“As He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, He is calling you.’ He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’” Mark 10:46-51.
“What do you want me to do for you?” If you were face to face with Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, and He asked you this question, what would you say? If you do not know, you may want to give it some thought, because the reality is that He does ask us this question every single day, and in articulating our desire we don’t reveal to Jesus what we want but rather allow ourselves to discover what we want most.
When we pray, we do not need to beat around the bush or offer some false piety to try and win the heart of Jesus. He has made His choice, and no matter what you have done or what state you find yourself in, His choice is you. Take Him at His word and simply and boldly tell Him what you want.
Last year, my little brother got married. He and His new bride headed off for their honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week in “paradise.” With a couple days left in their trip, our family was horrified to hear that a small tropical storm had transformed into Hurricane Patricia, the largest Hurricane in recorded history, and was heading directly toward Puerto Vallarta. The next 24 hours were awful; we tried to get them a flight out but could not, the airport was already shut down. They were going to have to seek shelter and ride the storm out on the coast… and we could do nothing but wait and pray.
We told many people as possible and asked for prayers. On Friday evening, a few hours before the hurricane was supposed to hit, I walked into the seminary refectory for dinner and saw an old Monsignor I had gotten to know the previous summer sitting by himself. I went over to join him and immediately asked him to pray for my brother and sister in law. There were a few of us at the table at this point, and he said without hesitation, “OK boys, let’s pray.” But his prayer was not like mine. I had been begging God to somehow spare my family – to let them live, if He found the time – but I hadn't really been saying what I actually wanted God to do, because I was afraid I needed to make the perfect prayer.
But Monsignor’s prayer was different, it went like this: “Jesus, we know that you love us, we know that you are Lord of Heaven and Earth… send that Hurricane back to the sea. Make it go peacefully and quietly, and send it back to the sea. Amen.” (I don’t know about you but that’s how I want to pray.)
Hurricane Patricia weakened right before landfall and did not account for a single casualty; my brother and his wife arrived safely home a few days later. For us, it was miraculous. But even more miraculous was that after Monsignor’s prayer – before we knew anything about the impact of the hurricane – my fear disappeared. I knew without a doubt that Jesus was there and that He was in control.
God is not distant in the really hard moments. He is right there in the mess with us, and He is certainly not intimidated by hurricanes, no matter how big. Every prayer that we utter may not be answered exactly as we immediately hope; but if we have the boldness to tell God what we actually want, then we will know, without a doubt, that His presence is right where it should be… with us.
And it’s His mercy that allows us to enter into that reality: we never have to be afraid or intimidated by anything, including category 5 hurricanes or even death itself. We don’t have to be afraid to tell Jesus Christ what we really want, because as we do, over and over again, we will allow ourselves to be purified until we can say with Bartimaeus and with absolute conviction, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus, I want to see you face to face.