“Encouragement to Child-Like Praying”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.7-11
Matthew 7. Yesterday morning I read this morning’s text to my children and I made them a promise. I promised to them I would give them licorice. I told them that Matthew 7:7-11 applies to my promise to them. Let’s read our text…
Matthew 7:7–11 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “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!
I read that in the morning and I explained it repeatedly to them, and then I said, “I promise I will give you licorice,” to which Pazli replied, “Double decker promise?” “Yes, sweetie, I double decker promise.”
They had blank stares on their face as to what I was trying to say…Ask and it will be given to you… now, I promise to give you licorice. “Do you understand?” “Yes, dad, got it.”
I then go downstairs to my office in the morning … I kept waiting… it drove me nuts, I very much wanted to give the licorice. I couldn’t wait! What were they doing? Doing their chores, and probably eating, drinking, being merry.
Just before lunch, Ruth told me that Hudson said to the family when I was in my office, “we will see how good of a dad he is. He promised to give us licorice.” Ruth then explains to them that they need to ask.
So I come upstairs for lunch and they tell me what to do, “Give us licorice.” But Pazli was the first to actually ask.
And so after lunch, I grab the licorice and said, “when you are ready, come downstairs to my office.” I then waited my office for them to seek and knock at my office door. Finally they come seeking the licorice and they knocked super loudly, I told them to come in, they opened the door and asked calmly and trustingly, I gave them each a piece of licorice. And then my thinker Hudson says, “You should have opened the door for us when we knocked, because that’s what Jesus said, ‘it will be opened. Jesus opens the door.'” My little exegete.
Now, they could have refused to come and ask, seek, and knock on my door. Why would they do that? Too busy? Better things to do…maybe they don’t trust me, don’t think I’m good?
For unbelieving reasons, selfish reasons, and proud reasons, lost people simply don’t come and ask Jesus! People listening to Jesus that day on the hillside need to be encouraged to: Just ask! And people reading Jesus’ Sermon today need to be encouraged to: Just ask!
And so our subject this morning is prayer and how Jesus encourages people to pray. Jesus encourages child-like praying.
The Nature of Prayer
Prayer is an interesting doctrine. In some passages, the promises are qualified. “If you do not regard sin in your heart” you will receive. “If you do not doubt,” that is if you trust in him and don’t live like the world, “you will receive.”
In this passage however, you have a blanket promise with no qualification. “Ask, and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” No qualification at all; a blanket promise. What’s going on here, it sounds like I can ask for a million dollars and get it! No, actually…He is not encouraging us to treat our Father in heaven as a spiritual slot machine.
Just put in the prayers, and out comes all you desire. No, God is not a genie in a genie lamp, “Your wish is my command.”
And so this is not talking about what a large percentage of those who claim the name of Christ believe, the name it and claim it. Just speak out what you want, and God gives it to you.
But as well, this is not talking about asking for material things at all. This passage does not apply to every single prayer request that you have ever made.
And we know that because we have a guaranteed answer of “yes.” Ask and you will receive. Only certain things are guaranteed with a “yes.”
And that’s what is in …. His …. word.
And the context further narrows what we are to ask for. So for what is Jesus encouraging us to pray? Well, what things are a guarantee when you ask, seek, knock for them?
What Jesus is encouraging us to pray for?
First, think of the context. Jesus is preaching to the crowds and to his disciples Matthew 5:1. The crowds are mentioned at the end of the sermon in Matthew 7:28. So, clearly He is speaking to lost people.
So whatever Jesus is talking about has to be a guarantee when lost people ask, seek, and knock for it.
We also know these people that Jesus has in mind are lost because in verse 11 he calls them “evil.” Granted, Christians still sin, but as my little exegete rightly pointed out yesterday morning in a 9 year old sort of way, Christians aren’t described with this word. Christians are not described as being evil!
There are evil spirits in the Bible, evil people who hit you, there are evil trees that produce evil fruit, the Pharisees are called evil and a “brood of vipers.” An evil generation craves for a sign and Satan is called “evil.” Clearly, Jesus has in mind those people who are lost when He says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts.”
And as we noted at the very beginning of this series, the sermon on the Mount is evangelistic. Jesus starts out with the description of those people who are in the kingdom of heaven. They are poor in spirit, they mourn over their sin, they are blessed… Jesus is trying to help people see who is saved and who isn’t.
And Jesus tells these people in Matthew 5:20 that they have to have a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of a Pharisee. And that seems impossible to them! Where is that going to come from?
And Jesus tells them not to be angry, not to look with lust, that almost all divorces are adultery, don’t resist evil people, love your enemies, in a word, be perfect like your Father in heaven is perfect. Oh is that all?
How am I supposed to live up to this… “Ask.” But I can’t do it! “Seek.” I still feel like giving up… “knock.” The Father knows how to give good things! And to the disciple, he can feel miserable. “I fail constantly.” Ask, seek, knock!
So, Jesus is encouraging us to pray to pray for salvation and sanctification. First, He encourages people to pray by His command.
He encourages us to pray by His command: You must ask, seek, knock (vv.7-8)
Verse 7, ask, seek, knock. Those are not suggestions, those are commands. You must ask, seek, and knock for salvation.
Jesus is taking the initiative when it comes to prayer. How do you even know to pray? You know to pray because Jesus commands it. Prayer is not forcing yourself into God’s presence, as the pagans believe. Instead, you simply receive his glorious invitation as if the King is requesting you in his presence.
And He wants you to “ask.” To ask isn’t complicated. It has the imagery of someone who is in need and can’t do it themselves. In our house, it’s very simple. “You want something, you….” And they all know the answer to that. No grumbling, simply come to me trusting I give good gifts and that I love and care for you, and then ask.
It’s like that story in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with this mysterious person whom we later find out is God. And this mysterious person says, “let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
And the Lord blesses him there. And from then on Jacob walked with a limp. Wrestle with God as it were and Ask! Know your sin, plead for salvation, ask for growth in Christ.
It’s like the story of the Canaanite woman who came to the Lord saying, “have mercy on me Lord son of David my daughter is cruelly demon possessed.” But Jesus does not answer her. The disciples want her gone, Jesus says that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel… But she comes again and was bowing before Jesus saying, “Lord, help me!”
And Jesus says, “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs, the puppies, the house pets.”
With marvelously wise faith she responds, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
Ask! She wasn’t content with just a single sentence. Jesus knew how to respond to her, He wanted her to ask, to seek, to knock.
But to ask requires humility, doesn’t it? Who likes to ask for help? It is humbling to know that we aren’t self-sufficient. We can’t pull ourselves up by her bootstraps. We need the help of others and we need the help of the Lord.
Humble yourself and ask Him for help with salvation and with getting over sin habits!
“To seek” something has the idea that it has been lost or you don’t know where to find the answer.
As if says in Isaiah 55:6–7 6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Or as Jeremiah puts it…
Jeremiah 29:12–13 12 ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Seek Him with your whole being! And more in keeping with what Jesus just said, look up just a few verses earlier to Matthew 6:33.
Matthew 6:33 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
You’re to seek to enter into His kingdom, and receive His righteousness by faith. Call upon Him while He is near!
Proverbs 2:1–5 1 My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, 2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God.
Seek the LORD and His kingdom like that!
But there is a reason why lost people are still lost! They do not care to search for the Light so as to be found. They are distracted by all the good things that are in this life.
And the same it is with Christians who have failed to seek the Lord. We get so distracted by many good things that the Lord has done for us, but yet there are sin issues in our life or our family’s life or we do not seek the spiritual well-being of other Christians. It’s work and play, work and play, work and play. But what about Jesus mission?
Get discipled, disciple others, and seek God’s kingdom in others also!
And thirdly we are to knock. This gives the imagery of somebody knocking on the door to gain admission into a home. The door is closed and he cannot open it.
This reminds me of the gate just a verses down in Matthew 7:13, and knocking on that small gate to enter into eternal life. Matthew 7:13–14 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
ILL: You may be aware that my family and I are reading through Pilgrims progress together, slowly. The beginning of that allegory of the Christian life that John Bunyan wrote in the 1600s, a man named evangelist comes and points Christian to that small gate that leads to eternal life, called the wicket gate.
Evangelist says, “do you see that wicket gate?” “I do” says Christian. “Go directly up to it and when you see the gate it will be told you what you must do.” And John Bunyan says, “I saw in my dream that the man began to run. Now, he had not run far from his own daughter when his wife and children saw him, they began to cry after him to come back; but the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on crying, “Life! life! eternal life!” And he looked not behind him.
And when Christian finally got up to the gate after going through many trials, over the gate was written, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
He knocked, therefore, more than once or twice, saying:
“May I now enter here? Will He within
Open to sorry me, though I have been
An undeserving rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing His lasting praise on high.”
And the man Goodwill opens and directs Christian to the cross and Christian’s burden of sin fell off his back. Christian’s wife Christiana follows him later on and she knocks and knocks again….and then she knock ever louder and it was finally opened!
To ask is to make simple request. To seek, is to be passionate about it, to knock takes persistence and determination.
ILL: Like the man Hopeful also in the Pilgrim’s Progress, if you don’t mind another story form that book. He lived in Vanity Fair, where is much empty behavior of the world there. And he was praying that the Lord Jesus Christ would be revealed in him. Christian asked him about this, and said, “Did you ever think of stopping praying?” Hopeful says, “yes, 200 hundred times.”
But he knocked and knocked was determined that Christ be revealed in him, hundreds of times. To ask is to make simple request. To seek, is to be passionate about it, to knock takes persistence and determination.
APP: Some must ask, some must ask and seek, and many all three. That takes time. You need to knock and ask that the Lord Jesus Christ be unveiled, revealed, discovered by you in your soul! It’s the same with your sin issues, “don’t stop going to Him to request that He keep you from it!”
The three descriptions make us think that at times for those who must be saved, there may be delay. Instead of being discouraged, we should persist until the will of God is accomplished.
He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
ILL: Like when Elijah prayed for rain. He knew it was the will of God that the famine be ended. But when he prayed for rain, he prayed seven times before God answered. And he was praying seven times… And each of those seven prayers was perfectly in line with the will of God.
But there was delay, even for a prophet. Sometimes, we must be persistent in our praying for salvation or for growth in godliness. Be persistent, don’t stop knocking.
What sin are you dealing with Christian? You know it is the will of God for Him to conquer that. Will you ask him? …. What about stepping it up a little bit and seeking His will in His word. … And then knock and then knock louder!
Now, he does not demand this of us because he does not hear. He desires this of us to know that we ourselves have sought the Lord and he heard us and delivered us out of all of our sin. Psalm 34:6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles.
He wants you to have a testimony like that. Will you knock at His door?
Question is, do we really want it? So often the case is no, we’d rather go about our merry way and pursue this world. Christian, long for God! You who may be outside of Christ, seek Him and knock, He promises to give eternal life. Knock!
The asking is the request, the seeking it is the diligence, and the knocking is the persistence. Only those people who are empty will ask. Only those people with desire will seek. And only those people who are determined will knock. All 3, Jesus commands.
TRANS: And to these folks salvation is a promise, guaranteed. Second, Jesus encourages us to pray by guaranteeing a “yes!”
He encourages us to pray by guaranteeing a positive answer (vv.7-8)
Ask, it will be given, seek you will find, knock, it will be opened.
You receive, find, it will be opened.
Repeated twice, once in verse 7 and once in verse 8… to emphasize the point: it’s a guarantee.
This is a promise from an eternal being, perfectly righteous and who cannot lie. He who gives the promise is He for whom nothing is too hard, who always does what is right,
1 Samuel 15:29 29 “the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
What promises has He not kept? What charge of wrongdoing against Him can you bring? He fulfilled so many promises in Christ, He promised that in Abraham, all the earth would be blessed. The faith of Abraham has traveled to Canada, hasn’t it?
ILL: John Broadus, preacher of the 19th century whom Spurgeon is said to have called “the greatest of living preachers,” said this, “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.”
You can work hard in this life and be poor in material things. Yet, one who truly asks, seeks, and knocks, a truly praying man, he will most certainly inherit nothing short of the whole earth! And the inheritance of Christ as his own. Christians are joint heirs with Christ! The most grand marvelous experiences and truths and glory that you could possibly imagine, will come about!
And well, actually, you cannot imagine! … “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” (1 Cor. 2:9 NAU). Ask, seek, knock! He guarantees He gives more licorice!
The glories to come for the redeemed are marvellous… Guaranteed!
TRANS: But a reason you don’t pray for salvation or to grow in Christ is because you don’t believe He’s good! That’s why Jesus has to convince us of the Father’s goodness. Jesus encourages us to pray, thirdly, by showing us the Father’s character.
He encourages us to pray by showing us the Father’s character (vv.9-11)
Matthew 7:9–11 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? [no man is like that!] 11 “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!
Imagine a father giving a stone when the child asked for a loaf of bread. Imagine a snake given, when a fish was requested.
Those kinds of dads make the news, because they are so rare! It is very tempting to picture your heavenly Father as you do your earthly father … but don’t! Your dad may have been a pushover or angry, impossible to please or even patient, humanly speaking. But no one compares to the goodness of our heavenly Father!
An earthly Father would not deceive his son by giving him a stone that looked like bread, when he asked for a loaf of bread. And a Jewish father also would not give a snake, perhaps something inedible according to Lev. 11:12 or perhaps the point is that some serpents looked like fish and so deception again is in view.
Either way, no man is like that.
Theology: Then Jesus says in verse 11, “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts…”
And that is a marvelous statement about the nature of human beings. “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts…”Lost, sinful, evil people know how to give good gifts. The ability of someone to give good things, however, does not cancel out his inherent sinfulness, wickedness, and separation from God.
Man is by nature evil and no good gift given can reverse that, except that good gift that is Jesus Christ Himself…dying to save, rising to give life.
And since that is the case that you are evil and yet can give good gifts, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him! Jesus is proving the goodness and holiness of God.
Since evil people can give good gifts, how much more will God give good gifts?
Human beings are evil. They give good gifts.
God is not evil. How much more will He give good gifts to those who ask him?
God is infinitely good, his goodness never fails…David can be so certain of God’s goodness that he says … Ps. 23:6…Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” His goodness is abundant, everlasting. His goodness is over all his works, he is good in that He is ready to forgive… He is so good, he teaches sinners in the way.
And he keeps his promises as Joshua says at the end of his long and eventful life, “not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed.”
God gives what is good because He is infinitely good. So why don’t lost people ask Him for salvation and why don’t Christians ask Him for sanctification, growing in Christ?
Lost people don’t ask Him for salvation because they don’t believe He is good!
There is unbelief! And the same Christians albeit to a lesser extent. They do not trust the Lord that he is good and that he will give good things.
In Luke, Jesus taught, “how much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” And that is salvation.
So often we think of our gracious father like this, “No way, He always gives me a snake.”
No He doesn’t! You who are anxious about your state before God, ask, seek, and knock…keep going and receive the Holy Spirit!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 7.7-11
Let us hear the conclusion then…
First, ask for His will. As you prepare to ask for salvation… Or you prepare your children or those with whom you meet about Christ, those you disciple, you must or those whom you disciple must ask for God’s will. You know God’s will is for salvation and for sanctification. He desires that people be saved from their sin and desires of his own people grow in Christ. You know this is his will!
Second, trust him. He who comes to God, Hebrews 11:6 says, he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.” Are you going to go to our heavenly father and ask for his will and then not believe that he wants to give it to you? Trust Him! He rewards!
Third, you must be willing to be persistent. This is where the knocking comes in. Keep going with it. Knock, knock, and knock again, 200 times if you must.
We have preached on a good number of sins during this series on the Sermon on the Mount, which is quickly coming to a close. Have you made any progress? What about your lust, your anger, critical spirit, do you still worry? Have you worked hard on any of them? No? And you still struggle with them?
You’re not to the point of desperation that is required before you can get over it.
Call upon Him for it, seek Him while He may be found.
661 All Your Anxiety. Are you anxious for your soul? Refrain, stanza 3.