Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 41: “Ask, Seek … Knock” 10.05.2018

Matthew 7:7-12 (NIV) “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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if his 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! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

The movie “A Few Good Men” is the story of two Marines tried for murder. It is a vulgar and emotionally brutal film clearly not for the faint of spirit. I cannot recommend it to my sensitive friends but there are few good lessons in it. Beyond that, there is one scene that stood out to me. Navy lawyers visit the commandant of the Marine base at Guantanamo seeking certain documents pertaining to the case. The colonel in charge simply stares at them and says (my paraphrase) “Sure. I’m willing to give you the documents in question. But you have to ask me nicely and with respect.” The two lawyers are somewhat taken aback but they make their request politely and respectfully. The colonel gives them what they want. Now, it’s not easy to apply this word picture to our wholly Holy God but we can do so to this extent: He wants to be asked politely and with respect!

As our Lord’s teaching on the mountainside is almost complete, it seems appropriate for him to instruct us in the matter of prayer. To remind us that we are children in the presence of God our Father and we should understand that He loves us and wants to give us good things. Yet, this teaching is more about understanding God and His Grace more than about “how to get what we want in prayer from God.” Let’s look closely …

“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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God wants to be asked. God wants us to seek Him. God wants to hear a knock on His door. Then He promises to respond to those who ask and seek and knock. What does this mean? That we can ask God for whatever we want? That God would make us billionaires? That God would cause our political opponents to fail in their candidacy? That God would free us of all stress? Would our list of requests ever end if God was required to grant us everything we ask of Him? Thus, there must be boundaries to all of this.

When considering how God responds to our prayers, we must remember how WE respond to requests brought by our children. If a ten-year-old petitions and seeks and knocks and asks with great sincerity to use the family car to take his friends for a ride, we will not even consider the request. It might be sincere and even tearfully presented but it would still be unthinkable. HERE IS THE KEY: As parents, we want our children to mature to the point where they are asking for those things that we want them to ask for and have! Thus, we quickly realize that these words from our Lord are not guarantees that He loves us so much that we will always “get” whatever we desire from Him.

How shall we respond to this principle? By searching further in the Word of God. Here we find:

1 John 5:13-15 (NIV) “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 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.”

John is saying that as believers, our greatest joy is in having eternal life! Even before we ask for anything in prayer, the backdrop should be that we are secure and mightily blessed. This instruction is written to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God…” eternal people who have a place secured in Heaven. But we must ask “according to His will!” This means that before we pray, we must seek to understand His will. But sometimes we cannot do that until we ask and watch what happens. We must understand that we will “receive” but not necessarily get what we ask for. Thus, when our Lord himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, wanting with all of his human and sinless heart to be delivered from the coming Crucifixion, we read how he prayed:

Matthew 26:42 (NIV) “He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

Almost all of us who walk with the Lord can recall a time or two when God answered our prayer with a “No.” Then later, we saw how things worked out and understood that God had other things in mind and it was best that He had not granted the request. So, in the end, the first heart attitude must be to seek God’s will and remember that He is a gracious and kind Father who, in any case, would never give us something bad. Perhaps we are simply left with the reminder that “Father knows best!”

Next: “The Narrow and Wide Gates”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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