Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.Matthew 20:20-22
Was it wrong for this mom to ask for good things for her sons? No. Was it an unreasonable request if Jesus was about to establish His earthy kingdom with a throne in Jerusalem? Nope. After all, her two sons were two of Jesus’s closest friends and companions. Was it an act of faith to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had the power to fulfill her request? Yes! It was a bold, faith-filled request, and we know God is pleased with those kinds of requests.
So, what was the problem?
The problem was that she didn’t know what she was asking.
I think that many of our prayers fall into this category, and we don’t even realize it. She didn’t realize that Jesus wasn’t yet establishing an earthly kingdom and that when His Kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven” it looks different than she was imagining. She didn’t realize that Jesus’s coronation would be His body nailed to a cross, a crown of thorns pressed down on His head. She didn’t realize death would precede His ascension to His throne. She didn’t realize the kind of Kingdom over which He would rule.
Garth Brooks popularized the saying, “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” And we should thank God for unanswered prayers because so many of our prayers have consequences that we can’t possibly foresee. Yet, God can foresee them. He knows that we don’t fully understand what it is that we are asking.
God can see that if we got that promotion how much traveling it would involve. He can see what it would do to our family. God can see that if He healed right now, one person would get better, but if He heals two years from now, 200 people will be impacted. God can see the weight and pressure that would come upon you if you actually got what you’ve been asking for. He can see how your heart would be crushed under the weight of responsibility. So while He’s preparing you for that thing, He loves you too much to give it to you right now.
Of course this isn’t true of all of our requests of God. But this is where trust comes into play. We aren’t going to automatically know which requests fall into the category of, “You don’t know what you’re asking.” We won’t know ahead of time, just like the mother of Zebedee’s sons didn’t know.
So we come boldly before the throne of grace with confidence and we make our requests to God (Hebrews 4:16). Then we trust God to fulfill our request or to adjust it as necessary. In humility, we need to be ready for God to tell us that we don’t really know what we’re asking and allow Him to reshape our request in line with what only He can foresee.
Are you willing to trust God even when your prayers aren’t getting answered the way you want?