But Does He Have the Ganas?

Mark 1:40-45

But Is He Willing?

Around the table, fingers flipped through thin white pages and skimmed headings and margin notes for a clue as to the whereabouts of a story that may, or may not exist.

My class of good sports let doubt fall to my favor, not quite ready to confirm or deny whether I’d made the story up. I couldn’t even confirm or deny, truth be told.

We had to move on before we answered it. So the assignment for our next meeting? Browse the Gospels to see if, in fact, Jesus did have this conversation I had imagined.


We dove head-first into a study of Paul Miller’s A Praying Life, discussion around the table raw and honest about that nagging question we ask deep in the shadows, never quite outside our own hearts unless we’re sure no one will hear: Does prayer even do any good? We wondered aloud why we ask God when we presume He’s just going to do what He wants to anyway. It feels silly sometimes to tell Him what He already knows. And does He maybe get bored because day after day after day we tell Him the same things over and over and over?

Could we skip a day — a week, a month — and it wouldn’t even matter because God could play from holy Tivo what we’d said just a while ago and not notice we didn’t show up?

We stepped just briefly into that murkiest of swamps where I can’t see to tie the boat to the anchor, the frayed disconnect between what God can and what God will.

This is where we paddled around trying to lift this story out of the weeds, while I hoped against hope that it wasn’t just a conversation familiar to me because I’d had it with God so many times, but that it was actually written in those black letters against the red.

Who was it, really, who said to Jesus, If you are willing, you can make me clean?

Was it only my voice I heard, not doubting His power, but unsure of His desire?


And then I found it. Last Wednesday, to be exact. I’d been staring at these other words for a few days, early in Mark’s Gospel:

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1)

So much wonder in these verses, of the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law and her immediate response of service. Of the whole town camping out at Simon’s door because the Rabbi was there. Of more healing, more deliverance, more compassion, more love. And then my amusement at His clamping shut the mouths of demons found suddenly among the homeless. Because you know how demons can blather on and on and on.


On Wednesday I moved on, stumbling into the very words I’d forgotten I was to seek, finding the leper in that same tension between what He knew the Healer could do and what he thought the Healer might want to do. Listen to him:

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

 41 Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (Mark 1, emphasis added)

You gotta have the want-to, Jesus. You gotta have the ganas

And if I’m honest, this is where my faith always seems to break down. I don’t doubt God’s power. I don’t doubt His ability. I don’t doubt His existence.

I don’t doubt that God created the earth, that Jesus was God in flesh, that He lived among us, died on the cross, stormed hell’s gates, blasted out of the grave alive after three days, shot back into heaven, sent His Spirit to live and breathe in us. I don’t doubt that He’s coming to reclaim us and to establish a new heaven and new earth.

My questions all heap on this one tiny stool, where I sit with the leper and say, If you want to. But I’m not sure you do.

And this question, Do you have the ganas, Jesus? will keep me from making my biggest asks any day of the week because I don’t want to hear Him say, I don’t.

But this same Jesus, whose good intentions I question, who ganas I can doubt, He looked at the leper — a mass of flesh decaying before His eyes — and lifted the man to his feet.

Jesus, compassionate Jesus, said, I am willing.


Photo by timbarber 
Linking with Michelle today:
Hear It - Use It

Hear It - Use It

17 responses

  1. Oh good stuff here, Lyla. I have just started “The Praying Life” (as you suggested) and am loving it. I am taking it slow though- I am having a hard time moving on once I find things that resonate….and there are a lot of them!

    And this :
    My questions all heap on this one tiny stool, where I sit with the leper and say, If you want to. But I’m not sure you do.

    oh you are not the only one….

    2011/06/06 at 11:16 AM

    • Ooh, glad you’re liking it. Stay with it — there’s no rush. 😉

      2011/06/06 at 5:02 PM

  2. Good perspective. Thank you for sharing.

    2011/06/06 at 11:46 AM

  3. Wow! … just wow!

    2011/06/06 at 12:19 PM

  4. It is an amazing blessing to struggle with things you imagine everyone else with any degree of faith has already figured out and then find out that you really aren’t alone. I feel as though you somehow listened in to my thoughts while I was praying this morning (or at any given time these days). Praying with doubt and faith battling it out in my heart.
    Thank you for your transparency Lyla. You put into the most articulate words the things on my heart.

    2011/06/06 at 3:38 PM

    • I find encouragement the same way, Linda. Knowing that others fight these same fights, keeps me from thinking I’m beyond hope.

      2011/06/06 at 5:03 PM

  5. Oh my word Lyla, this is just the awesomest of awesome honest posts. First, as an aside, just let me say that I laughed out loud over holy Tivo. You are a funny girl.

    But the whole ganas thing (which I had to click on, because no I don’t speak spanish), I totally get that hang-up; I totally get that that’s where you stumble in faith. When my mother-in-law was sick with terminal cancer, I never prayed to God for a full-out miracle cure. I prayed for “courage,” and “peace” and “hope” and “strength” — all the lightweight asks — but I never prayed outright for the cure. Not because I didn’t want the cure for her, and not because I didn’t think He could do it, but because I didn’t believe He would do it. And I think part of me wanted to protect myself from disappointment. Like if I didn’t pray for the miracle in the first place, if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have to accuse him of not listening. Or worse, of not existing.

    I know. Heavy.

    I admitted this out loud, by the way, to our small group, and I swear there was an audible gasp when I said I didn’t pray for a miracle because I didn’t believe God would give us one. My husband Brad moved away from me on the couch a little bit, joking that he was protecting himself from the bolt of lightning that was momentarily going to shoot through the roof and strike me down. [it didn’t. God knows me too well].

    Oh, have I written enough yet? I think I simply should have stuck with the awesomest of awesome posts, Lyla

    2011/06/07 at 9:03 PM

    • You won’t convince me those are lightweight asks. Long answer, so I just emailed you instead, but the older I get the less I want to give God a blueprint. I want to get my hands off my hips and surrender to how He wants to work. Takes a lot of the pressure off, and I pray for far fewer specifics than I used to. I don’t know that it’s as much lack of faith as turning over our wills.

      And ganas? It’s the word that pops into my head but there isn’t an exact match-up in English. So yeah, I know most folks don’t know the word but thank heavens for the Internet and links to lengthy explanations. 🙂

      2011/06/07 at 9:41 PM

  6. “My questions all heap on this one tiny stool, where I sit with the leper and say, If you want to. But I’m not sure you do.” Yes! This is exactly my heart–knowing, knowing He can, but concern about whether He will. With the rain situation down here lately, I’ve been audibly telling God that I know He can, asking that He will, and reminding Him that I will praise Him whether the answer is yes or no. The praising Him whether or not the can and will collide–it’s the hard part, but that’s where the soul-peace resides. Love this, Lyla.

    2011/06/07 at 11:12 PM

    • That’s that Job thing, the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Can we do that?

      2011/06/08 at 9:48 PM

  7. I think you are in my head listening to my thoughts. Too true…”I don’t doubt God’s power. I don’t doubt His ability.” But yet those questions that roll through my mind, does it do any good, does it matter, will He answer? Like you I find I am praying far fewer specifics and just listening more.

    Glad you mentioned the Paul Miller book several weeks ago. I too am slowly working my way through his book and finding it just what is needed. Perhaps it is in the looking back that we see how prayers answered or not were just what was needed at the time. So appreciate your thoughts!

    2011/06/08 at 10:23 AM

    • Just listening, Nancy — isn’t this a big part of it right there? That we think we have to always be talking, talking, talking to Him. I just read part of the discussion guide for Miller’s book as I prepared for my Sunday study. The author suggested that as we pray together we keep our prayer to what we can say in a single breath, to keep from saying too much, dominating our conversation with God. We monologue, talk, talk, talk, and wonder why it feels like there’s no response.

      Listen. Yes, that’s it. Thank you, Nancy.

      2011/06/08 at 9:52 PM

  8. I read this a couple of days ago but needed to let it marinate. I’ve read enough of your stuff now to know that you know your Bible, and you know it but good. So I guess it’s comforting to know that my faith breaks down in the same place–yes, I believe God is good, holy, wise, omniscient, omnipotent, and on and on and on. But does He want to? I like your response to Michelle, being open to taking your hands off your hips and surrendering. I’m also starting to make peace with the idea that God is much more gracious and compassionate than I understand and His healing is usually far better than the kind of healing I have in mind–on this side of eternity.

    2011/06/08 at 5:45 PM

    • Oh, Nancy, He is so much more compassionate and gracious than we can know. More than we can handle, really. And I suppose that’s a lot of it there — I don’t question His goodness, not ever. But because I can’t grasp how it is that He work out His grace, demonstrates His goodness, I’m never quite sure that what I most long for is what He’ll see fit to do, even in His goodness and grace and compassion.

      One day.

      2011/06/08 at 9:54 PM

  9. I’m not sure I doubt even His desire to so much as I doubt my ability to believe “enough.” And then I remember it’s not about us … it’s about Him and grace.

    2011/06/08 at 9:41 PM

    • Mine will never be enough, Susan. Thank heavens you’re right. It’s about Him.

      And He is always enough.

      2011/06/08 at 9:55 PM

  10. Pingback: What is Compassion? « Christian CoffeeShop

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