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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Devotion is expressed through our trust in the benevolent nature of God, that He is a Father who delights to bless His children. Do you believe this? Do you truly believe this? Then let the truth evoke from within your spirit the logical response to come regularly to the Father to receive from Him what you need.
Jacob in the Old Testament wrestled one night with an angel (Genesis 32:22-32, Hosea 12:4-5). This is not the normal human experience, for we have each wrestled with more devils in our sleep than angels. Fears of failures past rob many of sleep, as do worries over what is ahead, if we do not get the promotion, if we get sick, or if we lose our job, or whatever other worst-case scenario we can conjure up in our imaginations. Wrestling with an angel was not a mere euphemism but a real experience, and such a thing can only happen by a visitation of God. The pagan world still had its impression on Jacob’s thinking for he was fighting the angel to receive a blessing – the realization of God’s pre-disposition to bless was not yet grasped by him. But, what kind of person can sit idly by when dealing with another personality, even the King of Kings. Our natures demand some sort of interaction, some sort of response and engagement, or else the experience will be meaningless. Our will must not just be only put aside, but it must be melded into the will of God.
As Jacob wrestled the issues of his soul began to emerge. On a night his soul was already in turmoil, thinking of the coming meeting with his brother Esau whom he had robbed of his inheritance, having escaped from his uncle Laban’s abusive treatment he had endured for years, with all that was precious to him on earth – his wives, family and possessions – he sought time to be alone. Whether he expected it or wished for it or not, God showed up into his depressive aloneness. An angel was sent in the form of a man and Jacob wrestled with him, as he had wrestled with everyone else in his life. How often have we done the same, seeking to get our way rather than let God perform His will? But trust is not established on other terms than letting God deal with the issues of our souls, and such things are not explored without pain and struggle.
The picture of the cross was not of a man peacefully succumbing to his death, but of someone writhing in agony, and for anyone who intend to take up his cross and follow after Christ there will be some writhing in the soul. “No, God!” we will utter, “Don’t touch that part of my life!” And whatever it is that is important to us we will weep to hold on to it, “Not my money,” the least of our worries really, for next we will cry, “Not my health,” and then, “Not my marriage,” and then, “Not my child!” In part God is touching not the thing itself but the fear of loss, but such things cannot be truly dealt with in theory, and only in the agonizing moment when fears overwhelm us and we face the real possibility of losing this thing or this person precious to us do we really wrestle with God.
On our knees early in the morning, as a disciple of Christ we may sincerely pray, as best we can at that moment, “Lord, this day I die to self and live to You.” This is the best way to start the day, or to continue it in thought or to end it in the evening. Yet, if our bellies are full, if our lives are comfortable, if our family is all right, if nothing is threatened, such a prayer has a sense of unreality to it. Then, suddenly through that day, something precious to us in placed in jeopardy – perhaps an unforeseen financial catastrophe looms, or we are unjustly accused of some terrible crime, or, much worse, our child is suddenly thrown into a terrible illness – and then we wrestle in our souls with the emotional pain of loss. Now, in such a state of mind, we pray again, “Lord, this day I die to self and live to You,” but now the words have some specific pain attached to them, a meaning that they held only in theory previously. We will struggle within and it may be some time before we can say with complete sincerity, “I submit this circumstance into your hands, and if even now You would receive glory through this loss, then so be it.”
This is the point where we must realize that we are in such moments wrestling with angels and not with devils. These are the circumstances that the words of the Father’s love and affection, to give us bread not stones, fish not scorpions, are experienced deeply in the heart. The imagery is brilliant, for often life seems “stone-like” in its hardness, or it may sting like a scorpion. But can we see such things as the bread and fish they can be in the hands of God? As Jacob experienced the next day, the only way through our fears is to face them, to correct what mistakes we can, to deal with the issues we must confront, to ask of God for all that we know to pray at that moment, and to walk forward confidently, with faith in the heavenly Father. The issue for our souls is simply this: Can we see in such circumstances that, because of God, they have within them the potential of turning into a greater blessing than we could envision?
In these words of Christ is revealed the miracle of asking. The verb is continuous action, not a onetime request but a constant asking from the Father according to our needs. It comes from the heart of the believer who is confident in the goodness of God. God delights in giving good gifts to His children, and not all the blessings of God are gained by enduring difficulties. God’s grace is also experienced in the sunshine of happy times. We can bring to the Father our requests and our needs daily, and continue to do so. Prayer has a serendipitous nature about it, that what we request of the Father may be, and quite often is, less than He grants. As Paul wrote, “To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
In these words is revealed the miracle of finding. The verb is continuous action here as well and indicates a deeper level of prayer: seeking is more than asking. Asking comes first, and we do not need to get our prayer theology perfected before we go to God – if that were the case then none of us could pray! “We do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26), wrote Paul. But asking leads to seeking, to not merely come to God with our perceived needs, but to come seeking His wisdom and His perspective, as well as His strength and power. Some writers use the phrase “Prevailing Prayer” and pray that prevails should not deem to do so over the will of God. Prayer prevails because God prevails in our hearts.
Jesus likened the preaching of the word to planting seeds, bits of truth that would grow within hearts to produce a harvest of righteousness. “To ask” puts the emphasis on getting what we want. “To seek” places the emphasis on finding in our asking a treasure that we had not expected and then to seek after that treasure. The psalmist wrote,
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
”Where is your God?”
But the good news is that when we seek for the Lord we shall find Him. It is only God who can initiate this hunger in our hearts for Him, and He does not play games with us. He is not toying with our affections, but intends to be found. Yet there seems to be some benefit to allow our thirst for Him to build up first, otherwise we would not appreciate His presence. If a moment seems so dry that we cannot see God, it will pass soon enough, for God has promised already, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
In these words is revealed the miracle of open doors. The words “Keep on knocking” would not have made sense in Abraham’s day, when they lived in tents, but in Jesus’ day the people lived in houses, homes that were closed to outsiders, where doors were shut and locked. So by then the custom that has encircled the globe was already born, simply knock on the door. As continual asking leads to seeking, so continual seeking leads to knocking, and knocking becomes continuous not because we think that we must rouse God from His sleep, or that He does not wish to be bothered with our request, but because we have such confidence in just the opposite. That God is like a friend who never feels put out or put upon at our request. Often in our hearts we feel that the door to heaven is closed, that knocking would do not good, but the person growing in faith dares to believe differently. God is right there, at the door, ready to answer, ready to respond, ready to grant the request, give the deeper understanding, and open doors of opportunity.
Lord, give us the grace to see You as You are, a faithful God, a loyal Friend, a dependable Savior, and a loving Lord. Forgive us when we tire of prayer, when we leave you out of our problems on earth, for there is no problem on earth that does not also touch heaven. Grant our requests according to Your will. Lead us in the deepest recesses of our hearts to seek Your will. Open doors for us – doors of fellowship with You, doors of service to Your name, doors of ministry to others. Amen.