Prayer is relationship. It is the conversation between a child and his Father.
He reveals Himself to those who seek, open to those who knock, and give to those who ask.
Expect good things from your Father:
God’s means: Prayer
The way God has ordained for us to approach Him and speak to Him is prayer. The way God has ordained that He would bless us is through prayer. Prayer changes reality. We see that again and again in Scripture. People pray and God answers. God works in response to people’s prayer. Right away I can see the questions popping up in your head. God is sovereign and He controls all things absolutely, how do our prayers change anything? Come on, pastor, don’t you know good reformed theology? I do. And I love it. That is why I believe God has ordained prayer, and in his sovereignty, uses the prayers of his children to further his kingdom. YES – your prayer is part of God’s plan! Prayer changes reality, not because prayer is so great, but because the God who holds reality together, answers prayer.
Even the Son of God prays and is answered! Psalm 2 says, “Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your position.” God has ordained prayer as a means to give what He has promised. This is exactly what Jesus asks when He prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Prayer is the means by which we take hold of the living God. “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” These are actions of faith. Childlike faith. Expectant faith. It does not only change us, but it changes the way things are, because God uses your prayer to change the way things are.
My question for you is with what attitude do you enter the throne room of God? Are you sure that the Father in heaven is really your Father? Do you doubt that your Father is perfectly loving? Sure that your Father really wants the best for you, and nothing less than the absolute best?
Ask. Seek. Knock. In prayer we may not know exactly how God will answer, but we can be totally confident of an answer. Sometimes that answer maybe no. But you know what is beautiful about that? We can trust that the “no” answer will turn out better than the yes. No prayer from the mouth of God’s children has ever been left unanswered.
Ask. Seek. Knock. All three verbs are present imperatives, and it is likely that they are much more than just a repetition of the same idea. Rather, I think the three commands “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” are a progressive intensification. Repeatedly asking requires perseverance, and still more so does continuous seeking. Persistent knocking suggests an intense desire for entry.
You might keep asking for a long time. Daily. Weekly. Yearly. For a lifetime. But this is not a one and done conversation. No, this is a relationship. You don’t go to your father and ask for things and walk away. You go to him, every day.
There is more going on here than mechanical actions, more than putting a dollar in a vending machine with the expectation of our selection being delivered to us.
Jesus wants us to pursue Him, to ask of Him. Even though He knows our needs, even though the thoughts and intentions of our hearts are not hidden to Him, we must ask, seek, knock. We do not have, because we do not ask, James tells us. Jesus desires that we come before Him with words, pursuing Him with expectation and eagerness, or, as Isaiah paints it (62:7)
These verbs are ongoing: Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.
Perseverance is an important quality in the believer, an example of which is in Ephesians 6:18: “Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” That is a quality of Christian character, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Asking is the most common idea in supplicating before God’s throne. It is the language of one who does not have what he most needs, but knows who can supply his need. Seeking is the language of someone that knows the value of something that he does not have and goes looking. And knocking is the language of someone that needs shelter.
In Luke 18 Jesus tells the story of a widow. Someone without any power, influence, or means who is seeking justice for a corrupt judge. This woman does not quit. She is persistent… she perseveres. And in the end the judge answers just so she won’t bother him anymore. If a corrupt earthly judge hears a widow, a nobody, how much more will the Judge of all the earth do right by those who have been declared righteous in Christ Jesus! For whom his Son died! The point is that if persistence pays off with a corrupt human of limited power, how much more will it pay off with a just God of infinite power! Jesus says the point of the parable is to “pray always and to not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Pray and do not lose heart! Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking! Don’t stop!
“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who notices it will be opened.”
Everyone who asks. Everyone! That is amazing! As Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Everyone who asks. Asks what? Seeks what? 1 million rand? No, of course not! The whole time this has been going about the kingdom, and the kingdom life, and the love of the Father! That is what this is all about! This is about asking to live this impossible life. This is about asking for the Holy Spirit to enable you. This is about being a kingdom citizen.
We have all had those prayers where we are relieved that they were never answered.
The Bible is pretty clear about what is important in life, where joy, meaning, and fulfillment comes from, but somehow we still pray for so many things that are not in line with God’s priorities and are more in line with our priorities. And so, we often don’t experience the rich blessing upon our prayer life that saints of old always expected. God wants us to pray according to his will. The Father will only give us what is good for us. Nothing less, nothing more. There are lots of things that my kids ask for that I do not give them.
There are a few reasons for this. First, I want them to love me more than the gifts they receive. In the end lots of stuff can tempt them to think that life is about the stuff they have or don’t have rather than finding true, lasting and far deeper joy in the relationships.
Second, if I give too much it may kill them. Sometimes all the kids want is candy or chocolate, but we know that sugar in the end will kill them. We desire them to live full, fruitful, and active lives.
God our Father is infinitely wiser and knows all things. He knows exactly what we need to experience the fullness of joy in his presence. If you encounter trials of various kinds, you can do so with joy, asking, “I wonder what the Father wants me to learn. I wonder how this is bringing me closer to Jesus. Father, show me the way.”
I think it was JI Packer who said something like, If you ask in prayer why is this happening, no light may come, but if you ask God, how can I glorify you through this, you will always have an answer.
He is the God who gives, who reveals Himself, and who opens, far beyond what human parents ever could!
Ask and it shall be given to you. He is a Father who gives. He holds nothing back. He has already given the greatest gift. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. Ask and it shall be given to you! Ask for those things which are good for you. Righteousness, faith, joy, holiness!
Seek and you shall find: He is a Father who reveals Himself! Those who seek Him, will find Him if they seek Him with their whole heart. There has never been anyone in the history of humanity who has not earnestly sought for God, but could not find Him. Those who seek, find Him. As Moses puts it in Deuteronomy 4:29, “But if from there (another country) you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Or Paul preaches, “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” The reason God placed you in this century, in this country is so that you would seek Him and find Him! He is not hidden, if we would only have eyes to see! O, Father, open our eyes!
Knock and it will be opened to you. This is a Father whose home stands open for all who knock.
I can see Him sitting there with his disciples and looking at them and point and saying, “Which one of you, if a son asks him for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then, who 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!” Notice He presupposes the sinfulness of human nature. They are evil, while at the same time affirming that people are not as bad as they could possibly be. We call this total depravity, or maybe better radical depravity. Nevertheless, even an evil human parent can give good gifts to their children! How much more the Father who is pure goodness. Untainted. Untouched by evil. These are the blessings of the kingdom that are given to his children. The Fatherhood of God in Matthew is reserved for disciples – for believers. For you.
What is at stake here is your picture of God, dear church. He is not some reluctant stranger that has to be persuaded and convinced or bullied into giving his gifts. He is not some tyrant that takes great delight in the fact that he is playing tricks on his children by giving them what they do not ask for, or some grandfather that gives everything that is asked of him. He is a heavenly Father – the God of the kingdom – who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer.
Dear Church, do you want to live for God? Know God. Be active. Grow in faith. In love. Pray. He will answer prayer. These verses’ invite is not to resign, to just accept what the Father gives, but a willingness to explore the extent of his generosity, secure in the knowledge that only what is “good” will be given, so that mistand in prayer through our shortsightedness will not rebound on those praying. One can be a hardworking man and still be poor, but it is impossible to be a truly praying man and yet be poor.
Pray without ceasing, dear church. And you will see the fruit. Some do not sincerely seek, sincerely knock, sincerely ask to gain a fuller and more clear vision of who their God is. They think God is some kind of automatic giver. If I read the Bible, God will bless me; if I show up to church, God will work in me. It is NOT automatic. We must really want it, seek it, knock on heaven’s gates! We must cry out for it! Cry out, o congregation, and see if God will not open the floodgates of heaven! Pray in accordance with his Word, his will! As James so simply says, “you do not have because you do not ask.”
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Lees: Matthéüs 7 : 7 – 14
Teks: Matthéüs 7 : 7 – 11
Sing: Psalm 65 : 1 + 3
Psalm 31 : 13 – 15
Psalm 2 : 4
Psalm 86 : 4 + 6
Psalm 96 : 1 – 3