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Ask, Seek, Knock

Matthew 7:7-11

 


 

            In the Book of Matthew and the Book of Luke one finds Jesus’ words, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”  These are several promises of God that we can take heart in.  Yes, they are promises but what is a promise.  It is “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.  If I make a promise to you that I will do something, I am telling you that I will do something.”  God is promising us that he will do something if we ask, seek and knock. 

 

            Depending on the resource, there are between 7000 and 9000 promises God makes in the 66 Books of the Bible.  If God tells us to keep on asking that we will receive, that means that if we keep on asking for something God will give it to us.  If God tells us to keep on seeking, that means that if we keep on seeking, he will help us find it.  And if God tells us to keep on knocking, that means that he will open the door for us.  God will not ignore us if we ask, seek or knock.  We can trust God that his promises are true and that he will keep his promises.  God is a promise keeper.

 

            Throughout the Bible we have numerous assurances that God will answer our prayers.  Jesus gives us many promises that God will answer our prayers.  He tells us, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22).”  God’s answer to our prayers is tied to  believing he answers prayers.  In Mark, Jesus gives this promise:  “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24).”  In the Gospel of John we find this promise:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask for anything in my name and I will do it (John 14:13-14).”  We believe in God who makes many promises to answer our prayers. 

 

            What is the nature of God who answers our prayers?  In today’s Scripture reading we find these words, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11).”  While there are some fathers who give their sons and daughters things that will harm them, most parents will only give their children things that will benefit them.  If a child asks us for food, we will give him nourishing food.  If he asks for a good sandwich, we will give them a sandwich with nourishing meat.  We won’t give them an unhealthy sandwich. 

 

I want to make a little aside that might help us understand what Jesus meant when he called us “evil.”  When I read this section of Matthew and saw the statement “though you are evil,” I wanted to edit it out.  It appears Jesus is calling us evil.  I know there are some who are clearly evil but also know that sincere Christians are not.  However, when I read what the experts interpreted, I found that they understand the word evil in this verse meaning sinner.  Although Christians are saved from their sin, sadly we continue to periodically sin. 

 

Over and over again Jesus addresses God as Father.  What does he mean when he calls the Lord God Father?  The first thing is that God is in a close relationship with those who trust him for their salvation.  Father is about relationship.  As he is in relationship with us, we are in relationship to him.  Good fathers listen to their children.  When a child asks a good father for something, the good father generally will give it to them.  We are God’s children.  In the Gospel of John we read: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).”  Those who received the Lord and believe in his name are God’s children.  When you receive the Lord and believe in him, you are adopted into his family.  Adopted children have all the rights of biological children and as such when you are adopted into God’s family you have all the rights of a child of God.  His promises are yours.

 

It is interesting to contrast the Lord God with the various gods and goddesses that First Century pagans worshipped.  John MacArthur writes about Aurora, the goddess of the dawn.  She fell in love with Tithonus, a mortal youth.  She asked Zeus, king of the gods, to give her a gift for Tithonus.  She asked that her human lover would live forever.  The request was granted.  However, she forgot to ask that he might remain forever young.  According to this myth, Tithonus grew old forever and never was able to die.  How would you like the gift of living forever in this world but to never die?  That would be quite a curse.  While we see the Lord God as a loving Father, the pagan’s  gods played tricks and brought curses.  Our Lord does not play tricks on us when we pray.  Nor does he bring curses upon us.  There is quite a contrast between the Lord God and the pagan gods and goddesses.

 

We know that God answers our prayers.  However, when we ask for something, will he automatically give it to us?  If I would ask God to give me a bottle of Jim Beam, do you think he would give it to me?  If I would ask him for wings, do you think I would sprout wings?  Thank God that there are some things we might ask for that he does not give us.  Praying is not a blank check.  In other words, we give God a check and he signs it.  He knows better than to do that.  God is not like a vending machine where we put in a dollar, press the button for what we want, and out comes exactly what we ordered.  Political leaders seem to often pass bills and spending resolutions but don’t recognize the consequences of such legislation.  For years Congress has passed spending without considering the unintended consequences.  Subsidies for windmills have resulted in a massive numbers of Eagles and other birds dying when they are hit by the large blades.  The President has permitted over seven million illegal aliens to enter the country without recognizing the terrible unintended consequences on the Nation.  And for decades Congress has been blind to the unintended consequences of massive federal spending that has resulted in a National Debt currently at over $34 trillion dollars.  When we ask God for something, he will not give it to us if it has serious and dangerous consequences.

 

There are certain conditions to prayer.  God does not just willy-nilly give us everything we ask for.  That would be foolish of him and God is infinitely wise, not foolish.  What are some of the characteristics of the Lord God?  He is infinitely strong, infinitely righteous, infinitely good, infinitely wise and infinitely loving.  Given his characteristics, he will not simply give us everything we want.  A wise God will not give a teenager a muscle car.  Foolish parents might but the God of righteousness, wisdom and love will not.  God with all his infinite characteristics will not give us everything we desire.  He knows that some things we might pray for are in the long term not in our best interests.  William Barclay, New Testament Scholar, said, “There is a lesson here: God will always answer our prayers but he answers them in his way, and his way will be the way of perfect wisdom and perfect love.”  He will never give us what is bad for us.

 

The reality is that whether we are Christian or not we tend to have selfish interests.  We pray for what is in our interests and sometimes our interests are not God’s interests.  James writes, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3).”  James wrote to a First Century Christian audience.  If they had problems with prayer, we Twenty-First Century Christians also do.  Perhaps it is wise to ask oneself if what we are praying for is to get our selfish interests or desires met. 

 

What are the best things to ask for?  The writer of First John tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).”  What is the will of God?  How can you know the will of God?  The best thing we can do to know the will of God is to consult the Scriptures.  The Bible is the repository of God’s will.  It is like a gold mine.  Miners work hard to find gold.  In the same way the Bible is our goldmine where we can seek, find and understand God’s will.  For example, Jesus taught, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).”   God’s will is “do to others what you would have them to do to you.”  Those who went to Sunday school or Vacation Bible School likely learned that bit of God’s wisdom for living when they were children.  As you read your Bible, ask God to teach you his will and you will be wise. 

 

When I think about things we ought to pray for, I believe it is for wisdom.  James writes: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5).”  There is a deficit of wisdom in modern culture.  Many lack the ability to do critical thinking.  Many lack wisdom to discern good from evil.  Consequently, they choose evil instead of making wise decisions.  It is good to pray for wisdom.

 

God gives us wisdom to know that as we keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking, we will have our prayers answered.  Indeed, some write that God always answers our prayers.  (1) He answers with a yes and gives us what we pray for; (2) He answers with a no and takes us to greater trust in him, and (3) He answers with wait.  Waiting can be frustrating but a wise person knows it is good to wait for God’s answer.  The Psalmist wrote, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Remember that God does answer your prayers. 

 

A Sermon Preached at Veterans Memorial Chapel

on 25 February 2024

by CH (COL) Michael W. Malone

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