Ask Seek and Knock
ASK, SEEK, FIND
To many people this is a confusing passage of scripture.
- Jesus says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
- And people are encouraged by the promises of receiving and finding and it being opened to them…and so they pray….they pray for someone’s health…they pray for rain…they pray for the government…or they pray for their favorite team to win…or for a new job.
- But then when they don’t receive their requests they slide into the depths of depression and despair thinking that God doesn’t hear their prayer…or that God doesn’t keep His promises…or that prayer doesn’t seem to do any good.
- As encouraging as this passage is…for many it becomes just as discouraging.
- So what about Jesus’ instructions here…why don’t people receive what they ask for?
- What is it that Jesus is promising in this passage?
First, remember who Jesus is speaking to here…if you go back to Matthew 4:18-22 and chapter 5:1 Jesus is primarily speaking to His disciples.
- They have been called to be “fishers of men” and these are His instructions to them…or they are His instructions to us.
With that in mind notice what Jesus says in verse 7…notice the verbs: “ask, seek, and knock.”
- All three of these are present imperatives…they are commands…with continuing action…which means that as His disciples we are to keep on doing these things…we keep asking, and we keep seeking, and we keep knocking.
- We are to be persistence, we are to persevere, press on…a keeping on.
- This is not something we do once in a while…we don’t seek whenever the mood strikes…or only knock when it is convenient.
- A disciple…a follower of Christ is to keeps asking, and keep seeking, and keep knocking…he is persistent…constantly inquiring of and pursuing God.
And if I understand verse 8 correctly the promises that Jesus makes here apply to everyone who continuously and consistently ask, seek, and knock…this is not limited to just the Jews, or Gentiles, or to the rich or the poor, or to males or females.
- The promises that go with these commands apply to anyone who keeps these commands.
And that in turn tells me that for those who do not persist in asking, who do not continue to seek, who do not continue to knock…who do not constantly pursue after God…God is not obligated to keep these promises.
- The promises that Jesus mentions here belong to those who we might say have “tasted of the heavenly gifts and who continue to press on for more.
Now, notice verses 9-10: “Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
- There are two things here that we need to pick up on.
- First, notice what Jesus says the “son” asks for…in verse 9 he asks for a loaf and in verse 10 he asks for a fish.
- In verse 11 Jesus implies that both of these requests are “good” which indicates that we as His disciples should ask for those things that are “good” in His sight.
- Perhaps things that we need instead of what we want.
The second thing to notice is, “God is trustworthy…He is not going to trick you and give you something that is not good for you.
- If you ask for that which is good He is not going to give you anything that is not good for you.
- He is not going to give you anything that is evil…or that will turn out to be harmful to you…
- Our earthly fathers might make a mistake thinking they are giving us what is best but God never makes a mistake in what He gives…He knows everything….He knows us…He knows our future…and He will never give us anything that is not good…to do so would be completely against His nature.
So, if we ask for good things, He grants them; if we ask for things which are not good (either not good in themselves, or not good for us or for others, directly or indirectly, immediately or ultimately) He denies them; and only He knows the difference.
Now, look at verse 11: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
- I believe this is the verse that causes so many to be confused and discouraged with prayer.
- People do not understand what “good” is.
- They look at all these things they might want and they say, “That would be good.”
- “It would be good to have a new car…it would be good to have a better job…it would be good to get some rain…it would be good to get well”…and all of those things would be good.
- And when they don’t get those things they think their prayers aren’t any good…or that God doesn’t hear…or God must be upset with me.
When He says that “Your Father who is in heaven will give what is good to those who ask Him” what is the “good” that He is talking about?
- Look at Luke 11 starting in verse 9…a parallel passage to what Jesus says here in Matthew 7:
And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. 11 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
- I believe this is the reason why so many people are disillusioned with prayer and why they feel as though God is mad at them…or they harbor ill feelings toward God.
- This passage has never been about “asking God for whatever you want or whatever you think is good…
- This passage is not about God being some kind of cosmic vending machine and all we have to do is drop in our token prayer and He will dispense whatever we want.
This passage is about asking our Father in heaven to give us the Holy Spirit…and in giving us the Holy Spirit He gives us everything that goes with the Spirit: every grace, every gift.
- He is talking about giving us the greater gifts.
Let me ask you this…my daughter has been sick for a long time…and I continue to ask God to make her well….
- At the same time in spite of her illness she has developed a strong faith in God, she has devoted her life to God, she is teaching her daughter to be faithful to God….
- Which is the greater gift…her health…or her faith? Her physical well-being or her salvation?
We consistently pray for rain…and there is nothing wrong with that.
- But what is the greater gift…rain or redemption.
This passage is about asking, seeking, knocking persistently…persevering and pressing on…asking a loving trustworthy God…not so much for good health…not so much for a better job…not so much for a new car…
- But for the greater, better gifts given to us through the Holy Spirit.
- Gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I know of several, including myself at one time, who have been disillusioned, and discouraged, and disappointed with God because of a misunderstanding of what Jesus promises here.
- When I understand what Jesus is saying here I am confident that God has kept fully His promises…and I am encouraged to keep asking, and keep seeking, and keep knocking because I know He will continue to give to me those “good” gifts.
But also know this: This passage is not the complete, all-encompassing, overruling all other instructions on prayer given to us in the Bible. (There are other passages and other instructions that encourage us to pray for physical as well as spiritual things).
- But, if you have blamed yourself…decided that it doesn’t do any good for you to pray…been angry with God…because you looked at this passage and misunderstood it…then I plead with you to lay those wrong feelings…those misconceptions down…and be completely restored to your Father in heaven who loves you so much that He died for you.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023