A Prayer Request Gone Wrong: Aligning Your Request with God’s Will

kingdom valuesMark’s literary technique is easily missed. By repeating one question word-for-word, Mark links two seemingly independent stories and wants us to notice. In both stories Jesus asks:

What do you want me to do for you?

We discovered the question in my last post when blind, marginalized Bartimaeus responded “I want to see.” Jesus restored his sight and in so doing restored his place as a contributing member of the community.

By repeating the question in adjacent stories, Mark intends for us to compare Bartimaeus’ request with His disciples’ request in the previous story.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Mark 10:35-37

The brothers’ proactively submit job applications after their 3 year apprenticeship. It seems government operated the same in the 1st century as it does in the 21st. Political allies expect coveted, influential appointments in the new administration. James and John sense Jesus’ imminent enthronement. Their opportunity is arriving! In Mark’s chronology of events, Jesus’ inaugural Palm Sunday parade occurs soon after these stories.

Mark wants us to notice the responses to Jesus’ question so let’s compare the two prayer requests.

  • Bartimaeus, James and John all request a favor.
  • Bartimaeus is an outsider pushed aside by the crowd
  • James and John are insiders traveling alongside Jesus
  • Bartimaeus cries out for mercy
  • James and John ask for “whatever we want”
  • Jesus’ response to both is identical
  • Bartimaeus asks for restorative healing
  • James and John request power and glory for themselves

What other similarities or differences do you notice? What do you learn from this comparison? 

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

I wonder about Jesus’ internal dialogue following his disciples’ request. Was He frustrated by their lack of understanding? Was He disappointed that the world’s ways still influenced their motives? Was He aware that existing attitudes would be difficult to change? Whatever Jesus thought, His response was to teach them (again) about the servant nature of God’s Kingdom.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 38-45

James and John received glory, but not the kind they imagined. Which makes us question our own prayer requests.

Are our requests aligned with the God’s values?
Does our request increase God’s Kingdom?

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

So many questions:
How do we align our values and priorities with God’s Kingdom? How do we prepare our hearts to meet God?

#SeedsofScripture  #prayer #howtopray #kingdomvalues #godskingdom #Biblestudy #Bibleteachings


  1. Geoff on March 16, 2023 at 6:13 AM

    I’d never seen the connection, and appreciate the challenging introspection presented to me by your words.

  2. J.D. Wininger on March 16, 2023 at 6:50 AM

    Enjoyed your insights, and bristled a bit at your question. The “righteous me” says Jesus and done all He needs to do through His justification of my faith. The “self-righteous me” says I want Jesus to make me as famous and well-known as He was. Truth is, in my heart, I want no glory, but that which I can bring to Him. Does the human me desire notoriety, fame, fortune, etc.? Of course it does. But what about the spiritual parts of me? My human spirit desires those things. My godly spirit, infused by the Holy Spirit who has sealed me and lives within desires that I grow more like Christ. To do that requires that I seek humility more than fame, grace more than justice, and spiritual treasures laid up in heaven more than riches here that can be squandered and lost. Lots to think about in this post dear friend. Thank you!

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