In Matthew 7 Jesus again speaks on the subject of prayer. Where as before he gave a model prayer, here he tells us not only that we should be praying, but what kind of God it is to whom we are praying. This is actually very important as it impacts what we pray, how we pray, and when we pray. If we thought we were praying only to some vindictive God, we may be too formal in our approach, or if God was as fickle and prone to whims as people are, we may be reluctant to pray at all. But instead, Jesus assures us that God is like a good father who only gives his children good gifts.
What a blessing and reassurance this is to know that when we pray to God, he not only hears us, but responds with what is in our best interest and for our ultimate good. Now we may not see that in the moment, for just like children when they don’t have their way, we are apt to misjudge our Father when he doesn’t give us what we want either. Sadly this passage has to often been misinterpreted to mean that, “If we have enough faith and if we ask God for something, whatever it is, he will grant that request.” This reduces God to little more than a cosmic Santa Claus or Aladdin’s genie and would seem to grant us some level of power and control over God and what He does. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus’ injunction upon us to ask, seek, and knock has to do more with persistence than anything. We are to be continually asking, continually seeking, continually knocking. We can maintain this persistence because we know that God not only hears us, but he will respond, and just like a good earthly father, when he does, it will be for our benefit. Now all this about asking, seeking, knocking can seem a bit abstract, so let’s provide a concrete example of what we are talking about. On that night Jesus was arrested, after the “Last Supper,” he went out to the garden to pray. He was seeking the Father because he had something to ask. For the next three hours or so, Jesus poured himself out asking, seeking, and knocking on the doors of heaven (more like pounding) with one request. He did not want to be crucified. He didn’t want to have to deal with the pain, the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulder, and that momentary “separation” from God when the Father would not be able to look upon him because of the sin. This moment was perhaps Jesus at his most human. I encourage you to read the account of this scene and see how it unfolded. In the end, Jesus was essentially told No. After all the asking, seeking, and knocking Jesus request was denied. Why? Because for Jesus the cross, while excruciating beyond belief, was ultimately the best way and really, the only way for God’s will to be done. This Jesus accepted, and aren’t we glad he did.
I know this is an exceedingly difficult time for so many in the world, so I encourage all of you to ask for help and guidance from the Father. Seek his face and seek out his word, spending time in the scriptures and studying that you may learn and grow; and when you find a door seemingly closed to the Father, knock upon it. It may be awhile before you get a response and you may not get the answer you “wanted,” but rest assured that your Father will only give you what is best.