Often when folks read or reference the “…ask … seek … and knock…” text in the Bible, it is from Matthew 7. There is a parallel text in Luke’s gospel which is preceded by a parable. Notice:
And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?
I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Luke 11:5-10)
Help me, friend
We’re acquainted with verses 9-10 from Matthew’s account, but here, Jesus plays it out for His hearers with a story. A man knocked on his friend’s door at midnight, seeking his help. Another friend, a traveller, arrived unexpectedly, and the first man had nothing to feed his guest. There are few people I would feel comfortable contacting at midnight with a request. This attests to the familiarity between these two: they are close friends, but, as close as they were—it was midnight! The request for bread was met with a blunt, “Go away, I’m already in bed!”
As Jesus tells the story, the needy friend doesn’t turn and walk away. He knocks again. “Friend, lend me three loaves…” He is persistent, and eventually, the would-be sleeper gets up, grabs the bread, and gives it to his friend. Why? His friend won’t stop knocking until he receives the bread.
What is the point?
God wants us to ask, seek, and knock. He wants us to make our request known and be persistent in our prayers. The point is not that God find our requests troublesome, nor that He does not desire to bless us with what we need. These are the traits of a man in such a scenario. However, the Lord wants us to persevere, to ask and ask again.
It is not that He cannot or does not want to answer our prayers, but He knows what is best and when is best. It may be that God answers our prayer, not when we begin to ask or anticipated His help, but when the situation most calls for His intervention. But what if we are no longer praying at that point? What if we stopped asking, stopped seeking, and stopped knocking? Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer.
Notice Jesus’ words following the ask … seek … and knock text:
If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:11-13)
A physical & spiritual truth
The friend at midnight will rise and give his brother what he needs. Every father who loves their children will give good and appropriate gifts to their children. How much more will God? Matthew’s gospel cites two of the three examples (bread/stones, fish/serpent), and seems to apply the thought to physical good things from the Lord (Matthew 7:11). In Luke’s gospel, the application is to the spiritul—”…how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
Physical blessings are wonderful, and we ought to glorify God for every good and perfect gift He supplies in this realm, but the spiritual gifts available to God’s people are far greater. He has sealed His people with the Spirit, who is the guarantee of our hope (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).
James 1:4-8 speaks about our requests of God. We need to ask in faith, believing that God will answer our requests. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” We need to ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15) and not out of self-service or self-indulgence.
Friend, may we learn to ask, seek, and knock.