Church

In Part 1, we looked at Jesus’ instructions to his disciples about how to pray. Luke 11 records the words that Jesus speaks, sharing a story about a man that needed a break. Within that story, we identified four parts that make up prayer. They were to admit, abandon, ask, and answer. To understand how they work and fit together, read Part 1 here.

That was the 4 A’s of Prayer, but I did say that with these 4 A’s there was one B. That is what we will talk about here.

“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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. ” Mark 10.46-52

When I was going to high school, there was a set of twin brothers that had exceptionally poor eye sight. One of them was totally blind. The other was legally blind which meant he could still see, but only when images were drastically increased in size. He had a special computer and a hi-tech magnifying glass that allowed him to do his school work.

The community pitched in to help these two boys, even to help the family. The government assisted where they could. At one time, these two would have been social outcasts, even seen as leeches of society. Today, both are contributing members to their home town, one even running his own business.

But the days of Bartimeaus were quite different. There were no social services or programs to help those with physical limitations. The technology didn’t exist to enable them to help themselves. Rather than contributing, Bartimeaus and others like him were left largely to their own devices. One of those devices was sitting on the roadside begging.

Though I’ve never had to beg for anything in my life, I can imagine that there would be three big things that anyone could ask for if they were in the same position as Bartimeaus. That would be food, shelter, and money. Three things that would help a blind person, or a lame or crippled man or woman improve their life. Food would help sustain them through the days and weeks of sitting helplessly. Shelter, whether it was a tent, or a place to spend the night, or a blanket to keep them warm could mean the difference between life and death. Money could help buy them food or shelter, and maybe, if they somehow had enough, an opportunity with a doctor.

I do not think that it is too difficult to imagine that Bartimeaus would ask for these things of the people passing by on the road. These three things seem like very normal requests of a blind man. But what is so striking about this passage is that Bartimeaus doesn’t ask for any of those. The things that could have helped him out, the three things that would have improved his life are completely absent from his prayer.

And yes, his crying out to Jesus was a prayer.

Everything that Bartimeaus does and says falls in line with the 4 A’s. He hears that Jesus is walking his way, and he calls out to him.  His speaking up, his shouting out to Jesus is his announcement that he is admitting that he needs help. He is admitting that he is lacking, more specifically that he doesn’t have any eyesight. He has no way of seeing what is going on around him. He has no hi-tech magnifying glass. He has no support system or assistance from the government. He is lacking and hurting. And Bartimeaus admits it.

With that admission comes his abandonment. The crowd around him tells him to keep it down. But Bartimeaus doesn’t care. He keeps going. I can imagine his thoughts were something like this: “Who cares what you have to say to me, crowd of people? I have a need. I am lacking. I am hurting. And if there is any chance that my need can be met, I’m going to do it.” And that is what he does. Like the man in Jesus’ story from Luke 11, Bartimeaus doesn’t care who may possibly hear that he doesn’t have it all together. He is willing to lay down his pride, any preconceived notions that people had about him. He is ready to risk it all, to abandon everything because he knows he is in need.

After all of his crying out, his admission of need, his abandonment of pride, Jesus hears him and calls Bartimeaus over. Then Bartimeaus is given the chance to ask. He asks Jesus for his sight back. We talked more about the Asking in Part 1, but this is where the one B comes in.

The B, the last thing that is essential to prayer, is belief.

But when I say that, I have to admit that belief doesn’t fit into this place like it was part of a formula. Jesus didn’t teach us that prayer is a sequence of Admit, Abandon, Ask, Belief, and Answer. Belief doesn’t go between Admit and Abandon. Nor does it go between Abandon and Ask. Belief doesn’t have one spot; belief seems to be a part of every A of Prayer. As if belief was and needs to be a part of this whole process.

Bartimeaus asks Jesus for his sight back and he believes it.

That hit me as amazing. This isn’t a new story for me. I’ve heard it many times, but this time it hit me as amazing when I thought about Bartimeaus and what he was doing. He asked for sight.

Of the three things that I thought would be totally normal for any blind or crippled individual to ask for, Bartimeaus asks for none of them. Though food was important and he would need to eat that day or the next, Bartimeaus doesn’t want food from Jesus. Shelter would have been a wise thing to ask for. Shade from the desert sun, something to keep him warm from the cold nights, but that isn’t what Bartimeaus wants from Jesus. Money would have been a huge help for his life. Food, shelter, maybe even medical aid could have been his if Bartimeaus had asked Jesus for money. But he doesn’t. Instead Bartimeaus does the most ridiculous thing. He believes Jesus could do the impossible.

I don’t know how much this blind man knew about Jesus. He seemed to have understood that he was of the family and lineage of David, but so much more than just a man. He seems to know that Jesus is more than just a rabbi from the northern part of Israel. I wonder if somehow Bartimeaus knew the things about Jesus that were recorded in Luke 7.

“John [the Baptist]’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Luke 7.18-23

I don’t know if Bartimeaus knew that Jesus healed the lame, cleansed the leper, made the deaf  hear, raised the dead, or made blind men see.What I do know is that Bartimeaus believed that Jesus could. Even before he gets up to start yelling, when Bartimeaus found out Jesus was coming his way, he knew Jesus could do the impossible. He could give him his sight. So he acts on that faith. He acts on that trust in the Son of God and His ability. He rejects the normal things, the things a blind man would normally ask for. He asks Jesus for what is impossible, because Jesus can do that.

I let that thought churn in my mind and soul for a long time. He believed that Jesus could do the impossible, so he asked for it. He believed that with Jesus nothing was too difficult, nothing was too wild or crazy for Jesus to handle. Because Jesus could do the impossible.

What if we acted like Bartimeaus? What if we acted like Jesus could do the impossible?

I threw that question out for my church to think about one Sunday morning. Silence. I wasn’t condemning or accusing them of having a lack of faith. I just asked the question. What if we acted like Jesus could do the impossible? What if we believed that Jesus could do the impossible? That nothing was too great a task for Him to accomplish?

I let that thought resinating in their hearts, then their answers and responses started coming. They said, “We would pray in a whole different way. The things that we would pray for wouldn’t be the same.”

Rather than asking for money to pay the bills, they said why not pray for a better job that affords them the chance to pay the bills. Getting a great job in a recession is an impossible task for some. But God could do it.

Rather than ask for a simple fix of a relationship, they said why not a complete spiritual overhaul of that person, or of me. A band-aid over a wound may help, but to have the wound healed, the scar removed, and the whole made stronger seems like an impossible task. But if Jesus could do the impossible, why not ask for that?

They kept going, mentioning things they would pray for and all of them hinged on the one B—belief. There needed to be a belief, a trusting that Jesus was able to do what we thought was impossible. There needed to be a faith in this man that Bartimeaus called the Son of David that he was more than a man, more than a human son; there needed to be a faith that He was in fact God in the flesh.

Then I posed the question, can you believe like that? Can you do as Bartimeaus did? Can you believe, and pray in this way?

Belief is the one B that goes with the 4 A’s. There needs to be a firm belief in Jesus Christ when we come to pray. It needs to be there when we admit our need and when we abandon our pride.  Belief needs to be there when we ask, and especially there when we wait for God’s answer.

The question, the call to action for me and you is this; will we do this? Will you and I come to prayer with this kind of insane belief in Jesus? That the impossible is possible in Him?

It may not fit nicely with the construct of 4 A’s of Prayer, but belief is essential to all the parts of our prayers.

Will you believe that with Jesus nothing is impossible?


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