There are many ways to ask for a favour from friends, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, etc. We can demand for it with a firm voice. We can ask for it using our normal voice. Or we can appeal for it using a friendly tone of voice. How should we ask God for a favour? What should be our attitude or frame of mind?
Let us learn from Scriptues what is the best way to ask a favour from God? The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, called out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46-47). The tax collector standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13). The Canaanite Woman cried out “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus replied: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” and she said “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matt 15:22-27). The centurion sent friends to say to Jesus: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:6-7)
In all the above cases, their prayers were answered immediately. Jesus also commended the Canaanite Woman and the Centurion for their great faith. What are common in their prayers or pleas that make them so efficacious? I think they are humility or ‘poverty in spirit’, persistency and spontaneity. Do we appeal for God’s mercy with humility, persistency and spontaneity? Are we too proud to acknowledge our sins and beg for God’s mercy? Do we lack persistency and give up praying after a few attempts? Are we uncomfortable with spontaneous prayer? I think humility, persistency and spontaneity are important ingredients of effective prayers, and we can only have them if we are open to the grace of God.
Do we seek Christ in earnest prayer? We should not be afraid of being too earnest or too persevering. We should go to Christ this very day, agonize and wrestle with him; beg him to have mercy on us, and if he hear us not, go to him again, and again, and again. Seven times a day call upon him, and resolve in our heart that we will never cease from prayer till the Holy Spirit has revealed to our soul the pardon of our sin. When once the Lord brings us to this resolve “I will be saved. If I perish, I will still go to the throne of grace and perish only there,” then we cannot perish. We are saved, and shall see God’s face with joy. The worst of us is, we pray with a little spasmodic earnestness and then we cease. We begin again, and then once more the fervor ceases and we leave off our prayers. If we would get heaven, we must carry it not by one desperate assault, but by a continuous blockade. We must take it with the red hot shot of fervent prayer. But this must be fired day and night, until at last the kingdom of heaven yields to us. Look at the courage of Bartimaeus. He is hindered by many, but he will not cease to pray. So if the flesh, the devil, and our own hearts should bid us cease our supplication, never do so, but so much the more a great deal cry aloud, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
We must observe the spontaneity of Bartimaeus’ prayer. He did not want a liturgy or a prayer-book on this occasion. There was something he needed, and he asked for that. When we have our needs at hand they will usually suggest the proper language. We cannot leave out the fresh influence of the Holy Spirit suggesting words in which our needs may be expressed; and it is quite unimaginable that any fixed form of prayer will ever suit an awakened and enlightened believer, or will ever be fit and proper for the lip of a penitent sinner. Bartimaeus cried from his heart, the words that came first—the simplest which could possibly express his desire—”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” We should do likewise and the Lord will hear us, as he did Bartimeus.
Let us ask for the Lord’s mercy with the hymn “Be Merciful, O Lord (Psalm 51)”: