Ask, Seek, Knock – Bringing our Requests to the Father - Matthew 7:7-12
In Luke 18 Jesus tells a story of a woman who was seeking justice but the judge who had the power to grant justice was wicked and coldhearted. However, Jesus says this woman was undeterred by the judge’s refusal to rule and continued to go and plead her case. She kept going and kept asking. She went and asked so much that the eventually the judge decided to rule in her favor. It’s a story that Jesus used to teach about the faithfulness of God to grant justice to His people when they ask; because surely, He is greater and will do more than this wicked judge.
This story is recorded in Luke 18:1-8 and Luke introduces it this way: [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. And this is a theme that we have reiterated throughout the New Testament. We have this call over and over: To pray constantly, continually and unceasingly. And this is a call that we have included in the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 7:7-12 Jesus encourages us to be persistent in our prayers and to pray expectantly – believing that God hears and answers our prayers.
Keeping the Context in View
This is a familiar passage that we may be tempted to read as a stand-alone teaching. However, it’s important that we remember the context in which this teaching is found.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has been teaching us what it looks like to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. What’s clear is that this is a high calling – and yet we can take comfort in knowing that we don’t live this way in our strength. These are things that God does in us. And it’s with that in view that we should hear this teaching from Jesus – that God hears and answers our prayers. When we feel inadequate for these things, we should ask, seek and knock.
Pray and Pray Faithfully (7:7)
- Ask, seek, knock – Jesus uses these three action words to call us to faithful and persistent prayer. Just like the widow in Luke 18 kept going and asking, Jesus calls us to be constant and faithful in our prayers. We should bring our requests to God continually – keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.
- A recurring theme – The call for faithful and persistent prayer is something we see over and over in the New Testament. In addition to the story of the persistent widow, Luke records a story of a man who persisted in his request for food from a friend until his friend relented (Luke 11:5-8). We also have calls to faithful prayer throughout Paul’s writing (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2).
- Application – We all have things we long and wish for, and perhaps things that we have at some point asked God for. But often we are inconsistent or unfaithful in our prayers. This call from Jesus should remind us that God wants us to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. And know that often we do not have because we do not ask (Jms. 4:2).
Pray and Pray Expectantly (7:8)
- A repeated promise – Not only does Jesus call us to pray faithfully, He calls us to pray expectantly – because God answers the prayers of His people. This is an incredible promise from Jesus, and it’s a promise that is repeated over and over (Matthew 21:22; John 14:13-14; John 15:7; John 15:16; 1 John 5:14-15; etc.).
- A universal, unqualified promise? While the promise of Jesus in Matthew 7 seems unqualified, other passage of Scripture help us recognize that this is a promise for those who are in Christ, living in close fellowship and obedience to Him and who pray according to the will of God (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:21-22; 5:14-15; Mt. 26:38-39; Jms. 4:2-3).
- Application – The fact that this promise is not universal or unqualified should not diminish our response to this call from Jesus. We should believe Jesus and trust that God does in fact answer the prayers of His people as we come to Him in faith – we should pray with expectancy.
Pray and Pray Knowing the Goodness of the Father (7:9-11)
- Our Father in Heaven – Throughout this sermon Jesus has emphasized the relationship we have with God through Christ – He is our Father and He relates to us as His children. And this is a reality that should inform the way we pray and the way we think about God’s answers to our prayers. If our earthly fathers give what is good and withhold what is harmful – how much more should we trust that God will give us what is good and withhold what is harmful (Rom. 8:32).
A Concluding Exhortation – The Golden Rule
- While ‘The Golden Rule’ is a general principle that can be applied as a stand-alone command, here we see how our obedience to this command is a reflection of the character of God – the One who loves to give good things to those who ask.