Matthew 7:7-11 (also linking in Luke 18:1-8)
This is the second portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches on prayer. In the earlier section he showed us how to pray. This time he wants us to understand something important about the character of God, and for that understanding to be something that keeps us praying.
Bring Your Prayers to God (v7-9) – Three imperative instructions are given in these verses, and they build on each other to create a vivid picture on somebody who is not afraid to bring their requests to God in prayer. The first of these is the simplest: asking God for what we want. This is followed by the instruction to seek, which suggests a more active pursuit of an answer that may not be given immediately. Finally is the instruction to knock. This brings to mind the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) where the lady is desperate and pounds on the door of the judge’s house looking for her answer. Prayer does not have to stay polite and there is something to be said for pouring out the requests of our heart to God.
Keep Persisting In Prayer (v7-9) – The words used for ‘ask’, ‘seek’ and ‘knock’ in the original have an ongoing aspect to them, and we could think of them as meaning keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. We are encouraged to be persistent in prayer. The idea isn’t just to pray once and then stop praying if what we ask for doesn’t happen. Some prayers are prayed regularly for years before they get answered. Again, the parable of the persistent widow links in here. It is because of her persistence that she gets the answer that she is looking for.
Know God’s Character as a Father (v10-11) – It is at this point that the link with the parable of the persistent widow breaks. In that story the judge was reluctant to answer and only did so to make the woman go away. In contrast, Jesus shows that God is a good father. He points out that even sinful human fathers give good gifts to their kids, so how much more should we expect the heavenly father to do so for us. Our prayers may be answered ‘yes’, they may answered ‘no’ or they may be answered ‘later’, but the best way to make sense of this is to realise that behind it all is a God who loves his children and who knows ultimately what is best. Part of prayer is trusting that God’s plans are better than ours, and so we leave the prayer in his hands to answer how he chooses.