Peninsula Community Church
August 7, 2011
Sermon on the Mount – Ask, seek, knock
Matthew 7:7-14 “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!
Prayer of the most powerful disciplines of the Christian faith and yet it is one of the most underused and misused disciplines. Often there are two extremes:
- There is the name and claim mentality where there is no regard for God’s will and purpose. When one is in this mode God is treated as Genie in the lamp or Santa Clause. If we have been good He will give us what we want.
- The other extreme is that we believe that God is going to give us what He wants to give us so there is no need to pray. But prayerlessness is one of the greatest diseases to hit the church.
Listen to these quotes by Men of God:
“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” (John Bunyon)
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” (E.M. Bounds)
“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'” (J. Hudson Taylor)
In this passage, many scholars find it interesting that Jesus diverts from the usual focus of countering the unrighteous works of the Pharisees to direct his hearers to the subject of prayer. We must not forget that this passage was a part of a message that Jesus preached at one sitting and was not divided up as we have over the last several months.
One of the reasons Jesus addresses the subject of prayer at this stage is that He wants to remind us that prayer is the greatest resource we have to totally fulfill the commandments listed in the Sermon on the Mount. If we are to be kingdom people who live victorious, righteous lives we must be people of prayer. He reminds those in His presence that to accomplish the things that He has purported, one must be given to prayer. These acts and attitudes described by Jesus cannot be accomplished or realized apart from prayer.
In this passage we see three terms ask, seek and knock. The three terms are verbs that carry the idea of continuing to do something. Therefore they represent a persistent faith. We ask and keep on asking. We seek and keep on seeking. We knock and knocking.
The terms defined -
Ask – a humble, earnest plea – While this term is a humble or earnest plea it also means to ask with urgency, even to the point of demanding. It represents the attitude of one in a lesser position from the one being petitioned. The asking takes on a sense of importance and seriousness. To ask means that we believe that someone is listening. There is also an implication that we are expecting him an answer. It has been noted that asking is what beggars do on the side of the road.
Seek – means to attempt to learn something by careful investigation or searching or to desire to have, experience or try to obtain something from someone. Seeking is asking plus acting. There is an implied petitioning with an active endeavor to fulfill needs. It is the proverbial putting feet to one’s faith. When you seek something you rearrange your priorities so that you can search for what you desire until you find it. If you need a job, you do not sit at home and wait for one to fall in your lap although that could happen. If you have a physical problem, you seek out medical help to solve the problem.
A good analogy here is Jesus’ illustration of heaven being like the merchant who sought fine pearls and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all he had and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46).
Knock – means to rap at a door to gain entrance and thus implies an even greater and more repetitive intensity than either asking or seeking. The English word “knock” comes from the German word “to press.” This speaks of persistent faith and persistent prayer. You know God is listening but you continue to pray until you have an answer. Knocking includes asking plus acting plus preserving. It is like someone who continues to pound on a closed door.
The companion verse that accompanies this verse is James 4:2B-3. James reminds us that to receive from God we must first pray and then we must pray with the right attitude and heart. You do not receive because you do not ask and when you do ask you ask in a selfish manner.
But here in our passage when we ask with the right heart we will receive, when we seek we receive, and when we knock it shall be open.
Form this passage we learn three things:
- This serves as an illustration of God’s grace and love. We see through this passage that God will not give us anything that we do not need or that which will not benefit us. Notice that the text says that if we ask for a loaf of bread he will not give us a stone. Or if we ask for a snake, He will not give us a serpent. God is not into a bait and switch form of answering prayer. In this regard we must learn to pray according to His will and His plan.
- It reminds us to look to God as our Father. Not withstanding the Word of God, Prayer causes us to turn our face forward more than any other religious exercise we are involved in. In our prayers we focus on who He is and His power to do the impossible.
- We are disciplined and humbled to receive the Father’s gracious provisions so that we might live as kingdom citizens. Divine assistance is needed to carry out Divine requirements. The goal in prayer is to be prepared as citizens of the kingdom so that we can accomplish what He has called us to do and that is to bring God’s reign to the world.