And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” . . . Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” Mark 10: 35 & 38
You’ve gotta laugh, right? I did. Perhaps because there have been times I have been just like the sons of Zebedee. “Lord, I’ve been good. I have served You. I have tithed. I have prayed for others and read my Bible. Now – give me my desires.” But over the years, I have learned that God’s blessings are not based on merit. Otherwise, how would any of us ever be worthy enough?
There was a story I once heard. A man was dying and he and St. Peter had a talk. St. Peter said, “In order to come in through these Pearly Gates you need 100 points.”
The man said, “Okay. I taught Sunday school for 25 years. ”
St. Peter said, “Good. One point.”
The man looked perplexed. “And, I spent one Saturday a month helping in the soup kitchen, and I went on a mission trip to Mexico for two weeks, three years in a row.”
“Very good. Two more points.”
“I read my Bible every day.” The man added, sure that would up his score a bunch. But again, it was only one point. In desperation he said, “How does anyone get in here, for Christ’s sake?”
St. Peter smiled, put down his pen and said, “Exactly.”
We don’t really understand what we ask, because our view of what we think we need is so limited compared to the loving God who sees past, present and future. The sons of Zebedee wanted the glory, thinking they had earned it. But, it was not up to them to do so. They didn’t understand the sacrifice Jesus was about to make, or that through that sacrifice, all would have the opportunity to be with Him in Heaven soon enough.
James 4:3 says it is a nutshell: When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Yes, in the Book of John, Jesus promised if we ask it will be granted to us, but only if we ask it in His name, which means the way He would ask. We know how He asked. Scriptures says so: “Thy will be done.”
What is the motive for your prayers? It is better to ask “Lord, what can I do for You?”, instead of “God ,what can you do for me?”, knowing and trusting in faith that He will provide what is best for each of us. That’s one lesson I am still learning.