I was reading Matthew 7:7-12 this morning and it suddenly struck me that I have not been giving enough importance to my own part in the whole process of “ask, seek, knock”. I guess, like a lot of people, I was focused on the generosity of God and the way he blesses our lives when we are in need. But ask, seek, and knock are actions- actions which we must perform if we are to acquire the desires of our heart. Oh, sure, we could just sit around and wait for God to supply all our needs, which he is perfectly capable of doing. Why then, did He give us the free will to want something more? Why tell us to ask, seek, knock?
I think the answer lies in the example God provides for us throughout the Bible- the relationship of a parent and child. We don’t want our children to simply be clones of us. We want them to be unique, independent individuals. We don’t want them to mindlessly obey us. We want them to think for themselves and make wise decisions. We don’t want them to blindly accept whatever we give them. We want them learn to make good choices. We don’t want them to love us simply because we gave them life. We want them to love us because they choose to do so. Knowing that a person has the option of NOT doing something and yet chooses to do it…that’s what makes life interesting!
I think if we closely examine these verses we can see beyond the concept of God as Santa Claus, granting our wishes. And we can understand our part in the practice of claiming what we want.
First of all I think we need to be a child of God before we ask Him for any favors. We all know in our hearts that our generosity toward a stranger has its limits. But our own children usually receive the best and most that we can give them.
Second, I think we need to pay attention to verse twelve and be doing all that we can to treat others with respect and love. We can hardly expect to go to God and say, “Hey, I know I’ve been treating everyone around me like scum, but I want you to treat me like your favorite child.” At the same time, I don’t think we have to be perfect. Everything we do for our children isn’t based on their angelic behavior! And verse eleven acknowledges God’s understanding of our human nature.
Finally, I think we must be careful what we ask for and have faith that God will give us only that which is good for us. I know, I know…verse seven says “Ask and it will be given to you.” However, I don’t think that implies we can just hand God our list. Again, think of your child. If your ten-year-old asks you for a car, he’s not going to get one he can drive! This verse needs to be considered within the context of the chapter and certainly the previous passages. Jesus has just called his disciples and given them the pattern for prayer. He’s given them advice about some of their most basic concerns-money, food, clothing, other people. He’s already told them “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (6:8). I think that our asking for something simply shows that we understand our relationship with God, we acknowledge His power over our lives, and we accept His wisdom rather than our own.
Ask implies that we need help.
Seek implies that we need to take action.
Knock implies that we know where to find help!