Jesus just finished predicting His death and resurrection to His disciples. It may have been a very somber moment for all of them. We don’t know how much time elapsed, but the next event that Matthew recorded was of the mother of James and John, kneeling down and asking something of Jesus. She was approaching the only One worthy to be approached in a worshipful posture, and it was the correct way to get what she so longed for from Him. So far, so good! She got the “HOW” right! When we intercede for our children, worshipful prayer is the correct approach!
Unfortunately, the “WHAT” is where her intercession went off-key. Jesus asked what her wish was, and she expressed it: “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” (v.21) That seems like quite a noble desire. She was concerned about their future. What Mom wouldn’t want that honor for her children? Yet Jesus’ reaction was not exactly what she hoped to hear. He didn’t give her any assurance that her plea would even be considered. He even went so far as to say, “You do not know what you ask.” (v.22). She came to the right Source and approached Him in a worshipful posture, yet her heartfelt petition was motivated by pride. We know this by the reaction her petition caused in the other ten disciples. They were understandably upset! They may have been thinking – or even commenting among themselves – thoughts such as: “What makes her think that her sons are any better than the rest of us? Why should they be the privileged ones? Are they more special than we are?”
This mother didn’t get the answer to her “want”. But what she did get were two lessons that Jesus knew she needed to learn:
- That true greatness in God’s kingdom is a result of first becoming a true servant.
- The real reason Jesus came: “not to be served, but to serve”.
She did not get a “yes” answer to her prayer, but she got something far better, because He saw into the depths of her heart and discerned her needs. Instead of granting her “wants”, He gave her something far more valuable: She learned about true greatness, and more about Jesus!
How about us? We can get the “HOW” right: approach Jesus (The right Source) in the right posture (Worship) and sincerely ask Him for something for our children. (If we don’t plead on their behalf, who will??)…but we can be way off on the “WHAT”, and our prayers for them end up being categorized as “unanswered”. There were times, there are times now, and always will be times, when God chooses not to answer our prayers for our children. Jesus seized the opportunity to teach this concerned mom a lesson instead of answering her selfish prayer, and sometimes He does the same with us. He uses those unanswered prayers to teach us more about Himself….and isn’t that what really matters in the end? Wouldn’t we rather have Him reject our “wants” and give us what He knows we need instead?
Lord, open my ears to what You want to teach me when You choose not to answer my prayers for our children. Forgive me for those selfish petitions for them that don’t line up with Your plan for their lives. Open my heart to allow the Holy Spirit to apply what You want to teach me through unanswered prayer, and let me submit to Your perfect will and purposes for them. Help me to trust You, even when the prayers seem to go unanswered. Be glorified in my life, and in the lives of each of our children. That’s a prayer that You will never say “NO” to, and I praise you for it! Amen!