Matthew 7:7-11 continually stumps me. There are similar passages on prayer that convey the same unbelievable message.
Everyone who asks receives. (Matthew 7:8)
If you abide in me and my word abides in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do. (John 14:13)
These have always seemed to be too good to be true. And I have certainly prayed for things for a long time and not received them. I have prayed diligently for what I thought were good things, godly things, and not received them.
So I am left questioning. I am left with a niggling sort of doubt that dwells on the periphery of my spirit whenever I read these passages.
What is going on? What is Jesus getting at?
Sometimes it helps to ask the opposite question. What is Jesus not saying?
We know that prayer is not some kind of vending machine. Put in the money and press the button and you get what you pay for. This is not how prayer works.
But you can’t escape the force of the promise in Matthew 7.
Everyone, everyone, who asks receives.
Jesus uses three different descriptors for prayer. Ask, seek, knock.
Keep praying, keep asking, keep seeking.
Then he goes on to make a relationship comparison. A son asks a father for something good. The father isn’t going to give his son something evil.
We know how to give good things to our children, and we are evil. (Ouch!) How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
I don’t fully understand this passage and these promises but I think Jesus is emphasizing two things:
1. Ask, and keep asking.
2. Remember who you are asking.
I don’t think he’s giving a lecture on how to get stuff in prayer. But how often do we use prayer and use God like this? How often do we neglect the relationship?
Persistent seeking in prayer will develop our relationship with God in such a way that we grow and learn in how to ask and what to ask for.
How much more will your Father give good things to those who ask!