Matthew 7

Matthew 7: Asking, Seeking, Knocking

So far in this amazing teaching referred to as the Sermon on the Mount; we have compiled a ‘to-do list’ that is impressive, if not overwhelming at times.  We have been instructed, commanded to be: salt and light; to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect; to give, pray and fast in the manner Jesus has described.  We are told to lay up treasures in heaven for where our treasure is there will our hearts be also.   We are told we cannot serve two masters. And we are told we are not to worry about our life. Instead we are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness with the sure promise of our Lord that God will then give us what we need.

Being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus Christ is the essence of faith in the all sufficient grace of our Heavenly Father. Faith  links us to the source of power that severs the root of sin. Sin makes promises it cannot keep. This has been true since the Garden of Eden. Satan is called the ‘ father of all lies’.  The enemy of our soul promises pleasure without pain. He promises a life of liberty and freedom only to discover it holds you captive and establishes a stronghold. In the end, we sin because we believe the deceitful promises that sin makes. The promise of sin- of all sins  are lies!  We must learn as the Apostle Paul did- ‘ to fight the good fight’.  How do we do fight this fight?  With weapons that are mighty not carnal.

We are battling unbelief. As much as we hate to admit it, as Christians, true believers, when we sin, we are saying we do not believe we will reap what we sow. We do not believe our Father will discipline us, chasten us, and yes, even scourge us. We will suffer the consequences of sin, be not deceived, God is not mocked.  Fighting the good fight against unbelief is a matter of learning to fight fire with fire. We throw the promises of God, Who cannot lie, against  the promises of sin which are based on lies.   Paul says- ‘ by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body.’ ( Romans 8:13)  Let me put it another way:  kill sin before it kills you!

How do we do this? To do something by the Spirit means we trust in the power of the Spirit to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Our responsibility is to study to show ourselves approved, a workman  who needs not to be ashamed who correctly handles the Word of God.( 2 Tim. 2:15)  We are told to hide the Word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against God. ( Psalms 119)  Remember God has given us everything we need- ‘ by His divine power, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. (2 Peter 1)   Keep in mind why you believe God has given you all things. “ He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also along with Him( Lord Jesus) graciously give us all things?”  All promises of God to us are secured in the fact that God sent His Only Son to die for us to cancel our sins and give us His righteousness.

Therefore since God has justified us- past tense, we are now counted perfect as our Father in heaven in perfect. We are battling from a position of victory. Our duty is to do as Paul realized he must do- ‘ to press toward the mark  for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” ( Phil. 3)   We should want this also- to live up to what we have been given at such great costs- to put into practice what we have.

Now as we begin this last section of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus tells us to not judge others for in the same way we judge others, we will be judged. And with the measure we use, it will be measured to us.  We can judge a tree by its fruit and test all teaching by the guidelines of God’s word.  In fact in this last chapter we will see- the choices of the two ways and two foundations upon which we can build our lives.

Now let us turn our attention to these three activities which most of us know much about:  asking, seeking and knocking.  If you have not discovered this truth, then take heed, for if we are to fight the good fight we must know this: the study of the Word of God and prayer go together. We find them inseparable. The Word of God is the support upon which the lever of prayer is placed.   Do you understand the principle of leverage?  Do you know how a 50 pound 2nd grade girl can lift a 60 pound 2nd grade boy three feet off the ground?  Go to the playground and watch the principle of leverage at work on the see-saw.

Luther used to say-‘ he who prays well, has studied well.’ To prepare to pray- first study the Word of God. We are to pray always. We put on the full armor of God starting with the Belt of Truth. And when we have placed each of those pieces of armor upon ourselves, and taken up the shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God we are ready to fight the fight of faith- in prayer. The fiery darts will be quenched by the shield of faith. And where does faith come from? ‘ Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” ( Romans 10:17)  Do you now see how we are to fight fire with fire?  The Word of God should set your hearts aflame with faith as the two travelers on the road to Emmaus learned when Jesus shared the Word of God with them— they remarked: “ Did not our hearts burn within us?” Do you have a heart that is  being set aflame? Is the flame being kindled by the Word of God?

Earlier in our study of Matthew we read of the encounter Jesus had with the devil who came to tempt Him.  In Matthew 4, our understanding is Jesus who was God in flesh, never less than God, never more than man- was tempted as we are tempted, yet without sin. How did He accomplish this? Jesus resisted temptation – fought fire with fire, fought the good fight we can also fight by relying on the Spirit of God to wield the Sword of the Word and the Shield of Faith that comes from the Word of God to quench the fiery darts of temptation and fend off the enemy.  He fought fire with fire- He extinguished the false promises of sin with the promises of God.

Can you handle the Word of God without being ashamed?  For we are told it is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword. It is  alive and powerful. The Word of God is life giving, life changing and life sustaining.  It is interesting these verses regarding the Word of God are found in Hebrews 4:12-13, which precede  our instructions on entering the throne room of grace with confidence. Allowing the Word of God to divide and judge our thoughts and intentions of our heart is preparatory to entering the throne room in prayer. Let me say it plain and clear: the Word of God is the most influential book in all of history. It has saved my soul, made me whole and transformed my life as it has for millions of others!!

Lets’ be practical. The purpose of asking is to receive. The aim of seeking is to find. And the purpose of knocking is to arouse attention – so we may get in.  We are privileged people, those of us who are Gods’ children. We are privileged by our relationship  to God to call Him, Father. We are encouraged by Him to call on Him. We can come to Him at any time, any hour of the day or night and cast our cares upon Him. We can make our requests, and petitions known to Him with thanksgiving and He has promised to give us a peace.

I am discovering the life of faith is exercised in prayer. When we read the stories in the Bible – the accounts of answered prayer capture our attention.  And then we remember: “ I am the Lord, I change not.” ( Mal. 3:6)  “ Is anything too hard for the Lord?” ( Genesis 18:14)

Jesus said – His Father’s house was a house of prayer.  But I am afraid we do more of almost anything than pray. God wants us to be a house of prayer. God desires a praying people. Do you realize our prayers outlive us?  We can pray not only for the present needs- but for the future needs of our grandchildren and great grandchildren and beyond- for prayers outlive us.

Let us learn how to ask, how to seek and how to knock.

Jesus said if you ask anything in my name it will be given to you.  John said this is the confidence we have, if we ask anything according to God’s will- He hears our petition and we know if He hears us we have what we have asked.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Why are we not seeing prayers answered?  James gives us a couple of reasons: “ You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.: ( James 4, NIV)

James also said the ‘ effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much…: ( James 5)

Effectual means it was sufficient to produce the desired result.  Fervent comes from a root word for ‘ boiling or hot. It is most often used in describing someone who is very passionate about a cause.

Oswald Chamber said:  “ Prayer does not equip you for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.”

What are you praying for now in your life?  What are you basing your prayers upon?  Are they based on the Word of God? Are you praying only for things that you believe are possible? Or are you praying for what seems to be impossible?  ‘ Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ He has not changed- He does not change.

Interesting that James uses Elijah as an example of effectual fervent prayer by a righteous man. However, did you know that Elijah’s prayer for the rain to stop and start again was based on the Word of God?  Read Deut. 11:13-17 and there was the authority of the Word of God upon which Elijah based his prayer.

Therefore- prepare for prayer by putting on the belt of truth, God’s Word.  Then place the breastplate of righteousness on, this is the Righteousness of Christ which we received at salvation. You and I have been given the righteousness of Christ. Have your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Above all take up the shield of faith, which shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the enemy. ( And remember faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.) Take the helmet of salvation- this is to protect your mind, for the battle is for the mind. Then take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God and then you are ready to- Pray.  We put on the armor, because prayer is where the battle is fought.

Listen to these two verses and see if you, like me, find them amazingly simple , yet impossibly difficult- for Jesus has spoken as plainly and clearly as one can:  “ Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks , the door will be opened.” This tells us as believers of the certainty of answered prayer.    Now if you know the Word of God , you know I John 5:14,15.  These verses tell us:  “Now this is the confidence we have in Him, 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 the petitions we have asked of Him.”   This is a conditional promise. Do you understand what the condition is?  Of course- it is clearly stated, our request must be in God’s will. Oh, you say- so that is the catch! It is built in for our safety.

Do you know what our problem is?  We have a barrier to discovering God’s will in a specific matter because we have formed an opinion based on our feelings as to what God should do. George Muller who is known for his prayer life and the amazing way God provided his needs through answered prayer. Here is what George Muller said was the first and most important step:  “ I seek to get my heart into such a state that is has no will of its own in a given matter. When you are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be, nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome.” Neutrality is essential to finding God’s will . Now do you understand when Jesus gave us the model prayer- he began it by praying- ‘ your kingdom come, your will be done..’

When we say God is not answering our prayer, we usually mean- God is not doing what I am asking ( or in some cases- telling Him) to do.

God does answers our prayers. When we ask- we receive an answer. He answers in these four ways:

  1. Yes.
  2. No
  3. Wait.
  4. My Grace is sufficient.

Here is what we know  our prayers must be in order to be acceptable:

*It must be to the glory of God.  In full surrender to His will. In full assurance of faith. In the name of Jesus. And then we must be with perseverance.

Remember in Luke 11, the parable of the man who came to his neighbor late at night wanting three loaves of bread for his friend on a journey had come to him, ‘ and I have nothing to set before him.  His persistence got what he needed. He went to his friend because he knew he had what he needed.  What a friend we have in Jesus!   Jesus uses this parable to tell the same truths about asking, seeking and knocking that we read here in Matthew 7.

Yes is an easy answer to determine and we celebrate that God has answered yes.  No is sometime hard to take- but if your petition is specific – you will have a specific answer. I find this requests is usually something I think I need or want that has a deadline. A job I prayed my son would get- that he does not- God has answered my prayer. No- often makes us examine our lives to see if we have sin in our lives as the reason for his refusal. If we continue in prayer and nothing happens- we must assume God has answered no- not just wait.  I find often the Spirit will keep that prayer alive – if I am in the waiting mode.

Now what is confusing is when we are praying for a loved one’s salvation. We even quote the scripture from Peter – ‘ that God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. ‘ ( 2 Peter 3)  So why is it not God’s will to save the loved one I am praying for?  Jesus said upon entering Jerusalem for the last time:  “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem- you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” ( Matt. 23:37)

Do you see his sorrow?  He longed to gather them, to draw them close to his bosom. But they would not.   They made their choice. But we can pray for them that the eyes of their heart will be enlightened to see the hope to which we are called. ( Ephesians 1)

The other answer is – ‘my grace is sufficient’. The answer Paul received when he asked to have a ‘ thorn in his flesh removed.’ You can ask Him why?   But you must sooner or later come to through an act of your will, you come to acknowledge-  Father Knows Best.  His ways are higher than our ways. And then you will find His grace is always sufficient.

By now, most of us have lived long enough, prayed enough to thank God, He did not give us some of the things we asked for.

We keep knocking – for persistence is needed in prayer. We keep knocking because like the man who came to his neighbor and the widow who came to the judge, we are coming to the One who has the resources we need and the power to supply them.

Paul has prayed some great prayers for us in his letters.  In Ephesians 1, Paul starts out by listing all of the spiritual blessing we possess as believers.  Then Paul tells us what he keeps praying for – a prayer we can pray for ourselves, our loved ones and those God brings to our mind:

“ I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better. I pray also that eyes of your heart (understanding, KJV) may be enlightened that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparable power for us who believe”

What a prayer to pray for yourself and your family , your loved ones and those God brings into your life. The major objective of a Christian life is to know God better. Jesus said –‘ this is eternal life to know the true and living God and the One whom He has sent.’ ( John 17:3) If all  humans are made in the image of God, then the only way we can ever understand who we really are is to understand and know God.  This is the reason for which we were created and exist- to know God better.

Notice Paul prays for the eyes of their heart to be enlightened. The KJV uses the word understanding in place of heart.  The heart in scripture refers to the seat of man- his mind, will and emotions.  Paul is praying the eyes of our mind be opened. We see with our mind. Sometimes we will say- when we understand something—‘ oh, I see what you are talking about.’ We mean we now understand with our mind.

Now if God has promised to answer our prayer and it is not answered- as  James said  you have not because you ask not, or you ask amiss.  But perhaps God has answered your prayer in a way that is not yet obvious to you.( After all His Ways are higher than our ways).   It is also possible there is nothing amiss and we have not seen the answer yet and God is teaching us to persevere in praying.  Is your prayer outside the will of God? Will it bring glory to God? Are we holding on to blatant sin in our lives and God has put answering our prayer on hold?

Prayer can be learned and the Bible teaches us to pray.  Let’s read Psalm 19. Starting at verse 7 through verse 11- David is meditating on the word of God.  You should never read the Word of God without meditating on what you have read.  If the Word of God is our daily bread, we digest it through meditation, we engraft it for the Word of God is not only life giving- it is life transforming.

Let’s consider what science and  medicine and technology have discovered. We now know more about the hard wiring of our brains. The neural system can be altered, transformed by what we think about. ( as a man thinketh in is heart – so is he. Be not conformed by the world but transformed by the Word of God)   Science now tells us the human brain is an intricately complex bioelectric supercomputer. The 100 billion neurons which each have the capability of making up to 10, 000 synapses or connections is the hardware.  The mind is the programmer, the software. We can re-program our minds with the Word of God and it actually changes the hardwire, the neural system of our brains.

Why does God want us to worship Him and Him alone?  Because God know how our brains and minds work. He also knows He is the only  One we can worship that will not cause us to degenerate. The choice of what or whom we worship greatly influences the development of our mental faculties.  The brain will rewire itself based on the things we think, do, see, and experience. In fact we now know the brain is constantly branching and pruning its neural network based on the choices we make- what we think, believe, admire, and worship will shape our behavior. So the software ( what we think) can change the hardware , our neural network. Now it makes perfect sense why Paul tells us what we should think about and think on.

Now back to Psalm 19: David says the law of the Lord is perfect –  reviving the soul.  The soul is the mind, the will and the emotions. In verse 11-14, David tells us the Word of God warns him regarding keeping the law. In other words, David’s mind programmed by the Word works with his conscience and reason to warn him about sin and the temptation of sinful thoughts. He is using the might weapons we have to destroy strongholds and take captive wrong thinking and bring it into obedience to the Lord. It leads him to discern his errors and confess his hidden faults- for the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.

Then comes the prayer based on meditation. “ May the words of my mouth( prayers) and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, My Rock and my Redeemer.”

The process works like this after we engraft scripture into our hearts through meditation- prayer comes as a natural result of personalizing the Scripture.  And I can have confidence when I go to the Lord in prayer about what the Spirit , who guides me in truth, has revealed to me I can be confident I am praying God’s thoughts and thus His will to Him.

God wants us to be optimistic about praying.  Hebrews 4: 16 tells us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus tells us everyone who asks receives, who seeks finds, and who knocks it will be opened. His added illustration regarding  evil fathers who give good gifts to their children, underlines God Our Heavenly Father leads us to pray, because He intends us to receive.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14