Jesus said, "What is it you want me to do for you?" In our worship, let us explore what we want Jesus to do for us today.
Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, we are sometimes selfish in our requests to you.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, we are sometimes unreasonable in our requests to you.
Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, help us to make you the centre of our world.
Lord, have mercy.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?"  And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."  But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"  They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."  When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.  So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Like James and John, we often have no idea of the right requests to make to God. Sometimes we limit God's power by making our requests too specific, and then we feel disappointed because God hasn't answered our prayers exactly as we wished. This is a story about Paddy, who desperately needed a friend.
Jo was the most popular girl in school and Paddy longed to be friends with her. Paddy didn't have any friends. People called her nasty names like "nerd" and "anorak" and she seemed to do everything wrong in their eyes. The trouble was, Paddy had no idea why people called her names. She was always honest, and her mother told her that perhaps that was the problem.
"When people ask you whether or not you like their new trainers," her mother said, "just say yes. Then they'll be pleased."
"But I don't like them," objected Paddy. "Those flashing bits are just stupid. So that's what I say."
Her mother sighed and tried again. "Maybe you could just say nothing," she advised. "If you're not sure whether or not people will like your answer, just smile and walk away."
So Jo had tried that, but it didn't seem to make much difference. People just shouted at her and told her she was rude. She still didn't have any friends.
"Please God," Paddy said inside her head, "Make Jo my best friend. Then everyone will like me because everyone likes Jo."
She waited for God to answer, but nothing happened. So Paddy sidled over to Jo and sat down next to her on the bench in the playground.
Jo immediately jumped up. She shouted at Paddy, "Get away from me, you freak! Who told you you could sit there? Shove off!" and she kicked Paddy on the leg. Then lots of other people joined in, all shouting at Paddy until she put her hands over her ears and began to rock forwards and backwards to shut the noise out. Then they all grabbed at Paddy and threw her off the seat onto the ground.
Paddy lay there, hurting and stunned. She didn't know what she had done to cause such anger. She had only tried to be friendly with Jo. Now she was covered with kicks and bruises.
After a while, the other children moved away. They ignored Paddy just as though she didn't exist and went off to play some other game. Paddy felt forlorn and lonely. Then she heard someone say, "Hello! Are you hurt?"
Paddy inspected her arms and legs carefully and said, "I've got a lot of bruises."
"Are you going to tell the teachers?" asked the voice.
Paddy shook her head. "No." Then she looked properly at her companion. It was Laura, who was so quiet that Paddy didn't think she'd ever heard her speak before. Laura offered her a sweet from the paper bag she was carrying and Paddy took it. They shared the bag of sweets between them and it seemed only natural to walk home from school together as well.
Paddy found she liked Laura. She liked people who were quiet. And Laura never got upset when Paddy was honest with her, even when Paddy said things that other people thought were rude. Laura knew it was only Paddy's way.
A long time later, when Paddy and Laura had become firm friends, Paddy remembered her prayer to God. "You didn't make Jo my best friend, God," she said, "but you did send Laura. And she's the very best friend anyone could have. Thank you God for answering my prayer. Your answer was so much better than the answer I asked for. Laura and I will be friends for ever."
And they were.
A flipchart or white board
A lighted candle or a flower or some other focus
Enough nightlights for one for each child
Matches or a lighter
Get the children to sit in a circle and focus on the candle or flower or whatever you have chosen. Ask them to think about or picture God in their minds. Then suggest they think about anything they'd like to ask God to do for them, or anything they'd like to say to God, or any question they'd like God to answer. When they've had time to think, write all their ideas on the flipchart. Discuss each idea, asking whether there are any they would like to discard and if there are, the reasons for the discard. Talk about James and John's request and ask whether that would have been one to discard or to keep?
Finish by sitting quietly again. This time put the nightlights in the centre. Invite each child to pray for something they think is really important - sickness of a friend or family member, world hunger, war etc. - and to light a nightlight for that. They could say, "I light this candle for..." as they light their nightlight.
Keep the flipchart for next week, and start next week's session by asaking whether anyone has noticed any answers to these prayers?
Diary Time: For details, click here.
Get the children to keep a Prayer Diary this coming week. They should draw two columns in their diary. In one column, they should write down each time they pray and everything they pray about. These might be quite short prayers, like "Help me, God," when they're experiencing difficulties. In the other column, they should write down whether or not they feel the prayer has been answered. Obviously, they will be filling in the two columns at different times. They could start today by recalling a recent prayer and whether or not it has been answered, and writing that down.
Generous God, we in the Church are not always able to see what is best for us. Help us to so trust in you and rely upon you that we are content to accept whatever you send us in our church life.
Generous God, guide our world leaders, our national leaders and our local leaders in the way they should go. May they seek for that which is best for all human beings, rather than simply for their own people. Make us all sensitive to the needs of those who are poor, so that world poverty may be eradicated.
Generous God, teach us to ask for the right gifts from you. Draw us always towards treasure in heaven rather than on earth, and guide our feet in the direction we should go.
Generous God, hold in your arms all who need your especial love, care and healing touch. As we commend to your presence those of our families and friends who need your help, pour your blessings upon them ...
May God fill you with all the good gifts you need,
watch over you and protect you from all evil
and call you to the greatest heights
of which you are capable.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you now,
be in your homes and in your families
and with all those whom you love
and for whom you pray,
now and always.