Suggested Reading: Matthew 7:7-12
Jesus extends an open invitation: “Ask and it will be given to you.” Before this, however, He also said that God knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8) and according to what our Lord said through Isaiah, there will be times when God will answer even before we ask (Isaiah 65:24). We may only have a sigh in our heart, which we have not yet voiced in prayer, and the Lord will answer that sigh. Many of His children have experienced His answering before they asked. Why then do we need to ask if God knows what we need before we pray? I believe we are invited to pray not because God is in need of our prayers, but because we are in need of constant communication with our God and Savior. Many can testify how burdens are lifted during prayer, and how, even before the answer has arrived, a peace that transcends all understanding has filled their hearts.
I see Jesus’ invitation to ask with these facts in mind. He extends a very wide invitation. He is making it clear to us that we need have no fear of asking from God. There are some who would like to promote the lie that certain things cannot be prayed for. But the Bible says, “Pray about everything, worry about nothing.” (Philippians 4:6) There is nothing too insignificant or too big that we cannot ask from God. Remember that God answers our prayers out of His glorious riches and not out of our limited resources. In Hebrews 4:14-16, there is another invitation which tells us to come boldly before God’s throne and ask “with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find help in our time of need.” There the author makes it clear that when we come before God in prayer, we don’t have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet was without sin. He is the perfect High Priest, interceding on our behalf. We pray to a God who has tasted both the pain and joy of humanity. He is not far-off. He is as close to us as the words on our tongue. All we need to do is say the Name of Jesus and with that we enter the secret place of the Most High in prayer. Prayer is not confined to a certain building or architectural structure. Jesus told the woman at the well of Jacob that it is no longer important where we worship God, but that it is important to worship Him in spirit and in truth. That is all God is asking of us –that we call on Him in truth and in spirit. He looks for a sincere heart full of assurance of faith, not at our geographical location.
There are many places in the Bible where we are invited to come freely before God’s throne in prayer. God wants to make sure we understand that because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and our faith in Him, there is nothing that can keep us from His presence any longer. The curtain was torn in two for good reason. There is no more separation between God and those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father except by me,” said Jesus. Therefore, those who are on the Way come to the Father. That’s where we are –close to our God; reconciled to Him by the blood of the Lamb. Even if our prayers are but a whisper at times, He hears them all the same. Focusing on our weaknesses may keep us from coming to Him with the confidence that a child approaches a loving father. But that is precisely the privilege we have as His children: If our weaknesses prevented us from coming to Him in prayer, who would be able to pray? Now, because of the blood of Christ, we may come even while we are imperfect. God looks at us through the perfection of Jesus and sees us as He sees His Son.
In Ephesians 1:4, Paul makes it clear that God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. Yet, when we look at ourselves, we know we are not holy and blameless. But it is because of those words “In Christ” that we are seen this way in God’s sight. He chose us “in Christ” which means we are covered by the perfection of our Lord when we come before Him. When we pray in the Name of Jesus, it is not just a little rhyme tucked onto the end of our prayers. It means we are praying in Him and that our prayer has at its foundation the promotion of Christ and His kingdom.
Here in this text it is also clear that Jesus is teaching us to have faith in the character of God when we pray. He refers first to the character of an earthly father. Even though he may be a parent with many faults, he will not give his hungry child a stone when he asks for a piece of bread. He then placed the character of imperfect parents next the perfect parenthood of God our Father. If we, with all our errors, know better than to be so cruel towards our children, how much more will God not give us the best? Remember Paul’s words to the Romans: If He gave us His beloved Son to die on our behalf, what else is there that God will not give us? Who can be against us if God is for us? (Romans 8:31-32). We need have no fear at all when we pray to Him. He will never give us anything that will harm us. Even if we pray wrong and cannot manage to express our prayer in a way that perfectly reflects our desires, God knows the desires of our hearts. Besides all this, we have further assurance that we have the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray as we should. And when we cannot pray as we should, He intercedes on our behalf with groans that cannot be expressed in words (Romans 8:26-27). In prayer, God has assured that we are covered from all directions possible. We are free to pray to our Father.Therefore, this invitation is a glorious one: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” There are no limits in prayer. May we not fear coming before such a loving and generous God in prayer.
And may we apply the words with which Jesus ends this section on prayer: Treat others as we would like to be treated. Just as God treats us kindly and generously in prayer, giving us only the best, may we do the same to others who ask of us. May we not think it acceptable to give to someone our leftovers, simply because he is the one in need and we are the ones with the capacity to give. When someone asks of us, may we give in a way that we would like to receive. I am certain that we would like to receive only the best. In that case, this is the way we should be giving. Jesus said that if we live this way every day, we are fulfilling the whole law of God and His teachings through His prophets. In others words, all God’s instructions right throughout the Bible can be summed up in these words: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Can we, with a clear conscience, expect of God to give us only the very best while we give to others only the second-best?