For Bible Study Nerds

Jesus’ exhortation to “ask, seek, knock” in prayer seems a carte blanche promise that God will give anything you or I ask for in prayer. The normal Christian life, on the other hand, seems to discredit this promise on a daily basis.

So what gives? Was Jesus lying, or mistaken, or exaggerating for effect? Are we doing something wrong in the ways we “ask, seek, and knock”?

Perhaps the problem lies in a 21st century perception that we’re entitled to immediate gratification, and in our assumption that God will override his good, eternal desires for us in response to our selfish, temporary desires for ourselves. Here’s how Theologian Lawrence O. Richards explains it:

Jesus describes prayer as asking, seeking, and knocking. “Ask” is the act of prayer in its simplest form. “Seek” conveys intensity, and “earnest sincerity.” And “knock” pictures persistence. We knock on the door of heaven and keep on knocking!

It is important not to mistake what Jesus is saying as laying down conditions which, if met, will move God to respond to us. Jesus is not saying if you ask ardently enough, then God will answer your prayer. He is simply saying that when we feel a need so intensely that it drives us to the Lord again and again, we need not be discouraged even if the answer is delayed. God really does care about those things that matter to His children. And God responds to our requests by giving us good gifts.

Jesus promised that if we “ask, seek, knock” then our heavenly Father will respond with “good gifts” (Matthew 7:11). Our job, then, is to keep asking with sincerity and persistence—and let him worry about when he answers and which good gifts he delivers in response.


Works Cited:

[NTL, 41]



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