God Wants You to Ask
Topic: Expository Passage: Matthew 7:7–11
One of my regular responsibilities as a pastor is reaching out to people that we haven’t seen at church in a while. We want to make sure everything is okay, and we want to see how we can be a blessing. There have been many times when I have made one of these phone calls, and it’s gone something like this.
“Hey, I’m just checking in because we haven’t seen you in a few weeks.” The person replies, “I’ve been miserably sick. I haven’t been able to get out of bed. It’s been scary and very difficult.” I reply, “I had no idea. I wish you would have told us, because your church family would love to help you out.” The person replies, “I didn’t want to be a bother.”
I’m sympathetic because I am fiercely independent, and I appreciate people who don’t want to whine and want to solve their own problems. But it’s also sincerely true that people love this person, and they would have been eager to help had they known there was a need. Even when it is costly, it’s a blessing to serve someone you love.
In a similar manner, I wonder how often our Heavenly Father looks down at us and thinks the same thing. We are running ourselves ragged trying to solve this problem and that. We are stressed out over a big decision or overwhelmed by small matters of discernment. We have big needs, but we never ask God for help. God is in heaven shaking his head thinking, “I wish he would just ask for help.”
Our text for today puts this frustration into words (read). This passage gives us a beautiful window into God’s heart for his children and it calls us to pray accordingly. Jesus urges us to pray for 2 basic reasons that we often struggle to believe. First, we must pray, because…
I. God answers prayer (vv. 7–8).
Before we go on, I want to note that in context, Jesus is especially urging us to ask for wisdom in relationships. I say this because remember that vv 1–6 raise a couple very challenging relational issues. We must avoid judgmentalism while also identifying the scorner.
And v. 12 follows with the Golden Rule, which has to do with relationships. Since our text is in between, we should assume Jesus is especially urging us to ask for wisdom when we don’t know how to respond to people.
Jesus is saying, “Don’t just try to figure it out yourself. Ask me for wisdom.” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach.”
So, Jesus is primarily urging us to ask for wisdom, but the principle of our text applies to every other challenge we face. Ask God for help whenever you have a need, because God wants to answer prayer.
That being said, notice that v. 7 is built on 3 commands—ask, seek, and knock. Some commentators have wondered if the commands are progressively bolder so that asking is relatively gentle and knocking pictures someone beating the door down. That’s possible, but the commands are probably synonymous and all three describe bold requests.
The reason Jesus repeats the command 3 times is to urge us to ask him for the things we need. He’s emphasizing the fact that our heavenly Father really wants us to ask.
And if the command is not enough, he attaches a promise to each command, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” God answers prayer!
And if we still don’t get it, notice that Jesus basically repeats himself in v. 8. The only major difference between vv. 7, 8 is that the first 2 promises switch from the future tense to the present tense. So, it’s not just that down the road in some unknown place and time you will receive and find. Instead, the one who “asks receives,” and the one who “seeks finds.”
Jesus urges us to pray expecting God to answer our requests. Prayer is not a useless waste of time. No, God hears, and God answers prayer.
But you might think, “Pastor, that sounds good, but there have been many times that I asked, and I didn’t receive what I asked for. So, I’m not sure I really believe Jesus.” What do we do with the fact that so often we don’t get things that we ask for?
Many would claim that the reason we don’t get what we ask for is because we lacked faith or did something wrong. Creflo Dollar is a well-known prosperity preacher, and he states, “When we pray believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass…It is a key to getting results as a Christian.” He believes that God will always give us what we want if our faith is strong enough.
An example of this idea made national news last year. A family that is highly involved in Bethel Church in Redding CA had their 2-year-old daughter die suddenly. This tragic story made national headlines, because the church believed that if they had enough faith God must raise her from the dead. But God didn’t raise her. The little remained dead.
So, did these grieving parents understand Jesus’ words rightly? Is their girl dead because they didn’t have enough faith? Or even worse, is Jesus a liar? I’m confident that the answer to both questions is, “Absolutely not.”
First, Jesus says in v. 11 that the Father does not give us whatever we want; instead, he gives “good gifts,” based on the fact, as he said in 6:32, that he already knows everything that we need.
Therefore, a big problem with “Name It and Claim It” theology is that it assumes we know what is truly good. But only God knows all things fully and completely. He sees all thing with perfect wisdom and understanding. But our perspective is very limited. There is so much that we don’t know.
So, yes, the sudden death of a 2-year-old is an awful tragedy. But we don’t have the perspective to declare that God should heal her.
Instead, we have to trust that his understanding is infinite, that he is always good, and he always does what is right even when we don’t understand why. Psalm 119:75 states, “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted” We may not know why, but we know that God’s “judgments are righteous” and “faithful.”
So, God doesn’t promise to give whatever we ask for; instead, he promises to give what is truly good. BTW, that’s a good thing. If God gave me everything I have asked for over the years, I’d be in a world of hurt. And I know I would be a lot less godly.
As a result, it’s important that we understand our text considering an important request in the Lord’s Prayer. We must pray, “Your will be done.” Godly people know they don’t know everything; therefore, they don’t primarily desire that God would give them what they want; instead, they desire God’s will, which they know is based on perfect understand.
And I should add that a godly heart will reshape your desires and your prayer requests. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” God is not saying that if you love me, I will satisfy every materialistic desire. Rather, delighting in God radically transforms our desires, and God is happy to satisfy godly desires.
To sum it all up, 1 John 5:14–15 states, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” God hears when we ask “according to his will.” And God answers prayer when we do so. So, with all that said, what does Jesus want us to learn from vv. 7–8? First…
Pray boldly. Look again at the commands Jesus gives—“ask,” “seek,” and “knock.” Our first impulse shouldn’t be try to fix everything. No, Philippians 4:6 commands us to pray about anything that causes anxiety. So, whenever you are worried, ask your Father for help.
As well, have you ever been slow to ask a friend for something, because you are worried you may be asking too much? Similarly, we often get nervous about asking God for big things. We don’t want to ask for too much or be too bold. But Jesus doesn’t include any qualifiers. He invites us to ask.
Don’t ever think, “This is too small to bother God, or it’s so small that I can handle it.” And don’t ever think, “This is too big or too bold.” If to the best of your knowledge it fits God’s will, then ask. Second…
Pray persistently. All 3 commands in v. 7 and the 3 parallel verbs in v. 8 are in the present tense. In Greek this means that they describe habitual, persistent actions. So, Jesus is urging us to be always asking, always seeking, and always knocking. We must “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
Don’t just loft up a prayer one time and then forget about it. Keep praying! And don’t just pray when there’s a crisis. Pray for every need, even for something as basic as wisdom for how to avoid judgmentalism and for wisdom to identify the scorner. Third…
Pray Confidently. I think it would do our souls well, to just hear Jesus again in vv. 7–8 while focusing on the promise he repeats six times (read). Jesus couldn’t be clearer. God answers prayer. Therefore, we should pray to our sovereign God, believing that he hears and answers.
So, take a moment to reflect on your needs and your prayer life. Are you scurrying about trying to fix your problems while you have neglected to pray? Do you live as if prayer is ineffective and as if your busyness is more profitable than prayer? Jesus urges you to ask because God answers prayer. So, the first major reason we must be devoted to prayer is because God answers prayer. The 2nd major reason is…
II. God gives good gifts (vv. 9–11).
These verses make an argument from the lesser to the greater (a fortiori). The lesser argument comes in vv. 9–10 where Jesus points out that…
Sinful fathers give good gifts to their children (vv. 9–10). Jesus describes 2 absurd scenarios. First, imagine that it’s been a long day of hard work, and the family comes in for dinner. Let’s say a child has been working hard tending the garden—pulling weeds and working the soil.
When they come inside, the child says, “I’m exhausted, and I’m hungry! Please give me some bread.” Jesus points out that no sane father responds by handing his son a plate full of rocks.
What makes this scenario especially absurd is that the small loaves of bread the Israelites served looked like round stones. Therefore, the hungry child may quickly throw the stone in his mouth and take a bite. It’s cruel, and it’s contrary to the nature of a parent.
Then v. 10 adds a similarly absurd illustration. Most people believe that Jesus is thinking of an eel-like fish that was common in the Sea of Galilee. It looks a lot like a snake, so a child could easily mistake a snake for this fish. But when he bites in, he is severely disappointed.
Jesus’ point with both illustrations is that such antics are contrary to the nature of human fathers. Jesus says that even depraved sinners want to give their sons good things.
Now, I have to admit that Jesus is making me nervous here, because I may occasionally get a little pleasure out of messing with my kids’ minds. Just admit it parents, you’ve all put a surprise in dinner or wrapped an empty box on a birthday at least once, just to get a rise out of your kids. Maybe someone did that to you when you were a kid.
So yes, dads in particular like to play practical jokes, but Jesus’ point still stands. He says in v. 11, “Evil (fathers) know how to give good gifts to (their) children.” Even though we are sinners, human fathers (and mothers) have an incredible love for their children, and they want to give good things.
If you have kids, you know how intense that love truly is. Sometimes it gets weird. Your kid gets a big hit in little league, and you are jumping up and down like you won the lottery. He gets a good report card, and you are more excited than he is. You bawl your eyes out on the first day of school, while your child is pleading with you to get back in the car and stop embarrassing him.
And if anyone ever messes with your child, it takes all your strength not to say or do something foolish. You love your kids, and you desperately want their good. And Jesus takes this incredible picture of a father’s love, and he uses it to make a powerful point. He argues that…
Our Heavenly Father gives even better gifts (v. 11). This is a wonderfully encouraging verse. Jesus says that our Heavenly Father loves us with the same kind of passion and care as our human fathers. So, imagine the incredible love you have for your kids or that your dad has for you. If your dad was absent, think of the very best dad you’ve ever been around, and then ponder the fact that God loves us the same way.
Psalm 103:13 states, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” And moms, lest you feel left out, Isaiah 49:15 states, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” If you are God’s child, he loves you with the intensity of a father or mother. Praise the Lord!
Now, before we go on, I want to emphasize that this fatherly care is rooted in the gospel. God doesn’t love us this way, because we are so wonderful and so deserving of love. Instead, we are wretched, unlovable sinners. But Romans 5:6 states, “When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He loved us in our weakness and sin. So, we can’t take any credit. All we can do is stand in awe at the incredible love of our Heavenly Father.
Of course, this also means that God is not the Father of all people. Sin creates a wall between us and God that stops most people from enjoying the prayer privileges our text describes. They cannot pray to a Heavenly Father, because their sin stands between them and God.
So, maybe you have always assumed that God is everyone’s Father. But that’s not actually true. Psalm 66:18 states, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Your sin must be removed for you to enjoy the blessings of this text.
Maybe you have lived your whole life trying to earn God’s love. You do this good deed and that religious work, hoping that you can do enough to get God’s favor and the positive answers to prayer that you want.
I hope you will see that Christ alone makes it possible for us to be adopted into God’s family so that we can relate to God as our Father. 1 Peter 3:18 states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” Therefore, Galatians 4:4–5 say that through Christ’s death we can be redeemed from our sin and “receive the adoption of sons.”
The Scriptures promise that Jesus can bring you to God through is death and resurrection and you can be adopted into his family. So, repent of your sin and believe on him today. Jesus will become your Savior, and you can enjoy the incredible security of knowing God as your Father.
And with this security, we can enjoy the promise of v. 11, “How much more…” Jesus assures us that our heavenly Father loves us even more than our human fathers. If you have a good earthly father, that’s hard to comprehend, but it’s true. And if he is absent and apathetic, what a comfort to know that you have a Father in heaven who cares beyond your greatest imaginations. Our heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love, and he longs to give us good things. What a comforting, marvelous gift.
Therefore, I’d like to pull all of this together into 4 applications.
See the love of your Father. If you are a Christian, you have a Father in heaven who loves you perfectly. He doesn’t look down on you like some deadbeat dad who doesn’t care. No, his heart is full of compassion and love. He always wants what is good and right.
Yes, sometimes he puts us through terribly painful circumstances, but it’s always for our good. So, see the love of your Heavenly Father. Rest secure in the Father’s love. As a result, my second application is…
Pray about everything. Your Father wants to hear from you. Jesus commands you to ask because the Father wants to give good things. Don’t be that stubborn child who wants to do everything himself or that fearful child who doesn’t want to bother dad. No, rest in the love of the Father and then come to him frequently and boldly believing that you will, “Obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Third…
Pray humbly. Where the prosperity guys get it wrong is that they assume they KNOW what is best. So, they come to God demanding that he bend to their will. They don’t see God as their all-knowing, loving Heavenly Father; they see him as mindless vending machine to be paid off and convinced of what is good by their faith and pleading.
I’m so thankful that I don’t have that kind of pressure. Instead, I can come to someone with perfect love and perfect knowledge. I can comfortably make my case for what I believe is right, but then I can rest in the fact that he will give what is good. 1 Peter 5:7 says I can cast all my cares on Him, knowing “He cares for (me).” Pray humbly. Fourth…
Pray expectantly. Jesus couldn’t be clearer. God answers prayer. Jesus promises, “everyone who asks…” (v. 8). So, don’t view prayer merely as a Christian duty or a monotonous routine. No, believe that God answers prayer, and then pray boldly and specifically anticipating that God will work.
So, what burdens are on your heart? Or what burdens have you put aside because you don’t believe there is any hope? Think big. If to the best your knowledge it fits the will of God, then ask, seek, and knock. And do so with confidence that God hears, God cares, and God will give good gifts.