Matthew 7: 7-12
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
General Idea: Jesus shows us the virtue of perseverance and its application in prayer. Our motivation to persist in our service to God is the desire to draw near to Him for what He has done for us. Consider the amount of time the Apostles, and even Jesus (when He walked this Earth) spent in prayer. Now, consider how much more we need to pray, then compare it with how much time you actually spend in prayer. The Christian life does not run on autopilot. It needs persistence--constant navigational resetting, and hands-on steering. In order to line up our lives with His plan and Will, we have to be willing and able to surrender to His concerns. We do this through knowing His Word and praying.
Prayer is not a vending machine where we can pick what we want, and what we want to do. Rather, it is aligning our mindset with His. This passage has led many people to think that God is a divine bellhop who will give us what we seek, what we want if we just have enough faith. But, that is plainly not the message this passage gives to us. Yes, we are to seek, we are to knock, we are to be persistent with our prayers. But, we are not to seek just to help our selfish concerns. Prayer is seeking the Son-ship/Lord-ship of Christ because He is in control, not just because of a friendship with Him. Prayer is the instrument for seeking how to get His Will done, not our will.
1. Ask and it will be given--This is a very bold and direct statement, which is rare, if not non-existent in other languages and cultures of the time, including Hebrew law and writings. This passage is saying that we have the right, and ability (by what Christ has done on the cross) to go directly to God in prayer. There is no need for intermediaries or special priests or rituals.
a. There is a promise in this passage that gives us the confidence that He hears our prayers and even answers them. But, we are not to assume that God answers our whims and desires. We are not the focus of the prayer, nor are we God. He, God and Lord of the universe, is sovereign, and His Will is to be sought, brought into our hearts and minds, and then put into practice.
b. We also have to have confidence that His answer is best! We often seek those things that are not beneficial or right for us because our view, understanding, and thinking do not include all of the information. We only see our temporary and immediate needs, whereas God sees it all--the outcome that we do not see.
i. His answers are conditioned upon our abiding in Him and His Will (John 15:7; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15)!
ii. How sad it is that so many Christians never enjoy God's favor, simply because they do not ask! Have you asked, sought, or knocked today?
c. In the Greek this passage is in the present tense, which implies "continuous action!" Persistence is a theme in much of Jesus' teaching that we are to take our faith to heart and practice it seriously (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-8)!
d. For us to really learn and apply the Bible, we have to learn to be persistent so we can receive His blessings, be a blessing to others, and hear His call (Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97-104)!
2. Being evil--this often refers to the universal, sinful nature that all of humanity shares, which was the prime reason Christ came to pay that debt of sin so we could go directly to Him in prayer. So we can seek….
a. As a Christian, saved by grace, our original sin has been covered (atonement means covering); however, we are still filled with sin. As we grow in Christ, we should have the inclination to sin less and be more devoted to His Will. But, we are still in sin.
b. Jesus is using a standard Jewish argument (gal-vahomer), where you start with a lesser statement, and if that is true, then the greater corresponding statement must be true too.
c. Fish and bread were the staples of food in the region that Jesus was preaching, both for the common person and the kings. The kings would have much more to feast on. Luke also adds, if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion.
d. Good gifts/things are the things that are important, that are essential in the practice of the faith. They include righteousness, sincerity, purity, wisdom, and humility. Without such characters as the proof test that Christ has saved us and the Holy Spirit is working in us (Luke 11:13 parallel that adds the Spirit), we would fail to follow His precepts and be of no good to those around us.
i. Seeking such good gifts is part of the process of building character, and what we are to seek. God's concern is our character and maturity. Nothing else is of paramount importance. That does not mean we do not ask Him to fulfill our needs and provide our comfort, but we are not to focus on them.
ii. The greatest gift we could ever receive, besides our salvation, is the Spirit!
iii. We are living in the Kingdom of God, as He is the King!
3. This passage is often referred to as the Golden rule. It has been said; he who has the gold makes the rules. And, if you consider that we own nothing, yet all of space, time, and eternity are His, then He has the gold and makes the rules. But golden rule means the most important rule, as this passage is about the treatment of others. It all comes down to how you want to be treated, then treating others in that way. Of course, for this to work, you have to have a self esteem that is rooted in Christ and the character traits as prescribed by His Word (Gal 5)
a. Do also to them--this was based on a common saying amongst many Jewish (Tobit & Hillel) thinkers as well as Greek philosophers that goes back to the most ancient of literature. The saying was a negative statement that said; Do not do to others what you do not want done to you. Jesus replaces the emphasis as a positive obligation, based on God's goodness.
b. We can see the universality of this teaching:
i. The Hindus teach; This is the sum of duty: do naught to others, which if done to thee would cause thee pain. (The Mahabharata).
ii. The Buddhists teach; Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. (Udana-Varga).
iii. The Muslim Koran teaches; No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Hadith).
iv. The Baha'i teaches; He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfill. (Certitude).
v. The Greek philosophers taught; Do not that to thy neighbor that thou wouldst not suffer from him (Pittacus of Lesbos, 650-570 BC) and Do not do unto others what angers you if done to you by others. (Isocrates, 436-338 BC).
vi. Confucius taught; What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others. (551-479 BC).
vii. Hebrew literature says; What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (The Talmud).
c. Jesus asks us to do something positively to others, while these other religions only prohibit you from doing something adversely to others!
i. Jesus: Do unto others what you want them to do to you!
ii. Others: Don't do to others what you don't want done to you!
iii. The difference is that the others only require us to not cause any harm to others. A Christian has a higher call and duty, as we are called to demonstrate kindness and the rest of the Fruits (Gal 5:22-23) to others.
d. Our God is willing and able to give! He wants to give every good and perfect gift to you! It is up to us to ask so we can receive it! But, remember, we are always to seek what is according to His Will and character as the prime prize!
i. Prayer is a relationship, to build, mold, and grow us deeper to His heart. It is not just an asking machine, even if you have right, pure motives, and spend your time on intercession for others, as we all should. Jesus is telling us to keep on asking (inquiry), seeking (finding it) and knocking (then it will be opened to you so you can find it) and it will be given to you. Asking, plus action, plus perseverance equals the quest for character and growth to be a more mature Christian; it leads us to go deeper in our relationship to Him and others, and be of more use to God and others.
ii. This one rule summarizes what the Law and the Prophets were all about in human relating, just as the commandment Love your neighbor as yourself summed up the Law (Matt. 5:43-48; Rom. 13:8-10).
e. This also applies to outreach and evangelism. Would you rather be told you are a sinner and will burn in Hell, or have someone befriend you and model Christ's character to you so you would want to become a Christian? Or, at the very least, have someone use loving and caring words, along with listening and positive, constructive encouragement when needed! One way works; the other does not (Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)!
f. If the world actually followed those other religious teachings, it would end wars, reconcile political problems, and all forms of conflicts, including personal contention, strife, selfishness, and greed! Imagine what would happen if everyone followed Jesus' teaching! What would it be like in your school, office, home, or other places?
This passage needs not to be memorized as much as it is needed to be functional! It calls for commitment, and is something to be accomplished! God desires that we be in close relationship to Him, not merely seeking what we can get. He will give us what we need, and much more! If you only seek what you think you want, you will never have a clue what maturity and surrender mean (Gal. 2:20-21).
Our motives, obedience, and persevering will be the key! Be in love with Him. Seek His presence, and be persistent in your prayers. If you fear you will ask Him for the wrong thing, remember, we all do that. As you draw closer to Him, you will learn the right things to ask. Prayer is persistence and learning!
1. If you could have whatever you wanted, and God gave it to you, what bearing, what impact would that have on your life and faith-or, would it be a hindrance?
2. Have you ever thought through your dreams and wishes to their logical conclusion and impact? If so, what would you think they would be like from God's perspective?
3. How much time do you spend in prayer? How much should you? What is in the way?
4. Have you considered the value of perseverance and its application to prayer?
5. Do you seek great things for yourself (Jer. 45:5)? How, and why would this be beneficial to the Christian faith, and how, and why would it distract us from God's Will?
6. What do you think Jesus stresses in this passage? How would you put it in your own words?
7. Why would some Christians think that prayer is like a vending machine or God like a bellhop, so we seek what we want, and what we want to do if we have enough faith? Why is that appealing to some people? How appealing is seeking His will? Which really requires more faith, to get what you want or to serve Him?
8. Prayer is getting our mindset aligned with His. What are some of the things that get you sidetracked from pursuing your faith more deeply though prayer?
9. Do you have the confidence that He hears your prayers and answers them? What is your focus in prayer?
10. Do you also have the confidence that His answers are best? If so, why do we experience stress and worry?
11. What are the conditions we must meet in order to have our prayers answered?
12. Read Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97-104. How does persistence have a significant bearing on receiving His blessings, being a blessing to others, and hearing His call? What about getting more out of the Word?
13. Do you feel confident that God has provided for you? How do you feel when you hear about Christians who do not have enough food, or even suffer and die for their faith? How does this passage deal with this?
14. What was your impression of all the similar statements from other religions compared to Jesus' statement? What can we gain by learning about other cultures and religions?
15. What are the Good gifts that you seek?
16. What is necessary for the Golden rule to work perfectly? What keeps society from practicing it? (Keep in mind, nearly all religions and philosophies have this in their teachings; I only listed some of the main ones!)
17. What would you want done to you?
18. Our God is willing and able to give! He wants to give to you every good and perfect gift! It is up to you to ask so you can receive it! What can you do to be better at asking?
19. How can this passage influence both your, and your church's outreach and evangelism programs?
20. This passage needs not to be memorized but rather committed too and accomplished! So what is a plan to get started on this?