Ask, Seek and Knock (Matt. 7:6-12)

Jesus in this brief section returns to the topic of prayer. He has already given to his disciples the pattern prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer. We can deduce from the fact that he spoke again about prayer that he regarded it as an important activity for his disciples.

A question that arises is whether or not there are differences between what he said about the Lord’s Prayer and what he says here. Perhaps one is that the Lord’s Prayer guides us what to say in prayer and the verses here guide us regarding how we pray.

It is also the case that here Jesus indicates that not all prayer is the same. After all, there are obvious differences between asking, seeking and knocking in everyday life. Each of us may engage in them numerous times daily, but we would never describe them as the same activity.

Jesus here calls his disciples ‘evil’. What does he mean by that description? He does not mean that they are as bad as they could be. Rather he means that they are not good in the way that God is, perfectly good. His description highlights that we need grace, whether common or special, in order to live together. At the same time, his description is an encouragement because it means that only sinful people can pray (there is no other kind of believer in this life) and it is only sinful people who receive answers to prayer. Perhaps the disciples were thinking that Jesus, because he was different, always received answers to prayer. Whether they did or not, he points out that his followers also receive answers to prayer.

Obviously, this set of verses is not the only teaching in the Bible on prayer. We cannot use these verses by themselves and ignore what is said elsewhere. For example, we are told that we must pray according to God’s will, which is likely a reference to matters that he has revealed as suitable things to pray about. And we are also told in one of the psalms that if we regard sin in our hearts the Lord will not hear us. We can say that in order to pray Matthew 7:7-13 we also need to be submissive to God’s will and cleansed from sin.

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