Someone has proposed a Dial-a-Prayer line for atheists. You dial the number; it just rings and rings. No one answers.
When we pray—thank God!—He does hear us. In this text, a blind beggar beside the road heard that Jesus of Nazareth would be passing by that day. He began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus heard and heeded his prayer. He also will hear us when we call, especially if we pray as Scripture teaches us.
God Hears Earnest and Urgent Prayer
Bartimaeus was serious about gaining the ear of Jesus. He did more than mumble a pious wish. He shouted aloud to the passing Savior. Elijah is another example of getting serious with prayer. James said, “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain” (James 5:17-18; see also 1 Kings 17:1; 18: 41-45).
God Hears Persistent Prayer
When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, “many rebuked him” (v. 48). Their rebuke just made him shout all the more: “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Skeptics and secularists seek today to silence our prayers. If you have to pray, they say, at least keep quiet about it. Keep it out of the public sphere. Religion is a private matter, they say. Secular humanists can be very public about their beliefs and disbeliefs, but praying people should be ashamed to show their faces. We must be silenced if we dare to voice a prayer in public. When I was a child, I often heard that children were to be seen and not heard. Now we are told that praying people should not be seen or heard. “But he shouted all the more” (v. 48). Jesus honored that persistence.
God Hears Specific Prayer
Little Frederick was saying his prayers one night. His mother tiptoed up and heard him say, “And please make Tommy stop throwing things at me. You may remember, I’ve mentioned this before. He’s still doing it.” Frederick was persistent and specific.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” (v. 51). He had called for mercy, but what specifically did he seek? Sometimes our prayers are too general. “Bless me.” OK, how about a coin in your beggar’s cup? How about a pat on the back and a kind word or two? How about a little advice on a better place for begging? No! Blind Bartimaeus wanted one thing: “Rabbi, I want to see” (v. 51). What do you need Jesus to do for you?
God Hears Believing Prayer
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you” (vs. 52).
T. Howard Somervell was a mountain climber who became a missionary doctor in India. In his book After Everest, he wrote about a teacher in a mission school for boys. He came on a someone with a serious bodily infection from top to bottom. Amputation of a limb was the only way to save his life. However, the patient asked, “Will you give me three weeks? I want to try the effect of praying about it.” Three weeks later, true to his promise, he came back. He hobbled in with a walking stick. He was much better, but not yet free from the disease. After three more weeks of prayer with family and friends, he was found to be healed. He soon returned to teaching.
Fanny Crosby, who composed more than 9,000 hymn poems, was at a prison service in Manhattan when she heard a prisoner call out in a pitiful voice, “Good Lord! Don’t pass by me!” That evening, she wrote the words of one of her best-known hymns: “Pass me not, O gentle Savior, Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling, Do not pass me by.
i Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 143.
ii Michael Cohen, "Rabbinical Commentaries – Isaiah 53," Isaiah53.org, accessed April 22, 2015, http://isaiah53.org/articles/01/.
iiiSamuel Rolles. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, vol. 1 (New York: KTAV Publ. House, 1969), 102. It is important to note that this passage of Rabbi Moses Alshesc begins with Isaiah 52, the larger pericope for Isaiah 53 for Alshich Hakadosh.
ivFor a survey of rabbinical commentary on Isaiah 53, see Alexander Benner, "Isaiah 53:How Do the Rabbis Interpret This?," Isaiah 53 Rabbinical Commentary, accessed April 22, 2015, http://www.hearnow.org/isa_com.html.
vJack Finegan, Forty Questions and Answers on Religion, NY: Association, 1958, pp. 56-57.
viBernard Ruffin, Fanny Crosby, NY: Pilgrim, 1976, p. 102.