Ask, Seek, Knock!

Remember the acronym ASK as a summary of Matthew 7:7–11. The simple verse is profoundly comforting as you look at needs that seem overwhelming.

Ask, and you will receive! Keep on asking! Asking, seeking, and knocking can be distinguished, but the focus here is not on the differences between asking and seeking or knocking. Rather, they have a supportive and cumulative effect. Jesus himself encourages you to ask! The present imperatives have the force of “keep on asking… seeking… knocking.” Jesus commands persistence in your prayer. He made a similar point in the parable of the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8. This instruction in prayer follows the command not to judge. How do you avoid the natural self-centeredness? Jesus says, “Ask!” How do you receive the wisdom to know when continuing to speak would be throwing pearls to pigs? Ask! Keep on praying. You are not just mechanically asking for certain things. Rather, you are communicating with your Father in heaven. “When we have tasted something of the breadth and length and depth and height of of the love that passeth knowledge there is a corresponding enlargement of heart and of mind, there is an establishing of communion, there is an exploring of the riches of the covenant of grace and of the treasures wisdom and knowledge that constrains to enlarging, ever-widening, ever rising prayer and praise. Make every experience of his mercy the reason and ground for increased more abundant prayer. ‘Ask and shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened unto him’ (Luke 11:9–10).” (Collected Writings of John Murray, Vo. 3, p. 171).

You will receive. The promise is almost overwhelming! Jesus does not outline a complicated request procedure. You do not have to fill out requsition forms, or go through specific ceremonies. Simply ask, seek, and knock. Because Christ not only offered himself as the sacrifice for your sins, but also serves as your great high priest, in him you have access directly to the throne of grace. The certainty of the promise rests on the completed work of the Savior. The assurance of v.7 is repeated in v.8. You may go through times when you do not feel as though your prayers are being heard. But the Word of God drives you back to this promise of the Savior himself. The God to whom you pray is greater than your feelings. Don’t treat God as a heavenly vending machine. Some may lift this passage out of context, and assume, that because it simply says, ask, and you will receive, that God is bound to grant every whim for which they might ask. That treats God in a mechanistic way, using him as a tool to meet our every fleeting wish. Remember the context. This promise is addressed to you as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. You are one who is to be hungering and thirsting for righteousness, Matthew 5:6.

Trust your Father to provide for you. Your Father in heaven knows your needs. Human fathers provide for their children. They know them, and they meet their needs. Jesus recognizes human depravity. He says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts….” But total depravity is restrained by God’s grace so that it is not absolute. Thankfully, there are many good fathers. Notice how Jesus again identifies God: “Your Father in heaven.” He has all of the compassion and concern of a father. And he is in heaven. He is the sovereign God. If an earthly father knows the needs of his child and meets them, how much more does your Father in heaven? “In all this the world and history embracing preaching of the kingdom assumes a form which does not keep aloof from the most trivial and commonplace things of life, but reveals itself as a preaching of God’s fatherly mercy capable of fathoming the hidden distress of every human being. This unity of God’s fatherhood and kingship in Jesus’ preaching constitutes the inexhaustible richness of the gospel.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 240).

God gives good gifts to you who ask. Perhaps you are disappointed because you’ve been asking for something, and God doesn’t seem to have given it to you. God may want you to be more persistent in asking. (You might try keeping a prayer journal.) Remember that God knows exactly what is good for you. He is wiser than you, and may answer in a way that is beyond your expectations. You don’t grant a toddler’s every wish. Think over your life. Are there not some things that you have asked God for which, you now see, would not have been good for you–as much as you thought otherwise at the time? Remember that this is the Father who has already given you his own Son to suffer, die, and rise again as your Savior. This is the ultimate good gift. Jesus’ words are not only an admonition to keep asking for what you need, but they also summon you to trust in the One who was speaking those words. Your Father, who has given you his Son, will also provide whatever else you need. You have his word for it!

Don’t just remember “ASK.” Do keep on asking, seeking, and knocking-—and you will marvel at how God responds.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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