“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. (New Living Translation)
In the dog days of summer, and the long season of Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, it is good to be reminded of what it is we need to keep doing without giving up.
At the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued a warning about the pitfall of failing to persist in a trusting relationship with God. We are to have an ongoing dynamic of asking, seeking, and knocking.
We might too often neglect to ask, seek, and knock because we rely on our own determination, abilities, education, or observations. The action of the three action words is a reference to prayer. The idea is that it is difficult to live a virtuous life, so we must continually ask, seek, and knock to receive an answer.
The demands of Christian discipleship are significant. Throughout Christ’s Sermon, he not only dealt with the outward actions of a follower but also the inward state of the heart.
Humility, meekness, mercy, purity, and peace characterize the inner person who walks in the way of Christ. Not only is murder wrong, but the bitter anger which it produces is to be dealt with. Adultery is also a violation of God’s law, along with the impure thoughts and intents of the heart which bring it about. Love for enemies, giving from the heart, praying with appropriate motives, fasting in secret, and building treasure in heaven are all expectations of the devout Christian believer.
These are inner attitudes and outward behaviors which require a constant stream of asking, seeking, and knocking on the door of heaven. They are more than natural abilities; what Jesus is looking for is to live a supernatural life. This, then, requires supernatural resources.
No one enters God’s realm because of sheer determination. God’s kingdom is only accessed through humble prayer. God is the One with the supernatural resources to help us live the Christian life.
And God is pleased to provide what we need to live that life. The Lord answers in love and not begrudgingly. Out of the infinite storehouse of grace, God delights in hearing our asking’s, responding to our seeking’s, and answering our knocking’s. With God, there is no daydreaming while we ask, no avoiding us when we seek, and no pulling the shades as the door is being knocked.
In love, God looks forward to our asking, seeking, and knocking.
The key takeaway from today’s Gospel lesson is repetition – not vain repetition which believes that the more prayer is repeated, the greater possibility of the answer we want – but a routine lifestyle of persistently and consistently praying.
You want things, but you don’t get them. So, you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So, you argue and fight. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God. Or when you ask, you don’t receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure. (James 4:2-3, ERV)
James, learning from his brother, Jesus, gets behind the asking to the heart of why we ask and why we do not ask. This, in no way, is to discourage us from asking or to be doubtful whether God cares about our asking, or not. James also said:
But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways. (James 1:5-8, CEB)
If you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV)
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6, NRSV)
Prayer is much like a wrestling match. It requires a great deal of effort. In fact, every good thing in life demands blood, sweat, and tears. We are to keep on seeking, to continue searching and looking for God amid our life circumstances. The Lord will be found.
God has said, “When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond.” (Isaiah 58:9, GNT)
The balance to the continual searching and diligently seeking is the immediate answer to our knocking on heaven’s door.
And God has also said, “I will answer their prayers before they finish praying.” (Isaiah 65:24, CEV)
It is to God’s glory whether our prayers are answered quickly, or not. It is to our glory that we exercise our own ability to enter God’s throne room and ask, seek, and knock. We have the assurance that whatever the answer is from God, it will always be a merciful response.
For God mercifully gives us what we ask for, and also mercifully does not give us what we ask for.
We do not know what tomorrow may hold for us. All we know for certain is that we are known by a God who hears when we ask, is worth seeking, and answers when we knock.
O God, you are my God, early and often I will seek you. New are your mercies every morning, O Lord; and great is your faithfulness. Pour out on all who desire it the spirit of grace. Deliver us, when we draw near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind, that with steadfast thoughts and affections we may worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.