In these verses Jesus outlines three important principles regarding prayer. First, the principle of persistence. Verse 7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The verbs “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” are in the present tense and may be translated: “Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and it will be opened to you.” Prayer must be persistent and persevering.
Second, the principle of faith. Verse 8: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” The very practice of prayer implies a measure of faith: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6b). Jesus promises that everyone who has the faith to ask, seek, and knock, will receive, find, and have the door opened to them! “You do not have,” writes James, “because you do not ask” (James 4:2b).
Finally, the principle of God’s goodness. Verses 9-11: “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!”
Jesus illustrates the goodness of God in answer to prayer. God answers every prayer. Sometimes the answer is “Yes.” Sometimes it’s “No.” And many times, it’s “Wait.” Of course, like a child, we foolishly believe that God hasn’t answered our prayer unless the answer is “Yes!” However, just as a father would never give his son or daughter a stone if they’re in need of bread, or a snake in place of fish, so likewise, God the Father doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but what He knows we really need.
Aren’t you glad that God hasn’t said “Yes” to every prayed you’ve ever prayed? As I reflect back, there were times when I asked for “stones,” but God gave me “bread” instead. There were also times when I ordered “snakes” but I’m glad He gave me the “fish” anyway.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above,” writes James, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
(Jessie J. Charpentier Sr. is pastor of Jenkins Memorial Baptist Church in St. Martinville.)