Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock in prayer.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
You ever just really wanted something, but you never asked for it?
I mean…you think about it A LOT…but you just never ask.
Maybe it’s a raise.
Maybe you’re single and it’s asking somebody on a date
Maybe you’re married and you really want to ask your spouse if it’s okay if you get a new TV or a whole wardrobe of new clothes
There are a lot of things we want…and sure, some of them are certainly unessential…but others are not.
But it’s hard to get what you want…or more importantly…what you NEED…if you don’t ask.
Jesus responds to that issue of ASKING today as we continue studying his brilliant words in the Sermon on the Mount found in Mt. 5-7
(Matthew 7:7-12) – NIV
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If 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!
12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
So Jesus makes some pretty strong statements on God’s willingness to provide for his children.
Which is pretty great!
In the first verse, Jesus tells us to do 3 things. Ask, Seek, and Knock.
They are all really forms of prayer…but they are slightly nuanced. Slightly different from each other.
And each one is a little bit more intense than the other.
He starts with ASK. He says, “Ask and it will be given to you.”
Ask God for what you need…and it will be given to you.
It’s a pretty powerful verse.
But let’s not get too carried away. It’s always important to read the Bible as an entire book. Because this isn’t the only verse on prayer.
It’s a strong verse on God providing, but there are others that challenge us to wait on God (Ps. 46 Be still and no that I am God) or others tell us that sometimes his will or his answers to our prayers aren’t always what we expect.
Because if you just pull this verse out of a hat and read it, we can feel like it’s Christmas as a kid all over again! It’s like sitting on Santa’s lap.
“OK GOD…here’s what I want!!”
These verses speaking powerfully on God answering prayer, but they don’t make God into a cosmic vending machine either
This isn’t a state farm commercial.
Have you seen those commercials where the people just sing “State Farm is there” and their agent pops up?
Then they just start asking for stuff: How about a sandwich, how about a new hot tub etc.?
That’s not what this verse is about
We don’t get to walk up to the cosmic vending machine of almighty God and press the “immediately fix my job situation” button “G7”
Unfortunately though, people sometimes abuse it like that.
A few years ago, and there are still pockets of this around, a theology called “name it / claim it”(Word of Faith) made a lot of noise in Christian circles…particularly charismatic ones.
The idea was that all you need to do is name what you want or need in Jesus’ name and then claim it in his name
And you were supposed to “name a Bible verse” and then “claim it”
So for example, Isaiah says, “By his wounds we are healed”
So no matter, how sick you were, cancer, you just were supposed to say that verse out loud, and believe it, and you would be healed.
A guy I knew in college that really got into this. I was at prayer group, and had a really bad cold, and he started telling me, just claim you are healed (reading a verse about healing) and you’ll immediately be fine.
And I said, “Well what if God doesn’t want that?”
And he said, “What are you talking about?
And I said, “Well, IDK, what if he wants me to get more sick, and go to the hospital, and maybe end up talking to my nurse about Jesus and inviting her to church.” You just don’t know.
So…we must exercise caution
But, where today’s verses are helpful is this: If you tend to be pretty skeptical like me, these verses help remind us that God can indeed do incredible things…if we ask.
So again, let’s say I’m really sick.
I Should pray that God would heal me. And I should have faith for that. Because if we ask, he can do it.
But ultimately I pray like Jesus taught us earlier in the Sermon in the Mount:
IN the Lord’s prayer he tell us to pray that “His will be done”
Later on in chapter 6, he tells us that we are to first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and THEN all of these things we want will be given to us.
So I pray…and I pray for a lot of things.
I pray that God would fix marriages in our churches
I pray that he would bring jobs and miraculously save homes
I pray that he would bring my family members who don’t know him to a loving knowledge of him. I pray he would move.
But I realize that ultimately whatever He decides in his will is right. And I pray that my prayers make a difference.
And I don’t think that’s a lack of faith to say that. That’s a balanced approach.
And in fact, I would say that we don’t challenge the other extreme enough:
Because to believe that if I just claim something in prayer it WILL happen, is not an amazing witness of faith, but in fact a stroke of arrogance
Believe in faith…but believe God is ultimately in control and makes good and perfect decisions.
But if you’re a realist like me, don’t fall too far to the OTHER side that you stop asking and believing in faith.
Because we can do that, and I think that’s why this passage is SO important.
Because sometimes we get soo caught up on: “Well, what does prayer even do” and “I’ll just keep on going on by myself” that we forget to ask our maker for Help!
But God wants to help us. He wants to provide for you. He wants to take care of you.
I’ll say more about that in a little bit…
But sometimes we don’t do such a good job of asking him for help in prayer…and I believe lots of times that has to do with pride.
And unfortunately, we sometimes mask that pride as “Spiritual Realism.” Or even “Spiritual Fatalism” “Well, God’s going to do what God’s going to do.” “What can I do about it??”
And maybe it’s just a misunderstanding of the power of prayer OR sometimes I fear that it’s we really would just rather figure it out on our own and ask for help.
Because some of us aren’t so good at asking for help.
Some of you would rather get lost for 4 hours than take 4 minutes to pull over and ask for directions.
Some of you would rather try and fix your computer or your car for 4 days than take 4 hours to ask someone else to fix it
And the list goes on
Because to ask for help is to humble yourself and say, “I can not do this on my own.”
And it’s harder than we think to come to God and say, “I can not do this on my own.”
And we don’t do it near enough!
But Jesus is saying, just ASK him. God wants to help!
It’s like: Have you ever watched a kid try and put something together, and after a long time of working on it and working it, they are starting to get SOOO frustrated because they can’t get it to work.
If you’re standing there watching them, what do you feel like?
Well, some people, are just like, “Get out of here, let me do it!”
But if you’re a decent human being, most of us feel, “Ahh…I just want to help them.”
But, you wait for them to turn to you and ASK, “Can you help me?”
And so does God wait for you.
And he watches us scurrying around like idiots trying to figure everything out on our own because we’re apparently SO SMART….all the while when He’s thinking, “I know how to do this…I’ve been there before…I happen to be in the expert in this.”
Ask Him…Ask Him for help!
And remember the context of this passage.
It’s not about asking God for a new boat, 3D TV, and the new fall fashion line from …….
Look at the context in the sermon on the mount: What are we supposed to be asking him about?
Things like helping us judge people less, helping us worry less and trusting him, helping us spending more of our lives living for him and not our possessions.
And yeah, ask him for that…and you’ll receive it.
And Jesus says that we shouldn’t just “Ask” that we should “Seek” in prayer
Asking in prayer is a like a child humbling themselves and asking their parents for something because they know they can’t do it (“Could you get that down for me?” etc.)
SEEKING in prayer is like linking your prayers with responsible action.
So, what we’re seeing Jesus do in this passage is telling us to get serious about prayer and to not just sit back assuming that our prayers will work and then do nothing about it.
Because if you do believe God hears you, then start seeking things out.
A good example of “SEEKING” in prayer is this:
If you are out of work, and you’re praying for a job. There’s a difference between sitting at home just praying and combining prayer with following up on leads, making connections, looking at job openings online, etc.
Because part of being passionate about your prayer is following up on it
It’s kind of like this saying: A car that is moving steers easier than a car that is parked.
And this is kind of where the odd combination of prayer and personal responsibility meet.
I don’t just pray at home that God reveals himself to my unbelieving neighbor…I also have to probably say something to him.
If “ASKING” is praying at home while you are on your knees, “SEEKING” is praying while moving.
It’s NOT moving with OUT praying. But it’s combining the two.
Jesus then says that we should “KNOCK” and the door will be opened.
And again, he’s really encouraging us to pray! Pray because things will happen if you pray.
And most of us don’t pray like that.
We throw up a couple prayers here and there.
Bless this food to our bodies and help Grandma J?
But Jesus is saying, ASK, SEEK, KNOCK!
And I love knock because it’s praying like you mean it.
Knocking sometimes makes me think of what you might see if a child was missing.
Campaigns to find the lost child (often led by the mother) are fueled by an intense “persistence” to bring the child home.
And sometimes they will literally go around Knocking on doors.
“Do you know anything, did you see anything?”
IF you really want something, you will knock on any door.
If you lost your child, and do you think you would hesitate to knock on anyone’s door to see if they knew anything? No way. Not a chance.
But knocking on someone’s door depends on the motivation of what you really want.
When I was a kid, my parents made me sell candy bars every year to help with paying the fees for being in soccer.
And I HATED knocking on doors to sell candy?
“Um, hi, can I interest you in buying a one dollar caramello candy bar?”
I just hated it because I didn’t really have any motivation to make money for our soccer team.
So if I knocked lightly once and counted to 10 and no one came, I was out of there.
And the reality is that your father in heaven sees deep into the motivation of your heart and sees the level of our persistence? He sees how much we really want to knock on his door. How hard we bang on it.
Do you want it? Do you really want it? Or is just like, “Hey, God, help me if you got time?”
We really ought to pray more like kids bug their parents. They’re better at getting things done. “Can you take to my friend’s house?” (repeat)
And that’s what’s SO great about these verses: They invite us to bring a passion to prayer:
Humble yourselves and ASK
Get off your butt and SEEK WITH God
And KNOCK with passion. Knock with persistence. Pray with so much passion that you Would knock down the gates of heaven to be heard.
A LOVING FATHER
And here’s the great thing…when we do that…when we fully and actually enter into prayer with God like that…He’s more than willing to help us.
Let’s look again at verses 9-12
(Matthew 7:9-12) – NIV
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If 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! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Let’s actually look first at verse 12 where Jesus famously states the Golden Rule
“Treat others like you would like to be treated”
We’re not really gonna spend much time on this today as it is sort of a different topic in itself.
But this verse, verse 12, is really where Jesus is starting to sum up his teaching in the sermon on the mount.
He’s still speaking in the profound…which we too often foolishly label as simple and elementary.
But he’s starting to get to the point, and we will see this in the coming weeks, where he’s going to ask you to pick a side.
Are you with Him OR are you against Him?
So buckle up.
But for today, look again at Jesus sayings about giving your son bread and fish.
Bread and fish were mainstays of the Jewish daily diet. If a child asked for bread, his dad wouldn’t give him a stone. No way.
Notice though, that the examples Jesus’ used were examples of things people really needed.
He didn’t say “which of you, if his son asks for a new mansion, will give him a shack? Wouldn’t that be cruel!”
No, he speaks of the things we truly need.
Unfortunately, we don’t always have a great grasp on what those things are. Which is why it’s sometimes important to pray from a general standpoint: “Do your will in my life. Not my will, but your will be done”
And then notice how Jesus slyly jabs at our human imperfection and uncanny ability to be evil: He says, Listen, if even you people, who are quite evil, will take care of your kids like this, just think what God will do when you ask!
He uses the philosophical line of debate where if you establish that the lesser is true, how much more will the greater be true.
And that’s SO TRUE!
Despite all of our wickedness and falleness, if your child asked you for something you know they needed…Say you were poor, and they asked you for food. Or a place to live. How much would you just churn inside to give them what they asked for.
Magnify that by 1,000…no, 100,000….no, 1 million…and you haven’t even scratched the surface of how much God just churns inside with a desire to provide for you and give you his love.
So ask him for it.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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