There are essentially two kinds of prayer that we pray. This is true for us as preachers, as it is for us as sheep in Christ’s flock. They seem so similar. But they are radically different.
My Great Plan – In Mark 10:35, James and John come to Jesus with their big request, “do for us whatever we ask of you…” What was their request? It was to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when he came into his glory. It is easy to sit here now and read that with a judging tone. Perhaps like the other disciples our indignance might reveal something about us (it takes one to know one!)
In reality James and John had probably pondered their request for a while. Their gradually dawning awareness of Jesus’ identity perhaps stirring a request that reflected a craving for position and power, but also perhaps felt justified out of a desire to stay close to Jesus. Whatever their thinking, in their minds it seemed like a good plan. Now they just needed Jesus to sanctify the request with his blessing and all would be well.
How easily we can come to Jesus with our great plans. Jesus, I know how revival should spark from this next sermon. Jesus, I have an idea for who should be hit the hardest by this message. Jesus, I know the next step in the development of my ministry. Our motives are always mixed, so we can usually add the veneer of humble service over any grandiose self-promotion. It seems that Jesus is not in the habit of fanning the flames of our egos as we pray.
My Great Need – Fast forward to verse 51 and Jesus is using the same words as he speaks to Bartimaeus. This man had been crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” until he had Jesus’ attention. Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus was blind, but he could see some truths about who Jesus was. He knew his need was great.
It seems to me that Jesus is very discerning when it comes to telling the difference between “Great Plan” prayers and “Great Need” prayers. We may fool ourselves with the veneer we add, but Jesus knows our hearts, and he knows what is best for us. The reality for you and I, as individuals and as preachers, is that we have plenty of need to bring to Jesus in prayer.
Maybe we would do well to ask him to help us discern the difference, and perhaps to invest more of our time bringing great needs to a merciful Saviour, instead of just bringing our great plans to someone who knows better than to grant everything we ask!