Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Asking and Receiving

woman praying

By Dennis Pollock

Although a lot of pastors will never admit it, Jesus could be very tough in His preaching. He frequently warned about hell, He blasted hypocrites, and He told people that God s standards were far higher than what they had learned from their synagogue leaders and their revered philosophers. He drove the peddlers out of the temple area with a whip, and condemned the religious leaders of His day, declaring, You travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

But Jesus could also be wonderfully compassionate and encouraging. And one of the ways He encouraged His followers was in the area of prayer. Nobody ever taught on prayer like Jesus taught on prayer. And nobody in the Bible, not Moses, not Paul, nor Peter, nor John emphasized the concept of praying and receiving answers from God in prayer the way Jesus did. In His famous Sermon on the Mount” our Lord hammered home the theme of answered prayer powerfully and unmistakably. In a brief passage from the seventh chapter of Matthew we find His amazing encouragement to His followers to pray and to expect answers from heaven. He begins with the words: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

As a Master-Teacher, Jesus knew well and utilized fully the power of repetition in His teaching. Many less gifted teachers might simply have said, Pray and God will give you what you ask,” but Jesus states it in a far more attractive and powerful fashion. He speaks of us asking, seeking, and knocking. These words do not mean precisely the same thing, but in this context there is little difference. These are three expressions which speak of us going to the Father continually with our desires. As we repeatedly place our petitions before God, we are asking, we are seeking, and we are knocking. Jesus is telling us what to do. If you want God to do something for you, if you want Him to grant you some desire of your heart, if you need Him to open some door of opportunity for you, don t just sit around and hope that He might see your desire and grant it! Go to your Heavenly Father and ask it of Him. And keep coming back to Him, knocking and seeking. Obviously, there is no literal door for us to bang our knuckles against, but in the process of going to God again and again, we are, in effect, knocking on the door of Heaven.

He Tells Us Why

Jesus doesn t merely tell us what to do, however. He gives us a very good reason why we should do this: Askers receive, seekers find, and knockers have the doors opened for them. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” That s a pretty powerful motivation! My asking, seeking, and knocking are not going to be a waste of time. They will result in me receiving the desires of my heart. Sounds great to me!

But as powerful as this word of encouragement is, Jesus is not finished. He wants to drive this concept home further, and declares: For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). This is remarkably close to a repetition of His previous statement. First, He says, Ask and you shall receive,” and now He states, For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds…” About the only difference between the two statements is the way they are phrased and the inclusion of the word everyone” in the second statement. Jesus seems to want us to know that this is not an encouragement for super-saints, the super-holy folks who read the Bible and pray ten hours each day. This encouragement to pray and receive from the Father is for everyone: for every common Joe or Mary, every mechanic, every secretary, every schoolteacher, every computer technician: All who ask receive, everyone who seeks finds, and to him who knocks or to her who knocks or the librarian who knocks or the professional athlete who knocks or the janitor who knocks or the college professor who knocks or the high-school dropout who knocks, be very careful! If you are God’s child through faith in Jesus, and you approach Him in Jesus’ name, that large, heavy, imposing door in front of you upon which you ve been knocking is going to come swinging wide open pretty soon. So you d better step back a couple of paces!

Not What We Have Heard

This is pretty amazing when you think about it, and it is radically different from the standard theology of prayer that we have heard in many churches throughout our lives. So often we have essentially been told, God has His own mysterious will, and He will do what He likes, and grant the prayers that He likes, and He may not want to answer your prayers, so don t get your hopes up too high. Go ahead and throw up a prayer as you like, but don t actually expect it to be answered. He will do as He pleases, and there s little you can say or do that will change that. But prayer can t hurt anything, and it will make you feel a little better, so go ahead and give it a shot and see what comes of it.”

But this is not at all the theology of Jesus. If His words mean anything at all, He is surely encouraging us here to pray and expect God to answer. Everyone who asks receives, and for all who knock the doors come flying open? How else are we to interpret this?

But Jesus is still not done with this topic. He wants to push this point even further, and He gives an illustration, stating:

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

Better Than Any Dad

Jesus wants us to think of God as our Father – a good, kind, generous Father. So he appeals to all the men in his audience who are fathers, and asks, What about you?” If your little son comes to you wanting something to eat, are you going to give him a little food, or will you trick your little boy by giving him a dangerous snake instead or perhaps mock him by giving him a rock and having a cruel laugh at your son s expense? The answer, of course, is that no decent man would do that. You wouldn t have to be the Father of the Year” to give your child food when he is hungry. And you d have to be some kind of monster to throw a snake into the waiting arms of your son, or hand him a rock for his dinner. Not one father in a thousand would do this.

Jesus then turns their eyes toward heaven, and suggests, If you sinful men would be at least this good – why would you not expect your Father in Heaven, God your Creator to be that good?” A hungry child has a real need; he needs food. And when we have real needs and go to the Supplier of all our needs, our Father in Heaven, whether it is for food or clothes or a job or a spouse or a house or car or any other significant need in our lives, why should we not expect our beneficent Heavenly Father to provide us our needs?

Both here and in many other Gospel passages, Jesus speaks of God as a very warm-hearted, very generous, very attractive Personality. He is a far better Father than the best father we ve ever seen, either in our own life or on television. The Leave it to Beaver” father of 1960 s television, Ward Cleaver, was a great dad, but our Almighty Creator is a zillion times better. When we need wisdom, He gives us perfect counsel, when we need encouragement He always provides just the right words and comfort to more than make up for any disappointment we may have had. And when we re out of money, out of hope, or simply feel out of luck, our gentle Father comes to us and makes everything better again. He is our great Jehovah-Jireh, our wonderful Provider who never, never, never lets us down. In His hands and in His heart are all we will ever need for today, for tomorrow, for next year, for all our days on this earth, and for the eternity that awaits us in the next life. He is, has been, and always will be with us and for us. We are His children; He is our Father through Jesus, and we will always be OK. He may allow us to go through some tough times, He may allow us to shed a few tears, or even a lot of tears, but He will never leave us in despair. He will always be with us, and His ear is always open to our prayers.

Who Could Say No?

When you consider just how amazing, how incredibly kind, caring, and protective is this Heavenly Father, to whom Jesus came to earth to introduce us, you can only wonder, Why would anyone ever refuse to accept such a Father?” Who in their right mind would ever reject this amazing, loving Father and choose to remain an orphan instead? And the answer is that no one would ever refuse this Father, if they truly believed that 1) He exists, and 2) He is precisely as Jesus described Him. And yet millions and billions of people on earth have and do refuse this Father, reject Jesus Christ, and go on to live out their vain and empty lives without Him. The only possible answer for such an irrational rejection of God and Christ is that they simply don t believe Jesus, don t believe the Bible, don t believe that there is a God, or don t believe that He is the way Jesus spoke of Him. And the best word to describe such people would be, of course, unbelievers.

As for those who do believe, one of our titles is simply believers.” In the Book of Acts, the Bible says this of the early days of the church: And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). Believers” were added to the Lord, men and women who believed the gospel, believed in Jesus Christ, believed that He died on the cross for our sins, believed that He rose from the dead the third day, and believed that He was God s promise of eternal life to all who put their faith in Him. And once by faith we are adopted into the family of God, we are given the amazing invitation to go to our new Father in prayer, and we are told that when we ask for good gifts we will never be given stones or snakes. Good and wonderful blessings will fall from heaven into our lives, coming down from a very good and kind Father through Jesus our Lord.



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