Why Jesus Isn’t Answering Your Prayers

Why are Christians afraid to want?

I’ve fallen into that trap. At times I’ve embraced the false notion that the key to life is to be completely free of wanting anything. If I could empty myself of desire, then whatever came my way would be enough. I believed this is what God wants from me. To be empty. To surrender all by being void of desires.

But that isn’t a relationship with Jesus. That’s a form of Buddhism. An attempt to reach Nirvana where one has relinquished all desire and control. It’s a trap.

Yesterday, I tried to help a sparrow escape from the mall. Poor thing flitted inside as a door opened and she’d become trapped. She was in the atrium, which resembled the outdoors. Same light. Same open space. Even the occasional potted tree into which the sparrow flew when my daughter tried to coax her toward the doors.

The little thing circled about and I can only imagine her confusion whenever she banged up against the glass. She resisted our attempts to show her the door. She was in a space that resembled her former freedom but she wasn’t free.

We do that. We find some space that looks like freedom in Jesus and become confused, discouraged when we fly into walls we can’t even see.

A young woman sought me out for writing advice this week. Knowing my tagline “Disturber of Hobbits” she shyly asked, “How do I find the courage to disturb people with my writing?”

I asked her what she was writing and she described a lovely little story. I stopped her mid-way through. “I’m confused. The story you’re describing doesn’t take any courage to tell. It won’t disturb anyone. What is it you really want to write? What is it that requires so much courage you’re afraid even to want it?

The young woman transformed in front of me. As she described her true passion, the story God’s clearly designed her to tell, her beauty and intelligence shone in her voice, her face, and her words. The work she wants to do would break new ground in Christian writing but it was clear she has the credentials, the passion, and the vision to be the one to do it.

“The first fear you have to conquer with Jesus’ help is the fear to want to be who you are even if some other Christians don’t accept you,” I said. “Don’t be afraid to want what you truly want. Tell Jesus the truth about what you want. Be open to His refining it or changing it but accept the notion it’s possible He designed you to want just that.”

Every time I saw her for the rest of the conference, she glowed.

In the popular television show, Scandal, Olivia Pope is a “fixer.” Any client seeking her services must answer one question – “Tell me what you want.” That’s what Olivia requires. The client must know what they want and speak the words.

The reason is clear. Fixing their situation, addressing their needs, will require Herculean effort and work. Why do that, why expend the effort, unless you’re doing it for what the person truly wants?

Jesus is like that.

On the road leading away from Jericho, a blind beggar cried out to Jesus from beside the road. His first cry was for mercy. “Have mercy on me, Lord,” he called out and everyone around tried to silence him.

Jesus, however, called Bartimaeus to Him and asked him one question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I always thought that would be obvious. Bartimaeus is clearly blind. He’s a beggar, sitting roadside. Why would Jesus ask him what he wants?

But it only seems strange because we know the end of the story. We know the miracle. Before Jesus arrived, blind people spent their entire lives blind. There was no hope that a blind person could see before Jesus brought that hope into the world.

The world would have conditioned Bartimaeus to abandon all hope of seeing. His initial cry from the side of the road was for mercy. Other beggars, reasonable beggars, would have asked Jesus for something possible such as a general blessing or some food or a few coins. What Bartimaeus requested from Jesus required him to tell Jesus the thing he truly wanted, the impossible thing, the desire hidden deep within he had no hope of obtaining: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

To request such a specific, impossible desire in front of the gathered crowds required incredible courage and great faith but that clearly pleased Jesus because Bartimaeus walked away with his sight.

Here’s the lesson: Refuse to be a reasonable beggar. Don’t ask for a few coins if what you truly desire is to see!

What do you want?

Yes, as Christians, we surrender all to Jesus. We die to self. We give Him our lives. But He is a loving God who created us and He designed us with desires. He doesn’t want us to abandon them. He wants us to have the courage to offer them to Him. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Freedom doesn’t lie in burying your desires. That’s like the sparrow trapped in the mall. It’s a false freedom.

Freedom comes from burying ourselves in Jesus and telling Him what we truly want.

I have been that unreasonable beggar. Others tried to silence my cries for mercy. I’ve annoyed the ones who’ve accepted a false freedom. I was tempted to abandon hope. It makes life so much easier but it also makes life taste like road dust.

What do you want? Do you have the courage, the faith, the hope to tell Jesus, what you truly want? Listen only to Jesus. He’s calling you to come and He’s asking you one question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Find the courage to answer and He’ll show you the door to freedom.

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    The Conversation

  1. John says:

    I stumbled upon this in a seemingly most divine way. Thank you.

  2. Cried all the way through this one. Thank you, Lady Disturber.

  3. Lori,
    As I’m reading this, I’m crying. BRMCWC taught us that putting God first and others second, does not mean never putting ourselves on the map! I’m so blessed to know you in person now, and I look forward to many years of learning how to disturb hobbits with you.
    I’m still working on my “list of five” but I know God already knows what He has for me. So I think the precursor is to soundly hear His voice. Jer 29:11.
    Thank you for encouraging so many with your words and your example.

    • LOVED meeting you, Molly Jo! Lots of tears in writing this post and, apparently, in reading it! Many blessings on your writing. Persevere. Tell the truth. Refuse to be a reasonable beggar.

  4. You have cut into my inner being with this post. I was trying to empty myself of desires to be filled with Christ. I now see that God gives me desires. I only want my desires to be aligned with His; if I emptied myself than He could fill me. I may have been trying to empty myself of God given desires. Thank you Lori I cried through this.

  5. I’m reblogging this Lori. It is really really good. I read it and wondered what do I really want? I don’t have a concrete answer yet — going to be thinking and praying about this until I do!

  6. Mary Ellen Santaniello says:

    Excellent, Lori! This made me think how, as a parent, I would do whatever I could to give my children their desires. Not in a way that would spoil them, but in a way that would fulfill them. And God is a far better parent than I could ever be. I thought about the verses in Matthew 7: 9-11: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or, if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
    Thanks, Lori.
    I’ll not be a “reasonable beggar.”