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Amplified: Amplified: Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
NLT: Don't give what is holy to unholy people. Don't give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: "Ask and it will be given to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks." (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Keep on asking for something to be given and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking, and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking, and it shall be opened to you. (Eerdmans)
Young's: 'Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you;
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you: Aiteite , (2PPAM) kai dothesetai (3SFPI) humin; zeteite, (2PPAM) kai euresete; (2PFAI) krouete, (2PPAM) kai anoigesetai (3SFPI) humin. (Mt 7:11; 21:22; 1Kings 3:5; Psalms 10:17; 50:15; 86:5; 145:18,19; Isaiah 55:6,7; Jeremiah 29:12,13; 33:3; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9,10,13; 18:1; John 4:10; John 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23,24; James 1:5,6; 5:15; 1John 3:22; 5:14,15; Revelation 3:17,18) (Mt 6:33; Psalms 10:4; 27:8; 69:32; 70:4; 105:3,4; 119:12; Proverbs 8:17; Song 3:2; Amos 5:4; Romans 2:7; 3:11; Hebrews 11:6) (Luke 13:25)
See Related Resources on Prayer...
Notes on the "Disciple's Prayer" Matthew 6:9ff
Notes on praying for hope, joy, peace Romans 15:13
Notes on praying without ceasing 1Thessalonians 5:17
Spurgeon wrote that...
Kent Hughes gives an important caveat regarding this well known verse warning that...
Ray Pritchard feels that...
Ask (154) (aiteo) means to ask for with urgency, even to the point of demanding. Aiteo more frequently suggests attitude of a suppliant (one who supplicates [supplicate is from Latin supplex = bowed] means to makes a humble, earnest plea or entreaty), the petitioning of one who is lesser in position than he to whom the petition is made. To ask means to to call on for an answer, which indicates that we believe there is someone (our Father) listening. It also implies that we expect Him to answer or otherwise why ask? The self-righteous person does not ask but tells God how good he is (see parable Luke 18:10, 11, 12, 13).
Ask is present imperative = Keep on asking. Make this the pattern of your life, a continual act of devotion. Jesus calls us to be "Coram Deo" before the face of God. In His presence in His throne room continually.
Aiteo - 70x in 67v - Matt 5:42; 6:8; 7:7ff; 14:7; 18:19; 20:20, 22; 21:22; 27:20, 58; Mark 6:22ff; 10:35, 38; 11:24; 15:8, 43; Luke 1:63; 6:30; 11:9ff; 12:48; 23:23, 25, 52; John 4:9f; 11:22; 14:13f; 15:7, 16; 16:23f, 26; Acts 3:2, 14; 7:46; 9:2; 12:20; 13:21, 28; 16:29; 25:3, 15; 1 Cor 1:22; Eph 3:13, 20; Col 1:9; Jas 1:5f; 4:2f; 1 Pet 3:15; 1 John 3:22; 5:14, 15, 16. NAS = ask(36), asked(16), asking(7), asks(7), beg(1), called(1), making a request(1), requesting(1).
Spurgeon in his book Power in Prayer notes that...
Asking is what beggars do and that is exactly what those who are "poor in spirit" (Mt 5:3-note) are! In poor countries beggars unashamedly stand by the road with their hands held out, asking alms for the poor. Sometimes they can be quite bold about it and even irritating to passers by. In those moments it helps to remember that you would be bold too if you were in their position. And in a spiritual sense we are in their position for we have brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out. We are totally dependent on God the Father of lights from Whom every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift comes (cf James 1:17). But unlike beggars on the streets, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven have access through Jesus to our Father Who art in heaven!
Jesus has already explained that in His omniscience, our...
By asking we nurture our relationship with our Father. He delights to hear and to answer His children as Jesus explains in the following verses.
We need to be more like apostle James of whom Eusebius wrote that his...
Edward Payson said
Seek (2212) (zeteo) means to attempt to learn something by careful investigation or searching, to desire to have or experience something or to try to obtain something from someone. Seeking is asking plus acting, implying earnest petitioning coupled with an active endeavoring to fulfill needs. When you seek something, you rearrange your priorities so that you can search for what you desire until you find it. Do you prioritize prayer?
Zeteo - 117x in 114v - Matt 2:13, 20; 6:33; 7:7f; 12:43, 46f; 13:45; 18:12; 21:46; 26:16, 59; 28:5; Mark 1:37; 3:32; 8:11f; 11:18; 12:12; 14:1, 11, 55; 16:6; Luke 2:48f; 5:18; 6:19; 9:9; 11:9f, 16, 24, 29; 12:29, 31, 48; 13:6f, 24; 15:8; 17:33; 19:3, 10, 47; 20:19; 22:2, 6; 24:5; John 1:38; 4:23, 27; 5:18, 30, 44; 6:24, 26; 7:1, 4, 11, 18ff, 25, 30, 34, 36; 8:21, 37, 40, 50; 10:39; 11:8, 56; 13:33; 16:19; 18:4, 7f; 19:12; 20:15; Acts 9:11; 10:19, 21; 13:8, 11; 16:10; 17:5, 27; 21:31; 27:30; Rom 2:7; 10:3, 20; 11:3; 1 Cor 1:22; 4:2; 7:27; 10:24, 33; 13:5; 14:12; 2 Cor 12:14; 13:3; Gal 1:10; 2:17; Phil 2:21; Col 3:1; 1 Thess 2:6; 2 Tim 1:17; Heb 8:7; 1 Pet 3:11; 5:8; Rev 9:6. NAS = deliberating(1), demanding(1), inquire(1), looking(11), made efforts(1), search(4), searched(1), seek(36), seek after(1), seeking(35), seeks(9), sought(4), striving(1), tried(1), trying(6), kept trying to obtain(2).
Seeking implies a desire for something of great value. A good illustration of this is Jesus' analogy that...
Or think about Jesus’ story of the woman searching for a lost coin...
or the shepherd with 100 sheep who, having lost one, left the 99 and went searching for the one sheep that had gone astray. It is like a man seeking a pearl of great price, who having found it, gives all that he has in order to purchase it.
Puritan Thomas Manton wrote that "If we don’t receive by asking, then let us seek; if we don’t receive by seeking, then let us knock."
Spurgeon notes that...
Knock (2925) (krouo) means to rap at a door for entrance and thus implies an even greater and more repetitive intensity than either asking or seeking. The English word "knock" comes from German word meaning to press! “Knock” means to stand at a door and repeatedly rap it with your knuckles. You knock and wait, then you knock again, then you say, “I know you’re in there,” then you knock again and say, “I can hear your voice. Come on, open the door.” Then you knock again. If you’re on the other side, you know how annoying it can be to listen as someone knocks and knocks and keeps on knocking. But that’s precisely the picture behind Jesus' command to keep on knocking! The idea might imply praying in the face of difficulty and even resistance. If you knock like this, your desire for entrance must be very great indeed.
Note the ascending degree of intensity from asking then to seeking and finally to overtly knocking! Each of these verbs is in the present imperative, which is a command to do each of these activities continually (See "Spiritual Caveat" below!). Jesus is calling for persistence in prayer. Prayer is as necessary to us as oxygen to our life. Prayer is the lifeline for citizens of the Kingdom of heaven who are still on earth and as such it expresses our continued dependence on Him as we beseech Him for the grace and power to live the supernatural life of surpassing righteousness that Jesus has described in this Sermon. In order to live out the righteousness we must ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking and knock and keep knocking.
SPIRITUAL CAVEAT: As with all the over 1500 commands in the NT, there is simply no way you can obey this command in your natural strength. You need supernatural strength found ONLY in the enabling power (Eph 3:16, Acts 1:8, even Jesus was dependent on His power! He gave us the example of a Perfect Man which we are called to imitate - Acts 10:38, 1 Cor 11:1, 1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21) of the indwelling Spirit (1Cor 3:16, 6:19). See also another explanation of our need to daily be dependent on the Spirit's empowerment. If you TRY to keep the commands in your natural strength, you will fall into the subtle snare of legalism. Beware. Cry out like Peter did when he was sinking "Lord, Help!"
Krouo - 9x in 9v - Matt 7:7f; Luke 11:9f; 12:36; 13:25; Acts 12:13, 16; Rev 3:20.
Will be opened (455) (anoigo from ana = again + oigo = to open) means to open and give access to. To open one's eyes causing them to see (Acts 26:18). To open one's mouth that they might begin to speak (Mt 5:2). Figuratively, to open a "door" meaning to make possible (Col 4:3).
Anoigo - 77x in 75v - Matt 2:11; 3:16; 5:2; 7:7f; 9:30; 13:35; 17:27; 20:33; 25:11; 27:52; Mark 7:35; Luke 1:64; 3:21; 11:9f; 12:36; 13:25; John 1:51; 9:10, 14, 17, 21, 26, 30, 32; 10:3, 21; 11:37; Acts 5:19, 23; 8:32, 35; 9:8, 40; 10:11, 34; 12:10, 14, 16; 14:27; 16:26f; 18:14; 26:18; Rom 3:13; 1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12; 6:11; Col 4:3; Rev 3:7f, 20; 4:1; 5:2ff, 9; 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12; 8:1; 9:2; 10:2, 8; 11:19; 12:16; 13:6; 15:5; 19:11; 20:12. NAS = break(1), broke(7), open(22), opened(41), opening(2), opens(4), spoken freely(1).
Spurgeon wrote that...
Hughes observes that...
Keep in mind that this charge to a lifestyle of prayer is situated at the end of the description of a kingdom citizen that began in Matthew 5:20 (note) and immediately precedes Jesus' call to enter the narrow gate, the gate of divine righteousness (ultimately the righteousness of Christ Himself, cp 1 Cor 1:30) that surpasses that of the man-made righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Supernatural righteousness is not reckoned on the basis of works but only on the basis of faith in the finished work of the Messiah on the Cross. But to continue to live this righteousness in our daily walk necessitates faith and continued dependence upon God's grace and His Spirit. In this context Jesus inserts this powerful command to persistent prayer that is to be part of the righteous lifestyle of Kingdom citizens and is fact critical for us to be enabled to continually walk worthy of the gospel to which we were called. Jesus is not saying prayer is an after thought but in fact is to be our first thought and our continual thought.
William MacDonald agrees with this analysis writing that...
Phil Newton explains it this way...
The Disciple's Study Bible comments that...
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary offers another explanation for Jesus' introduction of prayer at this point. This explanation addresses the more immediate context of necessary judging (but by no means excludes need for prayer brought out by interpreting it in the larger context discussed above)...
Arthur Pink has a well reasoned explanation of why Jesus mentions prayer at this point and note that his analysis also relies heavily on the context...
Spurgeon in his sermon Knock writes...
D A Carson comments on why prayer is mentioned at this point in the Sermon explaining that...
Dwight Pentecost has a slightly different thought on Jesus' insertion of prayer at this time explaining that...
Thomas Kelley described how we can continually be asking, seeking, knocking...
In his famous book Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan described prayer this way...
In the classic The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence explained "all-prayer" this way...
John Wesley was described as one whose...
A Praying Father - A minister concluded his sermon one Sunday by saying, "If there's someone here who wants help in getting to know God, and you would like me to pray for you, please raise your hand." A young man stood up and said, "Please pray for me, sir. The burden of my sin is too heavy to bear."
After the service, the minister talked with the man and led him to faith in Jesus. The young man had been wandering around the country for 8 years without contacting his parents, so he decided to write to them and tell them about the change in his life.
Several days later, a reply came from his mother: "My dear son, you must have accepted Jesus Christ at the same hour your father went home to heaven. He had been sick for a long time, and that day he was very restless. He tossed from side to side on his bed, crying out, 'Lord, please save my poor, wandering boy.' I'm sure that one of the reasons you became a Christian was Dad's unceasing intercession."
A praying father will "ask," "seek," and "knock" in behalf of his children, persistently trusting his wise heavenly Father to do what is best (Matthew 7:7-11).
Let's thank God today for faithful fathers who never stop praying for their children. —Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Prayer Malfunction - In a box of my father's old tools I found a hand drill that was at least 60 years old. I could barely get the wheel to turn. The gears were clogged with dirt, and the pieces that hold the drill bit in place were missing. But I wanted to see if I could get it to work.
I began by wiping the accumulated dirt and sawdust off the gears. Then I oiled them. At first they turned hard and slow, but I kept working them. Soon the gears were turning smoothly. Then I saw a cap at the top of the handle. Unscrewing it, I discovered the missing parts that would hold the bit in place. I placed them in the drill, inserted a bit, and easily bored a neat hole in a piece of wood.
Working with that old drill taught me something about prayer. Jesus said we will receive from God what we ask of Him (Matthew 7:7-8). But there are conditions. For example, John said we must obey God and do what pleases Him (1 John 3:22). This includes believing in His Son and loving one another (1 John 3:23). If we don't meet God's conditions, our prayers will be ineffective—just like that old drill.
If your prayer-life is malfunctioning, make sure you're meeting the conditions. When you do, you can be confident that your prayers will be effective. —David C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
J R Miller (Who Is He?) has the following devotional...
Amplified: For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
NLT: For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks." (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: For everyone who keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving. And he who keeps on seeking, keeps on finding. And to him who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened. (Eerdmans)
Young's: for every one who is asking doth receive, and he who is seeking doth find, and to him who is knocking it shall be opened.
For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened: pas gar o aiton (PAPMSN) lambanei (3SPAI) kai o zeton (PAPMSN) euriskei (3SPAI) kai to krouonti (PAPMSD) anoigesetai. (3SFPI) (Mt 15:22-28; 2 Chronicles 33:1,2,19; Psalms 81:10,16; John 2:2; 3:8-10; Luke 23:42,43; Acts 9:11)
Everyone who asks receives... - Jesus attaches this motivating promise to persistent (powerful) prevailing prayer. The ancient preacher Chrysostom (his name means “golden-mouthed”) described the power of prevailing prayer this way...
It is important to reiterate that all there "prayer verbs" are in the present tense which pictures our prayer life as just that -- a lifestyle of prayer. Lord, teach us and enable us by Thy Spirit to pray as our lifestyle, a lifestyle that is exhibits continual dependence on and communication with the Living God of the universe. Amen.
Asks...seeks...knocks - Regarding this section Spurgeon draws an interesting conclusion in his book Power in Prayer...
Spurgeon writes regarding receives...finds...opened...
Claim What is Yours - For more than 40 years, Ace Pawn Shop had been a fixture on West Main Street in my hometown. Now it was closing. Fred and Lydia Fischer had run the shop as a `mom and pop' operation, and when Fred died, Lydia found that she couldn't go on alone. Rather than sell the business, she decided to close shop and move south. As a final gesture of appreciation to the customers who had made life so good for them, Lydia sent a card to everyone who had an item in pawn and offered it back free of charge. The sign in the window told the story: `Pawn Shop Closing: Claim What Is Yours" (David Grubbs, Claim What Is Yours).
God has invited all believers in Christ to claim what is ours, and the Sermon on the Mount lists a number of these wonderful gifts: the kingdom of heaven (salvation), comfort in mourning, the prospect of inheriting the earth, spiritual fulfillment, mercy, fellowship with God, adoption into God's family, and an eternal home in heaven. When we begin to feel spiritually poor, it's time to ask, seek, and knock. Before another day passes, we can, by faith, "claim what is ours." —D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
He possesses all who knows the Creator of all.
HAVE YOU PRAYED IT THROUGH?
Have you prayed all night, till the break of day,
Searching and Finding - Jeremiah 29:13 - God will make Himself known to anyone who sincerely desires to know the truth.
Edith Schaeffer tells of a man in China who longed to know, worship, and serve the true God. The Lord honored that desire by leading him to find a torn page from a catechism that had been prepared by a missionary. On it was the question, "Are there more gods than one?" with the answer, "No, there is only one God." Another question was, "Should we worship idols?" There was only the word "No," and the rest was torn off. But on the basis of those words he went home and destroyed his demon altars.
Then his daughter became ill. "You've angered the demons," chided his neighbors. Hoping to get nearer to God, the man climbed to a 14,000-foot mountain peak and asked God to heal his daughter. Returning home, he learned that her fever had left at the exact time he had prayed. Later in a marketplace he found a copy of Mark's gospel. After reading it and learning about Jesus, he became a Christian.
Do you really want to know God? Search for Him "with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13). Look in His Word and be quick to do what He says. Put your trust in His Son. Then you'll truly know God. —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Man gropes his way through life's dark maze,
F B Meyer has a chapter entitled THE ROYALTY OF OUR LIFE (Matt. 7:7-12.)
IT is inevitable, as the Lord has clearly implied in the preceding words, that, so long as we are in the world, we must come in contact with its evil. There will be inconsistencies that we shall be tempted to judge, motes and beams that we shall have to extract, and swine or dogs with whom we must reckon. It cannot be child's play for any of us. And if we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and unsubdued by the inward power of sin, we must have resort to the weapon of All-Prayer. Therefore it is that our Lord turns from the exhortations of the preceding paragraph to these injunctions concerning prayer. It was as though He said: "You will never succeed in being or doing what I say unless your lives are full of persistent and prevailing prayer."
It may be that there is an even wider range of thought. As we review this matchless conception of a holy life, so far removed above anything which the mind of man has conceived; as we recall the beatitudes of the opening sentences, the searching fulfilment of the older law, the warnings against an impaired intention of the soul, against ostentation, covetousness, and care, our hearts might well faint within us at the immensity of the task before us. And as we think of His demand, that we should be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, that we should be filled with a Divine love, and that we should always treat others as we wish that they should treat us, we might again cry, "Who is sufficient for these things?" To answer this double attitude, which is indeed one, the Lord says:
"Pray! What is impossible with man is possible with God. Pray!"
We have here two words which prove that the entire paragraph is closely jointed together, " If ye then being evil "; "All things, therefore, whatsoever." The exhortation to prayer is followed by an analogy, and this by an injunction.
THE EXHORTATION TO PRAYER.
Our Master knew well how much it would mean to us that His own lips should utter that word, but He did not hesitate to speak it. As Son of God, He knew all that asking would do for us; and, as Son of Man, He had often proved the value of the practice He inculcated. Ask, He said. It was as though He loved to dwell on the word. See! He repeats it, not once or twice, but four times over. "Everyone that asketh receiveth"; "if his son shall ask for a loaf "; "if he shall ask for a fish "; "good things to them that ask." It seems as though our Lord would do away with the formality and stateliness that attach to too many of our prayers, and teach us that praying is just asking, and asking as a child would ask. Men shrink from asking for a favour from their fellows, but a little child has no reserve with its father. In the Simplest and most artless manner it asks or what it wants, and with no doubt at all that the father will gladly hasten to respond. "Thus," says our Lord, "ask God for what you want, as long ago you asked your parents; and do it without vehemence or self-consciousness."
"Everyone that asketh receiveth."
Emerson tells us that he preached his first sermon from these words, having obtained his divisions from the blunt saying of a field labourer, who said that men are always praying, and always being heard. His divisions, therefore, were as follows:
(1) Men are always praying;
(2) All their prayers are granted;
(3) We must beware, then, what we ask.
The second is the doubtful one. Is it true that all our prayers are granted? Not surely in the way that we ask, as we shall see; but in some way. There is no prayer that we utter which is based on a real need, nothing that we sincerely ask for which is not answered somehow, somewhen, somewhere.
With too many of us, alas! there is a failure in the art of receptiveness. We ask, but we fail to take. We send out our letter in the outgoing mail, but never go near the office to ask if there is a reply addressed to us. We send an ocean cablegram asking for a consignment of heavenly treasure, but never go down to the wharf to ascertain if it has arrived, and to claim it.
You ask for a gift; you seek for something you have lost, or for some valuable treasure.
The miner gropes along the corridors of the mine for his quest; the pearl-fisher dives in search of goodly pearls; the woman who had lost her silver piece lit a candle, and swept and searched her house diligently till she found it. Seek, says our Lord. If you have lost your peace with God, the blessed consciousness of His Presence, power in service, or any other spiritual gift, do not settle down content to live without it, but seek it diligently until you find. "Your heart shall live that seek God." If you have heard of some gift or grace which others possess, and may be equally yours as theirs, seek it. Seek it as men seek for hidden treasure or for goodly pearls, or as the philosophers were wont to seek for the substance which should turn everything into gold, as explorers seek for the secret of the North Pole, or as scientists search for the secrets which Nature holds back from all but reverent and persevering inquiry. "Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning."
"He that seeketh, findeth."
"If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." We may not always find just what we seek, but we shall come on something much better, and more satisfying. Abram and the patriarchs declared plainly that they sought a country, but they all died in tents, the shifting memorials of their pilgrimage. The philosophers of the Middle Ages, to whom we have referred, did not find the golden stone, but they laid the foundations of modern chemistry. You may not obtain that special opportunity of blessing others that you have long desired; but in your willingness to take a subordinate position, in your meekness and humility, you will certainly win a moral and spiritual influence incomparably greater. The resolute seeker finds. He starts off to raise crops of golden grain from the brown fields, and as patiently he drives his plough, the metallic chink of the share on metal makes it certain that he has come on treasure-trove.
We ask for a gift; we seek something we have lost; but we knock for admittance to the house of our friend. A door stands between us and the master of the house, which can only be opened from within. Then we knock; at first quietly, and then more vehemently and loudly, till we hear the drawing back of bolt and bar, and see the door thrown open. We need the gifts of God, and are thankful for the treasures which are to be obtained by earnest, prayerful search; but we should desire, above all, to have face-to-face friendship with Himself. Sometimes the door of fellowship stands wide open, and we can enter without let or hindrance. At other times it seems as though God had hidden His face and withdrawn Himself. Those are the occasions when we must knock. And how often it has been the experience of the saints that, as they have stood waiting and knocking, the door has been opened as by an invisible hand, and the times of greatest difficulty at the beginning have been those of greatest liberty at the close!
"To him that knocketh it shall be opened."
There is no doubt or hesitation in our Lord's assurance. In another paragraph He speaks of those who shall stand without and knock, saying, "Lord, Lord, open unto us," and He shall say, "Depart "; but that dread parable has nothing to do with the access into the presence of God and the fellowship with God, of which the Master is here treating. Persistency, urgency, the holy violence which will not be denied, are dear to the heart of God, and are certain to win a loving and favourable response. "Though the vision tarry, wait for it: it shall come, it shall not tarry."
Bread and fish were the simple fare of the Galilean peasants whom our Lord addressed on the shores of their own beautiful lake, the bread as the necessary staff of life; the fish as an appetizing addition. Little children, in their simplicity, might sometimes mistake a stone for one of the small loaves of the Oriental shape and fashion, or a serpent for a fish. But, even though the heart of a human father is fallen and evil, it cannot be supposed for an instant that he would give the child what it asked. His love would at once withhold his hand. He would say: "No, little one, the stone is not food; the serpent would sting and poison you: but, see, here is what you want, bread and fish. I cannot give it you." So it often happens that in this mortal life of ours, where the shadows fall so dense and dark, and we are obliged to grope in the twilight, we are hungry with immeasurable appetite, and think that only this or the other boon will satisfy our souls. (We clamor for a stone, thinking it to be bread, or cry out for the glittering serpent, supposing it to he a dainty that will titillate our palate. But as the earthly father refused, notwithstanding his weakness and evil, much more will God refuse. "No," He says; "My child, I cannot, for love's sake, give it you; but, see, here is bread indeed, and here the fish, eat, drink, and be satisfied." Again, God sometimes gives things that appear to be stones and serpents, but they turn out to be bread and fish. The mother of St. Augustine prayed to God that He would not suffer her beloved son to go to Rome, because she dreaded the persecutions which were threatening the city. He went, notwithstanding, and it was in Italy that he found Christ. Referring to this incident in his life in after years, he says: "What was it, O my God, that she sought of Thee with many tears? Was it not that Thou wouldest not suffer me to set sail for Rome? But Thou, in Thy deep counsels, and listening to the hinge of her desire, didst disregard the thing which she asked for, that Thou mightest do in me that which she was ever asking, the conversion of my soul."
Do not be surprised if there are placed on your table viands that threaten to break your teeth and-disagree with your digestion. Since God has put them there, and He is good, you will find them in the highest degree nutritious. Though they be the reverse of the Prophet's vision, bitter to the mouth, they will prove to be wholesome, and sweet to the digestion.
Or take a third case. Suppose a child in its hunger asks for bread and fish. Its father, though evil, will not tantalize it by giving it something which will defy its powers of assimilation. Though he were to suffer the extremities of starvation, he would cheerfully endure them rather than respond thus to his child's artless faith., We therefore may go with large requests to our God, asking for what we need, and asking in the certain faith that He will only give us good things. Each prayer we repeat will be answered only in giving. He will substitute the blessing we would crave if we knew as much as He does of the heart of man. What a comfort it is to know that God gives only good things. What He withholds is good; what He gives is good; what He substitutes in His answer to our petitions is good, nay, good is not strong enough. He gives always the best.
It should be remembered that our God gives not only the necessaries, but the luxuries and comforts of life. The Lord prepared for His hungry friends, exhausted by the labours of the night, not bread alone, but fish. "When they got out upon the land they see a fire of charcoal there, and fish laid thereon, and bread." It was as though in that last breakfast with Him the Master desired to teach that in all coming time He would give His faithful disciples the daily supply of their returning wants, together with the warmth of human love, which ministers to the sense of enjoyment as well as to present need.
This is a great consolation in prayer. We can ask for anything and everything we want; we may be sure that no good thing will be withholden from those who walk uprightly; but we may also be sure that God loves us too well to give anything that would hurt us.
Probably our lives are meagre and impoverished when they might become full of good things, because we fail to ask. Notice our Lord's words:" How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him." Is not the Apostle James right when He says, "Ye have not because ye ask not?" That is the one reason. Or, "Because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." That is the second reason. Either not to pray, or to pray from selfish motives, shuts us out of a great amount of Divine helpfulness which otherwise would be ours. Our Lord puts into our hands the key to the vaults in God's bank. It is our fault if all grace does not abound in us, and if we are poor when we might be rich.
All things, therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them." With much reason this has been called the golden rule.
Gibbon reminds us that in a negative form it was in vogue four centuries before the Christian Era. But this is not to be wondered at, since Christ was in the world from the first. "There was the true Light, even the Light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." But for the positive form of this truth, and for the power by which it can be made operative in our selfish, evil hearts, we are entirely indebted to the teaching and inspiration of Jesus Christ.
Put into common English, this precept may be rendered: Put yourself in another's place; treat him as you would wish to be treated under similar circumstances; do not deal with him as you would not wish to be dealt with. The Lord, in effect, goes back to the words which stand at the beginning of the chapter, saying, "Judge as you would like to be judged; measure as you would like it to be measured to you."
The principle, of course, as He says, is witnessed "by the law and the prophets." We find it stated in the second great commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It is fundamental, underpinning the whole structure of human society. It is equitable, because all men are more nearly on an equality than might be inferred from a consideration of their outward circumstances. It is portable, "like the two-foot rule" which the artisan carries in his pocket for the measurement of any work which he may be called to estimate.
The Emperor Severus was so charmed by the excellence of this rule that he ordered a crier to repeat it whenever he had occasion to punish any person, and he caused it to be inscribed on the most notable parts of the palace, and on many of the public buildings. But though the maxim has attracted so much attention and admiration, it is powerless to effect any great reform apart from the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is that in the other version of this paragraph, in Luke 11:13, our Lord says: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." After all, it is only they who have stood under the open sky of Pentecost, who have received their share of that blessed enduement and infilling, which is the right of every believer, but which is too seldom claimed, who can go through the world practising always the golden rule of love. It is only they who by the Holy Spirit have been brought into living union with Christ, who receive hour by hour the full current of His life, that can go on loving men with the prodigality of affection, tempered, of course, with wisdom and discretion such as avail to fill up to the brim the full measure of the requirements of the golden rule.
Let us simply, artlessly, and earnestly, ask our Father here and now to bestow upon us in His fulness this best of all donations, -the Holy Spirit.
What a royal life this is to which our Master calls us, on the one hand, deriving all our needed resources from God; and on the other hand, therefore, able to be generous and free-handed to men. "He is able to make all grace abound towards us, that we, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
Too long have we given stones where men asked bread, and serpents where they asked fish. We have pelted men with stones, we have stung them with the poison of asps; they have turned away from us and our religion with loathing. Henceforth let us go through life repeating in essence the wonderful miracle of John 6., where out of five barley loaves and two small fish, broken by the hand of the Master, and distributed by the hand of the disciples, vast crowds of hungry people were satisfied. Take your bread and fish from Christ, and then break and give, .break and give! There will always be twelve basketsful of fragments left for your personal need. (F. B. Meyer. The Directory of the Devout Life)
J R Miller (Who Is He?) - The Prayer Promise - Matthew 7:8
“Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened..” Matthew 7:8
These are very positive promises, and yet they must be read intelligently, in the light of other scriptures which explain and qualify the words. It is not all asking that receives; for there is asking that is not true prayer. Some ask merely in word, with no real desire in their hearts. Some ask selfishly, that they may consume the divine gift on their lusts. Some ask rebelliously, without submission to the will of God. Some ask without faith, not expecting any answer. Some ask indolently, not ready to do their own part. Some ask ignorantly for things which would not be blessings if they were granted. It is very clear that in these cases those who ask will not receive.
So too not literally all who seek find. The seeking must be earnest. There is a remarkable word in one of the old prophets: “Ye shall seek me, and find Me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” The seeking must also be for good things. If our quest is for sinful things, or for worldly good, that would work in us spiritual harm, God will not give us what we seek. Then we must live right. “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” The thing itself must be good; and we must walk in paths of obedience, or there is no promise of reward for our quest.
In like manner it is not to all knocking that God opens the door. There are timid knocks that indicate neither desire nor faith, as when mischievous children ring a doorbell and then run away, not wanting to enter. It is when we knock at the right door, and knock with expectancy and faith and importunity, that the door is graciously opened. Thus in interpreting this wonderful prayer-promise we must read into the words their true meaning. The asking, seeking, knocking, must be true prayer.
WE need not look for a connexion in every part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount; because the account of it which we have in this Gospel is nothing more than an epitome, in which only the principal heads, together with some important sayings, are recorded. But, if we suppose the words of our text to arise from what has just preceded them, the connexion may easily be found. The commands, to abstain from all uncharitable judgment, and to be intent rather on searching out and removing our own imperfections, and even when the faults of our neighbour are most glaring, to exercise much prudence and caution in reproving him; these commands, I say, are difficult to be obeyed: and therefore our Lord encourages us by the consideration, that we may obtain by prayer whatever wisdom or strength we may stand in need of. The import of the text, however, will be the same, whether we take it as detached from the preceding context, or as connected with it; and it will naturally lead us to set before you the nature, the importance, and the efficacy of prayer.
I. Its nature—
Prayer is not indeed defined in the words before us; but we may collect from the different terms by which it is designated, what are its inseparable attendants and its characteristic marks;
1. Earnest desires—
[The words, “ask,” “seek,” “knock,” must certainly imply a solicitude to obtain some specific object. Now this is the very life and essence of prayer. It is not the posture of the body, or a repeating of any words, either with or without a form, that can be called prayer; but a prostration of the soul before God, accompanied with an ardent desire of acceptance with him. We may confess our vileness in the most humiliating terms, or petition for mercy with the most suitable pleas, or render thanks to God in copious and devout acknowledgments; and yet, if our hearts have not felt what our lips have uttered, we have offered no acceptable service to God; “we have worshipped him in vain, because we have drawn nigh to him with our lips when our hearts were far from him.” Desires in the soul will be accounted as prayer, though not expressed in words; but words without desires are no better than a solemn mockery.]
2. Persevering endeavours—
[A mere exclamation under an impression of terror cannot be considered as prayer; prayer imports such a desire after divine blessings as engages us in the pursuit of them from day to day; and this also is intimated in the very terms of our text. “Asking” only is not prayer, unless we “seek” also for the things in God’s appointed way; nor is “seeking” sufficient, if we do not, like persons anxious to obtain an answer, continue “knocking” at the door of mercy. We do not indeed deny but that a prayer may be offered by one who speedily turns back again from God; but it is not accepted; and it is of acceptable prayer that we speak; for nothing else deserves the name of prayer. Whatever therefore a person may do on some particular occasion, he prays not to any good purpose, unless he “set his face” determinately to seek after God, and to obtain from him those daily supplies of mercy and grace which his soul needeth. Hence the command of God is, “Pray without ceasing;” “Continue instant in prayer;” “Pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, watching thereunto with all perseverance”]
3. Humble expectation—
[Here again the terms of our text afford us a correct idea of the duty of prayer. It is evident that when a person “asks,” it is with some hope of receiving; and when he “seeks,” he has some prospect of finding; and if he “knock” at a door, it is with some expectation that it shall be opened to him. Now this, beyond every thing else, marks the true character of prayer. “In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee,” says the Psalmist, “and will look up;” that is, I will look up in expectation of receiving an answer to my prayers. It is to the prayer of faith that the promise of an answer is given: “Whatsoever ye shall ask, believing, ye shall receive.” Prayer destitute of this qualification is declared to be of no avail whatever: the man that offers it “must not think of receiving any thing from the Lord.” Hence the true and acceptable suppliant is distinguished as “looking unto God as a servant does to the hand of his master,” and as “waiting upon God for his salvation.”]
The nature of prayer being explained from the text, we proceed to notice,
II. Its importance—
[We cannot but observe throughout the whole text the inseparable connexion between the means and the end. It is thought by many that it is unnecessary to pray; because God, being omniscient, stands in no need of information from us; and being of his own nature inclined to mercy, he needs not our importunity to prevail upon him. But these objections betray an utter ignorance of the intent of prayer. Prayer is not intended to give information to God, but to impress our own minds with a sense of our dependence upon him, and to give him glory as the only fountain of all our benefits. Moreover, prayer, though often represented as prevailing with God, is not designed to dispose him to any thing to which he was before averse; but only to bring our souls to such a state as may prepare us for a worthy reception of those blessings which God has previously determined to bestow. Though, therefore, prayer does not answer, nor is intended to answer, the ends which ignorant persons are ready to suppose, it does answer the most valuable ends; which are intimately connected with the salvation of our souls.
But we will suppose that there were no connexion whatever between the means and the end; still, if God has united them, it does not become us to put them asunder; nor can we ever expect the Divine blessing, if we attempt to separate them. Moses was commanded to take his stick, or rod, and with that to work miracles in Egypt. What would he have wrought, if, in contempt of such means, he had left his rod behind him? The Israelites were commanded to march round Jericho on seven successive days, and then to blow with rams’ horns. Suppose they had disregarded these means on account of their inadequacy to produce any important result, would the walls of Jericho have fallen down? Or if Naaman had persisted in preferring the waters of Abana and Pharpar to those of Jordan, would he have been healed of his leprosy? Thus then, whether prayer have any proper effect or not, we must use it as God’s ordinance; and if we will not use it, we shall infallibly lose those blessings, which, in the use of the appointed means, we might otherwise attain. True, it is said of the Gentiles, that “God was found of them that sought him not;” but this refers only to their heathen state: for none ever ultimately found him, who did not walk with him in the daily exercise of faith and prayer: nor can there be found in all the sacred volume one single word that justifies a hope of obtaining any thing at God’s hands in the neglect of this sacred duty.]
On the contrary, when prayer is offered aright, the whole inspired volume attests,
III. Its efficacy—
[Nothing can be more express than the declarations of our text on this subject. The repetition of them is intended to assure us that no man shall ever “seek God’s face in vain.” It is of importance to observe, that in the promises before us there is no limitation whatever, either as to the person asking or the blessing desired. A person may have been as wicked as Manasseh himself, yet shall he not be cast out, provided he come to God with unfeigned penitence in the name of Jesus Christ. It must be remembered, that, since the coming of Christ, it is indispensably necessary that we should offer all our petitions in his name. This, in fact, was done even under the Jewish dispensation: for every penitent was obliged to put his hand upon the head of his sacrifice; and, when the Jews were in captivity, and consequently were unable to offer sacrifices, they must look towards the temple; which was a distinguished type of Christ, “in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Let but our prayers be offered in an humble dependence on the sacrifice and intercession of Jesus Christ, and they shall assuredly prevail. God may not indeed answer us immediately; and, it may be, that he may not grant the precise thing which we pray for; but he will answer in the best time, and in the best manner, granting that which eventually will be most conducive to his own glory and to our good. David and the Canaanitish woman were suffered to wait for the blessings they desired; and St. Paul, yea, and Christ himself too, were answered, not so much according to the letter, as according to the spirit, of their petitions. But if we tarry the Lord’s leisure, we may be as “confident” of an answer to our prayers, as of our own existence.]
In this subject we may find abundant matter,
1. For reproof—
[How many have never gone beyond the mere forms of prayer; and remain unmoved even when their self-deceit and hypocrisy are thus plainly set before them! How astonishing is this! Methinks, if God had appointed only one hour in a man’s life, wherein he should be at liberty to avail himself of the gracious promises in the text, one would suppose that the whole universe should not be able to divert his attention from this sacred duty: he would long for the appointed season to arrive; he would meditate beforehand on every thing which he could desire to obtain; and he would employ every moment of the prescribed time in most importunate supplications. So, I say, we might suppose; but experience proves, that, notwithstanding there is not an hour in our whole lives wherein we may not avail ourselves of this privilege, the generality have never found one single hour for that holy employment. But would it be thus if God were for one hour to allow this privilege to those who are shut up in hell? If the doors of hell might be opened for their escape, would they neglect to “knock?” If all the blessings of grace and glory might be obtained by them, would they neglect to “ask?” O then, let us “seek the Lord whilst he is near; let us call upon him, whilst he may be found.” Think what a bitter reflection it will be in the eternal world, that we might have escaped the miseries of hell, and obtained the glory of heaven, by the exercise of humble and believing prayer, and we would not: we did not regard either the one or the other, as worth asking for. O that we may now be convinced of our folly, and not be left to bewail it to all eternity!]
2. For encouragement—
[If God had bidden us do some great thing to obtain his favour, we should have been ready to do it. The poor benighted heathen, what pains and penances do not they undergo to obtain the favour of their gods! Yet no such things are required of us: we have nothing to do, but to “ask, and seek, and knock.” Surely we should rejoice in so great a privilege, and determine to “take the kingdom of heaven by the holy violence” of faith and prayer.
But some are discouraged, because they cannot pray with any fluency or enlargement of heart. Let not this however distress the minds of any. It is humility, and not fluency, that makes our prayers acceptable: and many a person who can only seek the Lord with sighs, and groans, and tears, will find acceptance with him, whilst others, who are admired by men, or filled with self-complacency, will be rejected. Never, from the foundation of the world, was there a better prayer than that of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
But some are discouraged because they have prayed long without receiving any answer to their prayers. Let not, however, any despond on this account. God may have answered them, though not precisely in the way that they expected: and the very continuance of their prayers is an evidence that they have not prayed in vain. It is evident at least that God has given them his Holy Spirit, as a Spirit of grace and of supplication; and this is a pledge and earnest of other blessings which they stand in need of. Let them “tarry the Lord’s leisure, and he will comfort their hearts;” “let them wait, I say, upon the Lord.”]