Yesterday I heard Joe Gelacio give an excellent message on Matt 7:7-11.
While listening, I thought of several things to help me remember the point of the passage.
First, you can remember where the passage is by realizing that this is the first chapter 7 Seven Eleven verses in the NT (ask 7–711 versus call 911.) By the way, I showed this to Shawn, and he thinks this will only help math nerds remember the passage. Really? I like math. But this is an easy memory aid. Come on, Shawn!
Second, the Lord gives three commands: Ask, Seek, and Knock. If you ever have trouble remembering all three, just realize that if you know the first, you know all three. Ask is made up of three letters, each of which stands for one of the three commands: A = Ask. S = Seek. K = Knock.
Third, the word ask occurs in all five verses, that is, verses 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Clearly, the Lord is emphasizing the importance of asking. In fact, in both English and Greek, the first word in verse 7 is ask and the second to last word in verse 11 is also ask.
Fourth, the Lord compares a son asking his earthly father for a good gift and a believer asking his heavenly Father for a good gift. Even unbelieving earthly fathers will give their sons bread when they ask for it. Surely our loving heavenly Father will even more graciously give us what we need if we but ask Him. Of course, God does not promise to give us something that is contrary to His will (compare 1 John 5:14-15, “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him”). But if our prayers are those of one who loves God and wishes to please Him with our requests, then we can expect to receive our request (though persistence in prayer may be required: compare Luke 18:1-8).
Before I close, I have two ideas about why the Lord brought in seeking and knocking.
Option 1 is that asking, seeking, and knocking all refer to prayer, but that seeking and knocking are “prayer with a greater intensity” (Morris, Matthew, p. 170) or prayer with greater persistence (France, Matthew, p. 144).
Option 2 is that seeking and knocking are applications of asking. Watchman Nee comments, “Ask is without action and is therefore an expression of desire. Seek has action involved in it, yet it has not found the place. But knock has arrived at the place” (Matthew, p. 123).
Here are two examples of option 2.
Say a person lacks assurance of everlasting life. We know from Scripture that God wants people to have such assurance (e.g., 1 John 5:9-13). So, if someone lacking assurance asks God for it, he is on the right path. He might pray that prayer often. But if he does not gain assurance by simply asking, then he should put action to his prayer. How about looking for a solid Bible teaching church and asking the pastor for help? How about reading a chapter of the Bible daily? But you need to find the right pastor or the right book of the Bible. If you happened into a Catholic church, the priest would probably not give you good teaching on assurance. If you chose the Song of Solomon as the book of the Bible you wanted to read, you might find it helps your marriage, but you would not get any help on assurance. Once you find the right pastor or the right book (e.g., John’s Gospel), you will receive the truth that you need to gain assurance.
That was my experience, spread over four years.
Here is another example. You have a wife and two children. You were laid off work as a waiter in a fine restaurant and your unemployment benefits ended three months ago. You have three months of savings left. After that, you will not be able to make your mortgage payments. You know that it is God’s will that you provide for your family (1 Tim 5:8). You have been praying and asking God to give you a job. You put action to your prayers by doing job searches and submitting resumes. But none of the best restaurants within fifty miles are hiring. In fact, you cannot even find work in chain restaurants in your area, where you would make half as much. You decide to look outside your field. You take tests to learn what you are most suited to do. You discover you have aptitude for teaching, sales, and construction. As you search for jobs in those fields, you find doors opening. You get three good offers to choose from.
May we never forget that our heavenly Father loves us even more than our earthly fathers and that He delights in giving us good gifts. Prayer springs from understanding how much God loves us and wishes to bless us.