Ask and you will receive – that was the theme of the OMF prayer meeting I led last week. I was really struck recently by the sheer simplicity of it. Ask and you will receive (Mat 7:7). Simple – just ask! What a great promise!
So why don’t we ask more often? Why do we often labour on without asking for God’s help? Why do we often worry and stress about things when we could just ask for what we need?
I thought of a few possible reasons, questions we may have.
Is God able to give? When we articulate it, we know at once how ridiculous it is! The Almighty Creator who made the universe, of course He is able to give! Nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). No problem is too big for Him. In fact, if we could think of the biggest, most difficult prayer ever, God can do immeasurably more (Eph 3:20)!
Is God willing to give? Jesus told several parables teaching us to pray. He taught us the Lord’s prayer, and the other Lord’s prayer (Mat 9:38). God tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). He knows every detail of our lives, like the number of hairs on our heads. Of course He is willing. Why else would He command us to pray. He loves to hear His children ask. No problem is too small.
What if it’s a bad thing to pray for? The other day, as I was feeding my son his lunch, instead of giving him bread (which he loves!), I shoved a load of gravel in his mouth. Instead of salmon (which he also loves!), I gave him a snake I’d bought from the pet shop… I hope you realise that I didn’t do that! Its unthinkable, isn’t it?
9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt 7:9-11)
Jesus says, we human fathers, even though we are evil (!) know how to give good things to our children. How much more will our heavenly Father, who is good not evil (!), know how to give good gifts?! Note who He gives to. I would expect it to say “to His children”. But no, it says, “to those who ask Him”! We need to ask if we want to receive (James 4:2).
What if this prayer is not His will? God is working in us to change our wills to fit with His will (Philp 2:12-13).
But there are times when we don’t receive what we ask for, aren’t there? God won’t give us something that’s bad for us. He knows how to give good things. And everything He does is for our good, if we love Him (Rom 8:28). But perhaps we don’t receive because we ask with the wrong motives (James 4:3).
So what are the right motives? This ‘ask…seek…knock’ passage comes soon after the famous verse: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mat 6:33). If we are asking for the sake of His kingdom, that’s the right motive. If we are asking for our own sake, to spend what we get on sinful pleasures, that’s not the right motive.
I’m too busy. I think this is our most common excuse. There’s a book called “too busy not to pray” – that captures it, doesn’t it? I think it was John Wesley who used to get up extra early on the morning of a particularly busy day, because there were many more things to pray about that day.
I wonder if our tendency to be too busy reveals something of our hearts: I’m the saviour, if I don’t do it, people won’t be saved (actually, God is the Saviour); I’m great, look at all this stuff I can do by myself (actually, God is the Great One, without Him you are nothing); I’m strong, I can do all this without any help (actually, God is strong and through our weaknesses His power is shown)…
Why would God listen to me? This is one objection which is probably the last we think of, yet should be the first: Why should the Almighty Creator of the universe, listen to a weak creature? Why should the all-knowing, wisdom personified, listen to an ignorant fool? Why should the utterly pure holy one, listen to a filthy sinner like me?
It’s because of Jesus.
19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, … let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19,22)
14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, … Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4:14, 16)
Ask and you will receive. I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of excuses!