When was the last time you asked God for something? Me — five minutes ago and before that just about every hour. Sometimes we ask for big things, sometimes little things, sometimes we ask again and again. How does it make you feel to keep making requests of God? Do you feel awkward in asking? Do you think using fancier words or making promises of sacrifice will move God to action? Do you feel like you are bothering God; do you feel silly for your repetition? Well, let’s see what the Bible tells us about our petitions. In Mat 6:7-8, Jesus taught, “… when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus then revealed what we now call the Lord’s prayer. In other words, make simple requests to God. The Lord’s prayer contains recognition of what’s in our heart: admission and adoration of how great God is; that we desire what will sustain us for today; recognition that we need to be forgiven and to forgive; and that we are grateful to be blessed.
In one biblical account, a leper made a simple request: Heal my leprosy! He came to Jesus begging and kneeling. While praise is sweet, the leper really had nothing to offer. His suffering was social as well as physical. The law required that “the person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He must live alone outside the camp.” (Lev 13:45-46). Instead of keeping his distance from Jesus, as the law demanded, the leper came directly to him and fell down on his knees to make his plea. He had no doubt that Jesus could heal him. He only wondered whether Jesus was willing. It is sometimes easier to believe in God’s power than in his mercy.
Then Jesus responded with compassion. He reached out and touched the unclean leper, an act that, according to the Mosaic Law, incurred defilement. By his word alone he might have healed the leper; but he chose to cure him with the touch of his hand. Jesus’ touching of the leper revealed his attitude toward the ceremonial law. He boldly placed love and compassion over ritual and regulation. But then Jesus made a request according to the law: say nothing to anyone, except testify to the priests in the way Moses commanded. The leper’s reaction: He celebrated, he rejoiced, He proclaimed his good news! The leper told one and all about Jesus’ miracle. It was a simple request from a broken heart to be made whole. God is good all the time. All the time, God seeks to do us good.