Manipulating God


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.
- Mark 10:35-36

Look at what James and John are doing: they’re trying to get Jesus to agree to their request before they even make their request. They’re trying to get him to commit himself with partial knowledge.

This feels like a very child-like move – “Mom, Dad, I have something I want to tell you, but you have to promise not to be angry.” James and John are comically transparent in their attempt to manipulate Jesus.

Aren’t we all?

This phrase – “we want you to do for us whatever we ask” – so often sums up our prayer lives and our relationships with God. And left to our own devices, we’ll resort to a bevy of squirrely tactics to coax God to give us the desires of our hearts.

How would you expect Jesus to respond to this request? He’s not a genie, fulfilling wishes with every rub of his magic lamp. But he’s also not a miser, chiding them for asking him for anything. No, Jesus’ response sounds as if he’s willing to receive their request and consider it.

What a beautiful picture of our generous God! He encourages even the most manipulative of us to present our requests to him. He will listen and respond out of his abundant wisdom and generosity.

Jesus will not be manipulated, trapped or tricked by you; but he will listen to you. When you come to him with clear eyes and full hearts, you’ve taken a significant step.

What would it look like for you to ask God directly for what you’d like? What keeps you from doing this?

1 Comment

Often I don't pray for fear of not getting what I want, if I state what I want I will ensure NOT getting it. This is an ugly lack of faith and it is not pleasing to God. I need to reread Hebrews 11 and trust God.

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