Give ear to my words, O Lord. Consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my king and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning, I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (from Psalm 5)
I’m still thinking about Mark 7:24-37 today. Here’s the text from the English Standard Version of the Bible:
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:24-37 ESV)
So the thing I’m still thinking about its the aspect of begging God to heal. (Click here if you haven’t read yesterday’s reflection. Today’s is sort of a continuation of it, so it might be helpful to read that first.)
I’m still thinking about this aspect of intercession. There have been times when I have literally flattened myself on the floor before God in prayer and, through tears, begged him for something. It’s been a while, if I’m honest. But there have been seasons when I have felt so desperate for something (or someone) that I have literally begged God, because I knew that nothing else (and no one else) could heal/change/restore/redeem, etc. The night thirteen years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I begged him, on my knees, to do more with my life than I could do on my own. I begged him for forgiveness that night, and I begged him for redemption, feeling like I had made a mess of things and the only way I could be sorted out was if God did the sorting.
I have begged God for healing in several relationships over the years. I begged God for financial provision when, for years, I struggled to make ends meet. And I have begged God for healing of people with illnesses—people I loved who were very, very sick. In some cases, we got the kind of healing we wanted. In other cases, we did not.
I remember begging God for protection when I was traveling in central Asia and things got a little sketchy out there in the middle of nowhere along the Silk Road. Once when I was in El Salvador, I spent a sleepless night on my knees, begging God for specific direction for my life as I considered whether to leave New York and pursue full time volunteer work overseas. I have begged for reconciliation, protection, healing, provision, and more.
But not lately. And this has gotten me thinking—what causes someone to beg God, like this mother and these friends in this passage from Mark?
I think it boils down to a sense of desperation on behalf of someone they love. Desperate circumstances that leave them with no urge to protect their own dignity; they will fall at someone’s feet in utter humility and beg. And I wonder, for whom do I feel that? For whom am I willing to beg?
I have begun to amass a new prayer list, comprised only of circumstances that seem truly and utterly desperate. Friends whose marriage appears to be over are on that list. A friend who is in the advanced stages of cancer. A family member with a degenerative disease that is sucking the life out of his body day-by-day. Several girlfriends of mine who deeply want to be married but seem to have no possibilities. The many ethnic groups in the world that have never had access to the knowledge of Christ. And as I pray, I am giving myself a bit more space. Literal space, on the floor, to kneel, bow, and humble myself. And metaphorical space to do more than simply present my requests to God. I’m giving myself space to beg.
In Philippians 4, we are instructed to never be anxious, but rather to trust God and present our requests before him. And this is a good word. We need never be “anxious” when we come to God. However, holding that passage in tension with this one from Mark, we see that there is a certain level of passion that must fill our prayers as we present our requests before God. The picture we get in Mark 7 here is not one of polite requests, but rather one of guttural, undignified, falling-on-my-face kind of intensity. Desperation. Anguish. You’re-my-last-hope emotion. In other words—begging.
We pray “begging” prayers because we are desperate and because we love deeply. My prayer for myself tonight, and for you, dear reader, is that we will be filled with increasing desperation and love for the broken world around us and every single person who fills it. This song by Matt Redman helps me get there.