A Picture of Prevailing Prayer

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus was blind. And his soul-weariness over his blindness was beyond description. As soon as he understood that it was Jesus passing by, he began shouting to him. He did not want the Son of David to pass him by, not without giving him what he so longed for.

His first shouts got no response from Jesus. But he did get a bunch of “be quiets!” from nearby Jesus watchers. Bartimaeus was not about to be quiet though, not when the one person who had the power to give him sight was this close.

This was no time for courtesy. This was no time to observe the social taboo of blind beggars violating a holy rabbi’s sacred space. This was no time for the passive fatalism of “I guess God just doesn’t listen to me.”

No, this was a time for desperation. This was a time for prevailing. This was a time for holy demanding. If the Son of David wasn’t hearing his shouts, then Bartimaeus was going to shout louder. He was going to be heard. “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Suddenly the rebukes stopped. The crowd buzz quieted. Adrenaline flashed through Bartimaeus when someone said to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” He leaped up and fairly pushed his guide to wherever Jesus was.

When the guide stopped, a voice spoke: “What do you want me to do for you?” The voice was patient and kind but confident like nothing Bartimaeus had never heard before. The words seemed to rest on immovable authority, as if Mount Zion were speaking.

Bartimaeus suddenly felt his unworthiness to address Jesus. He now spoke his desperation with deference. “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”

There was a silent pause. Bartimaeus’s heart was pounding; his palms were clammy.

Then the voice spoke again: “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Before the words had finished Bartimaeus could feel a strange sensation in his eyes. Revived optical nerves detected first brightness, then swimming images. Could it be? Tear ducts began to overflow, both to lubricate the conjunctiva and to express a joy just dawning after darkness. As his pupils contracted from the brilliance of the midday sun, Bartimaeus rubbed his eyes.

When he opened them again, Bartimaeus was looking into the intense eyes of a young man. A wave of dissonance passed over him. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but Jesus somehow didn’t look like he had expected. The extraordinary voice was housed in a man who looked surprisingly ordinary. He looked like . . . a man. Then he noticed all searching eyes in all the faces surrounding him. And then a cheer went up from those who could see that the blind man could see.

When Bartimaeus looked back at the Son of David, he saw his back. Jesus was already headed toward Jerusalem. His words, “Go your way,” were still ringing in Bartimaeus’s ears. It took no time for him to decide that Jesus was now his way.

Bartimaeus Teaches Us How to Pray

Bartimaeus teaches us something very important about prayer. This story of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52) is a picture of prevailing prayer, not in its time scale, but in its dynamics.

Real prayer begins with real desire, often with real desperation. We cry to God, but he does not seem to respond. We are discouraged by circumstances, and sometimes by people, from continuing to ask. How does God want us to respond to this? He wants us to keep asking and cry out louder!

Don’t be polite in prayer. God is not looking for polite pray-ers — he is looking for persistent, prevailing pray-ers. The widow’s persistence in Luke 18:1–8, the nagging that irritated the unrighteous judge into action, is precisely the quality God is encouraging in us. He’s looking for those willing to “cry to him day and night” (Luke 18:7). He’s looking for desperate Bartimaeus’s who will insist on being heard, who won’t take a non-response for an answer. He’s looking for those who will “always . . . pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). He’s looking to “find faith on earth” (Luke 18:8).

Hear this amazing question from Jesus: “What do you want me to do for you?” Do you know? What are you desperate for? Don’t be vague, be specific. Don’t be reticent, be bold. The Son of David is near. Follow Bartimaeus’s example and do not let him pass without giving you an answer. Whatever his answer is, it will open our eyes to mind-blowing glory.

God promises to give justice to his prayerfully persistent elect speedily (Luke 18:8). We’ll let him define what “speedily” is. For our part, let us determine to cry out louder, to cry night and day, to nag him incessantly in faith until he answers us. He loves that kind of faith.