In our series ‘Questions’, looking now at the questions God asks us, we looked at Jesus’ question ‘What do you want?’ This occurs in three places (John 1:38, Matt 20:32, Mark 10:51) and shows us that Jesus is interested in every aspect of our lives. Often, we find this hard to believe, but God is a loving parent who is genuinely interested in our welfare (see Luke 11:9-13); He is a generous Father who seeks our best interests in everything (see James 1:17, Ps 84:11). We may feel diffident about telling Jesus what we want, fearing that He does not really care and will not answer our prayers, but the Bible paints a very different picture of prayer (see 1 John 5:14-15, Mark 11:24).
These verses don’t give us carte blanche to ask only for material things and expect God to work for us like a slot machine or like Father Christmas! As every parent knows, there are times when we have to say ‘no’ or ‘wait’, which can be difficult for our children to understand. But we certainly shouldn’t be afraid of asking for deeply personal things. The blind men to whom Jesus asked this question told Him plainly that they wanted to see; they wanted their sight. (Matt 20:33, Mark 10:51) Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer that we are to ask for our daily needs to be met: ‘Give us today our daily bread.’ (Matt 6:11) So we can ask God for personal things, but we need to understand also that what pleases God most is when we link our desires, our wants, our needs to His glory, so that we care about His will being done and His kingdom coming on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:10) What we want should be aligned to what God wants. Prayer is as much about relationship as it is about petition.
We need, above all, to hear in the question ‘What do you want?’ not the weary, exasperated tone of a worn-out parent, not the scornful tone of someone who doesn’t really care about our deepest longings, not the frustrated, angry, resentful tone of someone who is at the end of their tether… but the gentle, hopeful, caring tones of a Father who loves us more than we will ever know. John speaks about ‘what great love the Father has lavished upon us!’ (1 John 3:1) When Jesus asks us ‘What do you want?’, it’s because He really wants us to articulate to Him those deep desires of our hearts and He wants us to know that He is able to meet those desires.