this truth in a poignant and very human way. Powerful prayers begin with simple, bold faith. Old blind Bartimaeus could well have been excused if he’d approached Jesus with an abject and vague plea. He was both blind and a beggar, and in the story he is reprimanded by the crowd to be silent when he calls out to Jesus. The implication is that, as a beggar, he had no right to expect anything. He existed on the very bottom of the scale of humanity. Yet Bartimaeus finds the boldness and the faith to call out to the one whom he knows is able and willing to heal. He’d heard of Jesus, and heard of His miracles, and that was the basis of the blind man’s faith.
This is a valuable lesson – the matter of praying powerful prayers depends on asking specifically for what is needed, and this depends in turn on what we really believe. While he may have been a social outcast, Bartimaeus not only had the faith that Jesus could and would heal, but that he could and would meet his unique and specific need. Bartimaeus didn’t generalize his request. He got right to the point. He didn’t throw out a vague prayer based on what he’d heard, on what he knew of other healings, or on what kind of things he though Jesus was concerned about.
Jesus, of course, knew the man’s need. He also knew that he had a need. He displayed His willingness by commanding that Bartimaeus be brought to Him. He displayed His willingness to receive his request. This hasn’t changed. Jesus is still willing. He still commands that we come to Him – in all things to make every request known. Philippians 4:6 says: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; The key here is making our requests known. This is critical if we are to pray the kind of powerful prayers that get answers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can simply ask for anything very specifically and expect that we will receive it. Part of specific prayer is knowing the will of God, and that can only come from waiting on Him, and by asking for wisdom before we present the request. It’s very easy to be very specific about what we think is what we need in a particular situation. What we see as being the solution may not be what God knows is the solution. Praying powerful prayers involves spending time with God, reading His Word, praying for wisdom and direction, and then being willing to accept His will. The Word says that He reveals His will to His servants, and that also that He gives us wisdom. Part of the problem when prayers don’t get answered even though we’ve been very specific is that we’re only specific about what we want or what we think God will want.
Specific requests must always be in line with God’s will, but powerful prayers go deeper. They involve the boldness that comes with the assurance of our position in Christ. Vague prayers indicate a lack of confidence in Christ rather than humility. It may sound super-spiritual to constantly tack on ‘if it be Your will’ to every vague prayer, but actually, it’s lack of faith. We can only pray in real faith if we have the assurance of what is the will of God. When we have that resolved, we can, like blind Bartimaeus, come boldly to the throne of grace.
Note that Jesus, even though He knew the problem, didn’t simply heal him. He very clearly asks him what he wants. God’s omniscience does not mean that He does not require us to ask, and to ask specifically. Bartimaeus’ response is a beautiful example of powerful prayers which cut right to the heart of the problem. He wants to see, and this is what he asks for. There’s nothing vague or iffy about it. It’s clear cut and it’s done in the boldness of faith. Like this old blind man, we need to grab hold of the truth and exercise it in our lives. It doesn’t make him demanding or any less humble. He knows exactly what and who he is, but he also knows that in Christ, all things are possible. His boldness is not the result of personal arrogance but on an understanding of the heart of God.
Too many Christians are living in lack – be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual – because they haven’t grasped this fundamental truth. We are sinners all, worthy of nothing and deserving of nothing. But this is the beautiful mystery of grace. God has bridged the gap in Jesus. He has made a way. He not only gives us what our hearts desire, but will also transform our hearts so that those desires are in line with His will. Powerful prayers are possible for every single one of us, if we can only learn from the old blind beggar and come boldly to the one who is waiting to receive us.
Gracious Father, thank You that through the blood of Your precious Son we can draw near in faith, assured that You are waiting to hear and to respond. Teach us to spend time with You, to listen and know Your will in all situations, and to pray the prayer that touches Your heart and moves You to act.