GOOD THINGS COME TO US FROM OUR GOOD HEAVENLY FATHER IN RESPONSE TO PERSISTENT PRAYER
Why is our generation so weak in the area of prayer? This seems to be especially true among Christian men. Where are the prayer warriors of past ages? We must have an inflated opinion of what we can accomplish and a diminished expectation of how our heavenly Father longs to work and provide in response to our petitions. How could we invest our time more productively than in the area of prayer? This passage is a tremendous encouragement to keep persistent in our petitions.
D. A. Carson: Bonnard best exemplifies those who say there is no connection at all between vv.7–11 and the preceding verses. Yet there are, in fact, deep thematic connections. Schlatter perceives one of them when he remarks that Jesus, having told his disciples the difficulties, now exhorts them to prayer. Moreover, one of the most pervasive features of Jesus’ teaching on prayer is the assurance it will be heard. But such praying is not for selfish ends but always for the glory of God according to kingdom concerns. So here: the Sermon on the Mount lays down the righteousness, sincerity, humility, purity, and love expected of Jesus’ followers, and now it assures them such gifts are theirs if sought through prayer. . .
Far too often, Christians do not have the marks of richly textured discipleship because they do not ask, or they ask with selfish motives (Jas 4:2–3). But the best gifts, those advocated by the Sermon on the Mount, are available to “everyone” (v.8) who persistently asks, seeks, and knocks.
William Barclay: Everyone who prays is bound to want to know to what kind of God they are praying. So we want to know in what kind of atmosphere our prayers will be heard. Are we praying to a grudging God out of whom every gift has to be squeezed and coerced? Are we praying to a mocking God whose gifts may well be double-edged? Are we praying to a God whose heart is so kind that he is more ready to give than we are to ask?
Jesus came from a nation which loved prayer. The Jewish Rabbis said the loveliest things about prayer.
- “God is as near to his creatures as the ear to the mouth.”
- “Human beings can hardly hear two people talking at once, but God, if all the world calls to him at the one time, hears their cry.”
- “A man is annoyed by being worried by the requests of his friends, but with God, all the time a man puts his needs and requests before him, God loves him all the more.”
Jesus had been brought up to love prayer; and in this passage he gives us the Christian charter of prayer.
Grant Osborne: [This passage] pictures a dependent child asking “Father” for something needed; this fits the emphasis on Abba in the Lord’s Prayer (see on 6:9). A child expects a loving response and will get one. There was a Jewish tradition that celebrated men of God with “holy chutzbah, or boldness,” who had the power to receive great things from God. Jesus boldly promises this power to his disciples.
Donald Hagner: The passage readily divides into two major sections:
(1) three exhortations and complementary assertions of God’s faithfulness, vv 7–8;
(2) two examples of human faithfulness, followed by an a minori ad maius argument concerning the faithfulness of God to those who call upon him, vv 9–11.
Both sections involve considerable parallelism. Each of the three imperatives in v 7 is immediately followed by the result expressed in the future tense; v 8 reflects the same sequence of verbs (except for λαμβάνει, “receives,” which actively expresses the meaning of the passive δοθήσεται, “shall be given”). Furthermore, the rhetorical questions in vv 9 and 10 are almost exactly parallel in form. V 11 ends with a reference to the giving of what is asked for and thus forms an inclusio with the beginning of v 7.
I. (:7-8) THE GOLDEN HARVEST LAW OF PRAYER –
THE PROMISE THAT PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER WILL PREVAIL
A. (:7) The Unlimited Promise of the Harvest Law of Prayer – requires effort over time; requires faith
“as a man sows, so shall he also reap”
- Ask – and it shall be given to you
A Gift from God’s grace
Involves confessing bankruptcy and inadequacy to achieve on your own
- Seek – and you shall find
A Treasure of priceless worth (cf. the commercials)
Involves right priorities and diligently searching for it; mining it
- Knock – and it shall be opened to you
An Open Door to God’s blessings
Involves taking initiative in step of faith to proceed through open door
Daniel Doriani: In context, therefore, “Ask and it will be given to you” leads to the gospel. Advocates of prosperity theology think it leads to material blessing. If we ask with enough faith, they say, God will give us whatever we desire. But Jesus teaches us to seek our daily bread, not our daily caviar. Further, Jesus’ topic is discipleship, not wealth. When Jesus instructs his disciples to ask, seek, and knock, he means we should seek grace to cover our sin and strength to grow in holiness. God will grant that prayer. It is said, “One may be a truly industrious man, and yet poor in temporal things; but one cannot be a truly praying man, and yet poor in spiritual things.” . . .
But Jesus places the emphasis on the God who hears, not on the man or woman who asks. He says that God loves his children and knows how to give them good gifts. If we ask, the Father will give what he knows we need. He says this three ways, and each seems to build on the other:
- “Ask” is a general term. In context, it means “Ask God in prayer.”
- “Seek” implies that we may not know exactly what we are looking for or precisely how to pray (Rom. 8:26). A child asks a mother who is close at hand, but when the mother is not visible, the child seeks her. When we seek God, we will find him and discover what we should desire.
- “Knock” implies that we seek something that is inaccessible to us. We have tried and failed to attain something, to open a door. We cannot, but God can and will open it, if it is right for us.
J. Ligon Duncan: And I want you to notice, that though all of those three words are referring to the same thing, they are pressing towards the same end, they are said for the same purposes. You see an ascending order of emphasis in those prayers. There is an ascending force, or urgency, in those prayers. We are to ask, but more than that, we are to seek, but more than that, we are to knock. Each of those words, tell us something about prayer. They offer secrets to our own prayer life.
First of all, I want you to note the word ask. That is the word that is used for a beggar when he is asking for alms. It is also the word that is used for someone who is pleading a case before a judge. The Lord Jesus is telling us there to ask, to beg, to plead, this word refers to a petition that might be addressed from an inferior to a superior person in society. And it is designed to remind us of the humility that we ought to have and the consciousness of our own needs that we ought to have when we go to the Lord in prayer. . .
So Jesus says, we are to ask, we are to seek. There is to be a clear desire, not only should I our demeanor be humble, not only should we be conscious of our need, but there must be a single-minded focus of desire as we go to the Lord in prayer. . .
And we are to knock. This is the same word that we would use for pounding or banging on the door. We are to persevere in boldness, in the desire of obtaining favor. .
The whole thrust of Jesus’ word here is to remind us that when we need discernment and when we seek for spiritual blessings, if we will ask and we will seek and we will knock, the heavenly father is ready and waiting to pour out blessing on His children. In fact, He is more ready to give than we are to receive.
B. (:8) The Universal Scope of the Harvest Law of Prayer — No Exceptions
don’t doubt this – works every time
- For everyone who asks receives
- And he who seeks finds
- And to him who knocks it shall be opened
Daniel Doriani: In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord wants to give us his kingdom and his righteousness. The Bible, incidentally, never shows anyone praying for happiness, never tells us to pray for happiness, and never promises that we will be happy. It does promise that God will make us holy. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit” to those who ask. He grants what we need to grow in holiness, not necessarily to have a carefree life. Paul says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27).
II. (:9-11) THE GOLDEN PRINCIPLE OF FATHERHOOD –
THE ARGUMENT FROM THE LESSER TO THE GREATER — ANY FATHER LOVES TO PROVIDE GOOD GIFTS WHEN HIS CHILDREN ASK TO HAVE THEIR NEEDS MET
Richard Gardner: Jesus assures us that God responds to those who ask, search, or knock.To support this promise, he introduces the rhetorical questions found in verses 9-10. Here it is helpful to note that a loaf of bread in Jesus’ time often had the same round, flat shape that a stone had, and that there was an edible eel-like fish that resembled a snake. The obvious answer to the two questions is thus: No, no parent would mock the request of a needy child by giving the child a worthless gift that merely looks like the real thing. In verse 11, then, Jesus argues (as he has done previously) from the lesser to the greater: If you are capable of giving good gifts to children in spite of your sinful tendencies, how much more will the One who is righteous in every way give good things to his children!
A. (:9-10) Two Examples of the Responsiveness of Any Earthly Father:
(despite being essentially evil with only limited resources)
- (:9) Loaf vs. Stone
“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?”
Grant Osborne: The illustration chosen by Jesus concerns a terrible practical joke played by a parent on a child who sits down for lunch, expecting a loving parent to take care of them. The type of loaf baked would resemble the shape of a smooth round stone, so the child would end up hungrily grabbing a stone instead. Satan tempted Jesus to turn a stone into bread (4:3), and here the parent reverses that, substituting a stone for bread. The form of the question with the negative particle μή expects the answer, “Of course not!” No parent would ever do such a capricious and cruel thing.
- (:10) Fish vs. Snake
“Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?”
(cf. how Christ demonstrated in His miracles His ability to multiply the loaves and fishes and supply any need imaginable)
Fathers love to respond to the requests of their children and perform the function of Provider.
Grant Osborne: The second illustration is an even more horrible joke, for while a stone is a silly thing, a snake is actually dangerous. This was probably an eel-like fish, which resembles a snake. So as the child went to bite down on the fish, he or she was bitten in turn by the snake (or if it is assumed the snake is dead, that the child is revolted, so Nolland). Again, no parent would be so cruel. Luke 11:12 adds an even worse example, a scorpion substituted for an egg (a scorpion rolled up resembles an egg).
B. (:11) Making the Argument: Greater Responsiveness and Generosity of Our Heavenly Father
(supremely Good with unlimited resources)
- From the Lesser
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children”
D. A. Carson: People are evil; they are self-centered, not God-centered. This taints all they do. Nevertheless, they can give good gifts to their children. How much more, then, will the heavenly Father, who is pure goodness without alloy, give good gifts to those who ask?
- To the Greater
“how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?”
D. A. Carson: What is fundamentally at stake is a person’s picture of God. God must not be thought of as a reluctant stranger who can be cajoled or bullied into bestowing his gifts (6:7–8), as a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks he plays (7:9–10), or even as an indulgent grandfather who provides everything requested of him. He is the heavenly Father, the God of the kingdom, who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer.
Donald Hagner: The three imperatives in v 7 and three participles in v 8 refer to the same activity. No object is specified. One is not told what to request, what to seek, or that for which one knocks. The invitation is apparently as broad as the questions of vv 9–10 imply and the object thus as general as the ἀγαθά, “good things,” of v 11. These “good things” can be thought of as the eschatological blessings that accompany the presence of the kingdom (cf. Luke’s “Holy Spirit”), so that the work of the disciples in proclaiming the kingdom is primarily in view, or alternatively the more ordinary and ongoing needs of the disciples (cf. 6:32–33). Less likely is the suggestion (e.g., Carson) that the qualities of character and life demanded by the sermon (i.e., righteousness, humility, purity, love) are intended.