Imagine that Jesus walked into your community. Crowds are pressing around him and the disciples are trying to clear a path like a first century secret service. Now think about a need in your life that is beyond overwhelming. You’ve tried everything and everyone, but there is no relief. What would you do if Jesus came walking into your space?
Mark’s gospel tells a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus. I’ll call him Bart for short. The Bible gives few details about Bart. We know he’s blind and has to beg for money. We also are told his father’s name–Timaeus, which indicates that he may have been from a family of some means or standing in the community, perhaps meaning that they had given up on Bart. Remember, he was a beggar. When Bart heard Jesus was en route he prayed what has now become known as the “Jesus Prayer.” “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47, 48). The secret service tried to quiet Bart, but to no avail. When Jesus heard him pray he summoned him and asked a simple question. “What do you want me to do for you?”
Talk about a blank check! Bart wasn’t timid. He answered Jesus with direct precision. “I want to see!” And Jesus granted his request.
When I first read this passage last week my first thought was, “so what’s the big deal? The guy is blind. Of course he wants to see.” But as I meditate on Bart’s answer I have come to the conclusion that his request was for empowerment, not enablement. For Bart, sight was the ability to be free of dependence upon others for the things we take for granted. The ability to travel and the capacity to earn a living were wrapped in that request for sight, not to mention the chance to enjoy the beauty of creation. He could have asked to be able to have someone help him with his personal needs and for food and housing so he wouldn’t have to beg. But he wanted to be empowered. And with his new found empowerment he followed Jesus down the road (Mark 10:52).
Blind Bart is a simple lesson about prayer. Many times I find myself praying for enablement when I should be praying for empowerment. Sometimes my requests are generalized when then should be specific. And more often than I want to admit, my requests are passive instead of active, meaning they are for my own comfort and well being instead of for following Jesus and being of service to those around me. Like Bart, I want to pray for the root, and not just the fruit.
What do you want Jesus to do for you that will empower you to be who he created you to be?