Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 26

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Passionately Persisting in Prayer

Read Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his 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 who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” 

I was a mischievous child. I had a best friend that who, together with me, got into a lot of trouble. A few times we would travel the neighborhood and knock on doors in the evening and quickly run away. Before you judge me too harshly, I know that some of you did the same sort of thing. The residents of one house taught both of us a lesson though that caused us not to do this anymore. My friend put a rope around the two door knobs, tying them together. We then knocked vigorously on the door and then ran and hid in some nearby bushes and watched. It was apparent that the occupant of the house tried, vigorously as well, to open the door, because we could see both doors shaking with the effort of his struggle. A few seconds lapsed and we saw the owner of the house slowly exit out of a side door, baseball bat in hand, cautiously peering about the corner, anticipating perhaps an attacker. He never saw us as we quickly made our escape, with fear and speed! We learned that day that our vigorous knocking and, what seemed a harmless prank to us, had caused great fear and anxiety in another. We never did this again! 

Christ in this passage talks about a different kind of vigorous knocking. While our knocking was selfish and childish, Jesus calls His followers to a kind of persistent knocking in the form of asking, pleading, and prayer. “In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus declares [this is] the way a man or woman prays who understands what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.” (The Sermon on the Mount by Kent Hughes, pg. 237)

While Jesus is challenging His followers to a persistence in prayer, we must ask what is a right view and what is a wrong view of prayer? More importantly, how do we see God? Because how we see God will give us either a right view of prayer or a wrong view.  Some see God as our celestial vending machine or slot machine. Put in your prayer coin, pull the arm, and God will spit out whatever you asked for. Remember James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” So, some interpret this to mean that we must ask and we will get what we asked for, which is a “name it and claim it theology”. This is a wrong view of God and of prayer, but I wonder if we are ever guilty of treating God in this way. James goes on and says that we do not have, because we do not ask and that we have asked for our own selfish desires. “Rather, [this passage] tells us how to pray for the character of the kingdom in our lives.” (Hughes, pg. 238)  Jesus here is teaching us how to pray for our spiritual lives. 

So, how are we to pray? With persistence and with confidence, one writer says. In our Matthew passage a particular kind of series of verbs is used: ask, seek, and knock. Bear with me on some grammar education. “The aorist imperative gives one definite command, such as ‘shut the door’ or ‘pick up the newspaper’. The present imperative, however, commands continuous action- ‘keep on shutting the door’ or ‘keep on picking up the newspaper’.  So, our text really reads: ‘Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and it will be opened for you.’ ” (Hughes, pg. 239)

When I first looked at this passage, I wondered aloud, “How do we know that prayer is the context of what Jesus is talking about here?” As I studied, I found that we know because of another parallel passage telling of this teaching of Jesus found in Luke 11:5-10. In the book of Luke these commands are preceded by the Lord’s Prayer and then a mini-parable of the persistent neighbor. After this in Luke we read the words, “Ask… seek… knock.” So, we know, because of the context of Luke, that prayer - asking, seeking, knocking - is indeed about prayer. We are called here to be persistent in our prayer. 

Perhaps you can be like me when it comes to prayer. Often, I have something on my heart and mind that I cannot handle - a problem or a situation in which I need wisdom. So, I pray - sometimes quite vigorously and often during the day. As the day wears on and my head hits the pillow at night, I have moved on in my heart and mind to other pressing things. Sometimes I have ceased praying over the issue, and I have taken over, trying to fix the problem myself. Sound familiar?  Jesus here tells us simply not to pray once or twice but to come to Him often and repeatedly, as a knocker at a door or as the persistent widow did in her time of need. 

Not only are we to come to the Lord in persistent prayer, but we are to come with confidence. Jesus appeals here in Matthew 7:9-11 to those who have children. “For who among you if your child asks you for bread would give him a stone or for a fish would give him a serpent? If we know how to give good gifts, then how much more does our heavenly Father?”   Students, you like to receive gifts from parents.  We parents like to give our children gifts, don’t we? It is such a joy to see their faces light up when the wrapping paper is torn off (or in my case when the gift is removed from the gift bag - I’m a gift-bagger). We appreciate it when our parents give us something we have longed for or wanted. It is fun for parents to have thought about their children, what they like, or what they want, and to have gotten it for them. We like to give good gifts! How much more our heavenly Father! If we ask for the Holy Spirit, or spiritual growth, will He not answer us? Luke, in verse 13, substitutes the Holy Spirit for good gifts. This is not a mistranslation or contradiction because it is the Holy Spirit who bestows what is good. And the Holy Spirit knows what is best for us and what we really need. 

Let us be persistent in our praying for good things, in the context of this passage- spiritual things and for those godly character traits (like the ones found in Galatians 5 with the fruit of the Spirit). God is zealous to answer such prayers. We can pray with confidence that He will hear our prayers, in Jesus name, for those things that He has already told us He wants for us. We are to pray with confidence that we will be heard and answered!  So, to put it in another way, we are to persist passionately in prayer, having full confidence that as we ask for things according to God’s will, He will answer them in His time and in the way that He sees fit.  

So, Now What?

We would all do well to engage in the following actions: Search out some spiritual qualities that you lack but would like to have. Write them on your prayer list. Pray passionately for them - keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Have confidence that God your Father will give them to you. (Hughes, pg. 243)