2 minutes reading time (469 words)

Just ask

It's a lovely thing when someone says, "Anything you want - just ask". In a time of need, this is reassurance, a sense of being held. Of course, there is a danger that the person who says this won't be able to keep their promise. Words are cheap. And - as in fairy tales - it's possible that what we ask for won't be good for us. Add in the reluctance most people feel to ask for help, and the process is clearly not quite as simple as it sounds.

My previous posts have suggested that, to start prayer, we need to stop everything (including what we normally think of as prayer). But obviously that's not all there is to prayer - we generally come to it in order to ask God for something we need. Often we come with an extensive "shopping list", and my advice to drop everything is intended as an antidote to the breathless recitations which can get in the way of our simply being with God, like a weaned child with its mother, resting, content. But then the child looks up at the mother and asks for what it needs, in confidence and trust.

And sometimes, when we're ready to listen, the question comes from God to us :"What do you want?" Remember Jesus, on the road out of Jericho in Mark's Gospel (10:46-52), met by the yelling of the blind beggar Bartimaeus - "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" It's obvious what he's going to ask for, and yet Jesus makes a point of asking him: "What do you want me to do for you?" It matters that Bartimaeus should articulate his need, should shout out the thing he wants most of all. And when he has received his sight, Jesus' parting shot is, "Your faith has healed you." In other words, the moment you asked me, really asked me, for what you wanted is the moment it was done for you.

For me, there's something deep here about God's love for us and how we can respond to it in prayer. We are asked to identify and to voice the thing that we most long for. Not the thing we ought to long for, not the thing that we reckon will please God, but the thing we actually want. Leave it to God to strip away all the unworthy, unhealthy stuff, and to get to the heart of our longing - which will always be some variant of what Bartimaeus asked for: healing, wholeness, hope, for ourselves or for others.

Above all, I think God wants us to be honest in our relationship with him - that is, in our prayers. He knows what we want, but we need to know it, and own it, and say it. Just ask.

A prayer for VE Day
Laughter as grace

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