I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Praying With Confidence to Your Heavenly Father
Tim Hansel, in his book entitled Holy Sweat, gave this beautiful illustration about God as our Father. He writes:
One day, while my son Zac and I were out in the country, climbing around in some cliffs, I heard a voice from above me yell, "Hey Dad! Catch me!" I turned around to see Zac joyfully jumping off a rock straight at me. He had jumped and then yelled "Hey Dad!" I became an instant circus act, catching him. We both fell to the ground. For a moment after I caught him I could hardly talk. When I found my voice again I gasped in exasperation: "Zac! Can you give me one good reason why you did that???"
He responded with remarkable calmness: "Sure...because you're my Dad." His whole assurance was based in the fact that his father was trustworthy. He could live life to the hilt because I could be trusted. Isn't this even more true for a Christian?
That is the idea that Jesus was conveying in His now famous Sermon on the Mount when He tells his disciples that God is their Heavenly Father. He wants His followers to have the assurance to pray to Him and trust Him like a child would do a good trustworthy earthly father.
Although the Old Testament at times referred to God as Israel's Father and they His Sons because of their covenant relationship with Him, it was Jesus who really emphasized the fact that His followers should call God by this intimate title.
We take it for granted today so much that many seem to think that God is their Father even if they don't acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior. The truth is that only those who have come to Jesus Christ by faith are truly children of the living God, though He is the creator of all.
It was the Apostle John who said in his writings:
"Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the Sons of God. And that is what we are... (I John 3:1).
Jesus Himself had a special relationship with the Father. While He was on earth, he was quite clear about this. For instance Jesus told His followers:
“He who has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9).
And the Lord also said:
“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
And we know from such passages as John 1:1-14 that the Son Himself was and is God in the flesh.
Many people might be surprised today to discover that the Jews of Jesus’s day, and even his own disciples, were puzzled by his teaching about the Fatherhood of God. But Jesus wanted to make it clear that we can share a special bond with God by faith in Christ. We do not become what He is in the sense that we will never be God. What this concept of God as Father does teach us is that because of the redemption brought about by Jesus' death, burial and resurrection we now have a special place as part of the family of the living God. The Apostle Paul even goes so far in Romans 8:16,17 as to say that:
"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
In the text that we are studying today, Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus is doing some teaching on prayer. Specifically, prayer to your heavenly Father for the needs that you have. He had already, earlier in the sermon, given a general pattern for prayer to His disciples in Matthew 6:5-15. This earlier section has become known as the Lord's Prayer.
However, now, Jesus is assuring his disciples that the One whom they should address as Father cares for them and will hear and answer the prayers of His children.
Let us take a closer look at this passage and see what we may glean from its wisdom. However, first we have to clear up what this passage isn't saying to the believer, either in Jesus' day or in ours.
I. A Misused Passage
We must begin by clearing up the misuse of this passage of Scripture. There are those who use this and similar passages of Jesus to say that they can ask God for anything that they want and if they have enough faith they will receive it. For example, if you want a mansion on a hilltop and a Lamborghini car then if you have faith enough and give enough to the already rich preacher, then you will get what you want in life. God is seen as a kind of vending machine or a genie.
That is a bunch of baloney! It is interesting that neither Jesus nor his 12 apostles were ever rich and most died martyrs' deaths. Also, most of Jesus' followers throughout history have not been what the world would consider rich and famous. But you will never hear that from a prosperity preacher today. They are too busy teaching you to name it and claim it!
We must realize that this kind of thinking flies directly in the face of Jesus' earlier teaching about not laying up for yourself treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven (6:19-24).
And it flies in the face of Paul's teaching in I Corinthians 1 where he tells us:
"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
Prosperity preaching spits in the face of the thousands of martyrs and persecuted Christians that are on this earth today who will never be able to live in a free and prosperous country that allows it's preachers the freedom to twist the gospel to be more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing. This so-called health and wealth gospel takes the emphasis off the glory of God and places it on man creating his own idols of health, money and power.
So Jesus was not telling His followers to name it and claim it back 2000 years ago. And He isn't telling us that today either.
So just what is He saying here?
II. The Father is Generous With His Children's Needs (7-8)
We need look at this, and similar passages, in terms of how Jesus presents it. God is a generous and loving Father who genuinely loves and cares for his kids. Here is the whole context of Jesus' words to his disciples:
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or what if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"
The truth is that no good earthly father would allow his kids to have everything that they want no matter who they are. . A child often wants things that are bad for them. We baby-proof our homes when the child is young because there are things in the average household that will harm them like electric sockets and detergents that are toxic if swallowed.
And we don't give our kids unlimited amounts of candy and sweets throughout the day that will spoil their dinner or make them obese. As the kids grow up there can be even more dangerous things that they may want but aren't mature enough to have yet.
God is a good Father. He doesn't always give us all that we want. However, He doesn't fail to give us our needs that we ask for. It is in that sense that we are to:
"Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (7)
The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6,7 gives similar instructions for the believers when he tells the Philippian church:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
III. The Father Knows What is Best for His Children (9-11)
As we further look into this passage, we will see that the Father is not only generous with His children's needs, He genuinely knows what is best for them. Jesus uses the example of an earthly dad who, though he is evil or sinful, knows what to give or not give his child. Jesus puts it this way:
"Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (9-11).
Like an earthly father, God will not give to us what will harm us or that which won't be of any use for our lives. All His gifts are perfectly suited to meet whatever need we may have both now and in the future.
It is interesting that in the parallel passage to this one, found in Luke 11, we have Jesus actually giving an example of one of the good gifts that God the Father will give to those who ask Him. He states:
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."? (Luke 11:13).
In our dispensation of grace in which we are living today, that gift of the Holy Spirit not only has come, He is actually dwelling in us. We are called by Paul the temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). And we have access to His gifts and His control of our lives all the time if we but ask Him to lead us and don't allow sin to quench His power (I Thessalonians 5:19).
IV. The Father Gives Gifts In Jesus' Name (John 14:14)
There is another condition that Jesus' gives for his disciples asking for things besides giving to us our needs as gifts. That condition is not found in Matthew 7 but rather can be read in John 14:14. Here is what the website Gotquestions.org has to say about this passage. They say:
"We have another condition to the promise of “ask and receive” in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Here, Jesus does not promise His disciples anything and everything they want; rather, He instructs them to ask “in my name.” To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray on the basis of Jesus’ authority, but it also involves praying according to the will of God, for the will of God is what Jesus always did (John 6:38). This truth is stated explicitly in 1 John 5:14,
“If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Our requests must be congruent with the will of God."
Even Jesus, while praying before He was crucified, prayed this to the Father about what His wished to happen regarding what was about to take place. He asked God the Father:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
The Apostle Paul also acknowledged the will of God in the Christian's prayer life, going so far as to say that we don't always know how to pray correctly, which leads to the Holy Spirit's help with that task. He says:
" Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:26,27).
As we wrap up the thoughts on this section of Jesus' sermon, I am reminded of something that was said in Luther's Table Talks, a collection of sayings by Martin Luther that he spoke at his dinner table in his home. Here is the true story that was relayed:
"When Luther's puppy happened to be at the table, he looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes; he (Martin Luther) said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope."
We all need to come to the Father like this. Concentrating on Him and the good things that He wants to give us. Realizing that we have a generous Daddy who knows what we need. And He knows what is best for His children.
Also, we have to be careful to adjust our prayers by looking for the Holy Spirit's guidance so that we'll be open to the will of God in and for our lives. For it is those kinds of prayers and petitions that the Father longs for us to make. And it is also those that will be answered in the affirmative in God's perfect timing.
For we truly have a trustworthy Father to whom we can pray. He deserves our thanks, but greater still, He deserves our full allegiance.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley