“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Understanding And Applying the Text
Men have abused, twisted, and distorted this text beyond recognition. This is not a promise of health, wealth, and prosperity. This is a call to prayer. It is a call to right prayer.
Christ tells us to ask, seek, and knock. This is a simple doctrine. Jesus did not say ask, He did not say knock. He did not say seek. He said “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”. This is not a call to idleness. We are not “let go and let God.” We are to be active participants with God in our daily life. Yes, the work of salvation is Christ’s and Christ’s alone. But we are not called to idleness.
Christ remakes us and calls us to service. We are not to focus on ourselves. This is not a new topic in the sermon. Earlier Christ said we were not to be anxious. We were not to worry. Christ told us not to gather treasure is on earth but in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-34) Here is a promise to go along with those commands. God will take care of our needs.
Understanding the context is not reading two verses before and after a passage. To understand the context we need to understand the whole of the sermon, the book, and the bible. If we interpret any passage so that we contradict another passage we know we have erred. We misinterpreted at least one of the passages. We may have misinterpreted both.
Christ teaches this about prayer. We may have full confidence in God’s graciousness towards us. He will listen to our requests. Have you ever received the advice,” You need to pray harder?” As if God needs persuasion, cajoling, or manipulating. Christ tells us, “No.” Rather than “praying harder” we need to remember this promise. Christ assures us of God’s kindness.
We may go to the father with boldness. (Ephesians 3:11-12) We do not go with arrogance or cockiness but without fear.
We can be confident God is gracious to us. He will listen to our requests. When we pray we may feel our passion or our enthusiasm is inadequate. In other words, we do not need to pray harder, longer, and with more eloquence. But Christ assures us of God’s kindness. Trusting in God’s grace we have confidence in prayer. And we are free to call upon God. We have confidence not because we have “done it right” but because God is gracious.
Christ said whoever seeks finds and whoever asks receives. But what do they find? What do they receive? So often we insert words. “Whoever seeks finds what they want.” “Whoever asks receives what they ask for.” That is not what Jesus said. They receive that which is good from the Father. Jesus is not saying the Father is a Genii who grants wishes.
The Father is a father who loves. Jesus contrasts men with God. Men are self-centered. Men are by nature evil. Yet the strength of a father’s love drives men to give their children what is good. This is only a drop of love compared to the Father’s love. A human father, who by nature is evil, gives good gifts to his children, God gives so much more.
But if God is so kind, why doesn’t He give His children what they want? If a child asks his human father for something, that man will not give the child something harmful. So a good father does not grant every wish. That would not be loving.
As an example, a young child wants to play with broken glass. It is fun. It magnifies things. It will bend the light into a rainbow. The child believes he would receive great joy from this broken piece of glass. But the father will remove it for the child’s safety. What happens? The child becomes angry. The child may claim the father does not love him. The child believes the father is being mean. But the father removes the broken glass out of love. The child’s anger and behavior do not change that love.
There are many biblical examples where God’s love was not recognized. One of the best is Joseph. God speaks to Joseph in a dream twice. This caused his brothers to hate him. They sold Joseph into slavery. Then Potiphar throws him in prison for a crime that he did not commit. In fact, it was a crime that never happened. The cupbearer promised to tell Pharoh about Joseph. But the cupbearer forgot all about him. Joseph spent years as a slave and then years in prison. And during these events scripture says and God was with Joseph. I had a pastor once who wrote in the margins “And you could have fooled Joseph.”
From Joseph’s viewpoint, it did not appear God was with Joseph. Then there are the stories of Job, David, the prophets, and of course the apostles. They all suffered. Christ is not promising rainbows and butterflies.
God gives good gifts to His children. This is true even when we do not recognize them as good. We are not to give way to foolish and improper desires in prayer. We pray for all sorts of frivolous things. Yet God humors us. We are to submit our wills to the His will. We are to seek His will (Proverbs 2:1-9; Matthew 6:19-21,33). All too often we ask for the wrong things. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)