“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV)
I am convinced that the Lord wants us to understand more about prayer, because communing with Him is one of His top priorities. That is how our relationship grows, by regularly connecting with Him through His Word, worship – and prayer. At any rate, I know that He wants to teach ME more about prayer, because He seems to have a lot to say. Lately, He has led me to revisit some very familiar scriptures – and I love it when this happens! His Word is alive, and we have yet to mine the depths of what He has to tell us.
Matthew 7:7 is a very familiar verse – and a foundational one that many Christians can recite by heart. In it, we are told to ASK – and keep on asking, to SEEK – and keep on seeking, and to KNOCK – and keep on knocking. This is really how it should be translated to capture the essence of the Greek present continuous tense. We don’t have such a thing in English, but the Amplified Bible makes sure we understand what’s involved…
“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 AMPC)
This is important to understand, because verse eight gives us incredible promises – IF – we put verse seven into practice! “For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8 AMPC)
From these verses, we can see that Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer. Some preachers tell us that we are to pray once and then praise the Lord for granting our request, lest we walk in unbelief. Surely, when we pray, we are to believe (Mark 11:22) – and no one wants to walk in unbelief. However, that isn’t what Jesus is telling us in these verses.
Even though our “Father knows the things [we] have need of before [we] ask Him” (Matthew 6:8b NKJV), He still wants us to ASK – and keep on asking! He wants us to come to Him for what we need and ask for what we want – for ourselves and others. Just because He knows our needs doesn’t mean that He’ll provide them automatically. Quite to the contrary, James 4:2b (NKJV) makes this very clear: “… you do not have because you do not ask.”
Jesus told His disciples that “If [we] ask anything in [His] name, [He] will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NKJV) He also told us that “If [we] abide in [Him], and [His] words abide in [us, we can] ask whatever [we] wish, and it will be done for [us]. By this [His] Father is glorified, that [we] bear much fruit and so prove to be [His] disciples.” (John 15:7-8 ESV) So, we’re to ASK and ASK well – living in right relationship with Him, abiding in the vine… It’s all about relationship – not a business transaction.
God, in His wisdom, has ordained prayer as the key means of communication with Him. We are to come to Him to ASK, because He is our source. He, and He alone, is the one we are to lean on and draw from and rely upon for everything. We can come to Him because He is our loving Father. We are always invited to pour out our heart before Him and to let Him know what we need. We are to come – continually – because He desires that kind of relationship with us. Of course, when we come, we do not only ASK, and it isn’t always about us and our needs, but that is certainly part of it.
So, continually go to Him and ASK in Jesus’ Name for what you need/want. Pour out your heart before the Lord and let Him in. He loves us, and if it is anywhere in His will, He will do it for us – IF we ASK and keep on ASKING! If it’s not His will, He will work inside of us to change us to want His will, “… Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because He is at work within us to will and to do His good pleasure!” (Philippians 2:12b-13a NKJV) That’s how the grace of God operates within us: It conform us to His image and aligns us with His purposes – but it’s not a one and done. We need to be in it for the long haul to reap the blessings He desires to bestow.
So, ASKING and persistence are ordained by God for our benefit and His glory. But… if that was all there is to it, why did He also tell us to SEEK – and even KNOCK? That’s because there is more to it! Each of these verbs illustrate different ways to relate to Him… ASKING is good and comes with assurances if we keep on asking, but it may not be enough for all situations. In some instances, you will need to SEEK and keep on seeking to find what you need or to become who you are meant to be. In other situations, you will need to KNOCK and keep on knocking for the door to open. Knowing which kind of prayer will it take to find God’s will and see His Kingdom come to earth is important. (Luke 11:1-2) After all, that is what we are to pray for, and Jesus told us to ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK – until it happens.
So, let’s take a look at some examples of SEEKING in the Scriptures… In the following passages, Jesus was speaking about finding something of value. When we lose or misplace something important, we tend to look for it – until we find it. Isn’t that what we do when we can’t find our car keys or our phone? Everything is put on hold, until we find them!
In Luke 15:8-10 (NKJV) Jesus tells a story about a woman who has lost one of her silver coins and tore the house apart to find it. She didn’t just ASK, using words; she had to get up and do something! SEEKING is much more active than ASKING – also much more effective if it’s something lost that you cannot find. This woman was highly motivated because the she needed the coin; it was valuable!
Of course, Jesus was using this as an example, because He “came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 NLV). Jesus was highly motivated! He didn’t just sit in heaven hoping something would happen. He came all the way to earth to die for the sins of mankind – to find those who would receive Him! We are valuable to Him; that is why He seeks us.
So, what is God trying to tell us? When something or someone is important enough, we need to do more than ASK. We need to SEEK until we find – and we will find, IF we keep on seeking! So, we see that ASKING is one action, one level of prayer and SEEKING is yet another. Both are ordained by God. At times, ASKING is enough; God hears us when we pray – and that’s all it takes to bring heaven to earth in those cases. Other times – no. We need to ASK and then SEEK, even seek HIM, to find what we need.
Another familiar verse is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But don’t stop there; continue to verse 14 to see what God is really saying… “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD …”
God has a plan for our life, but it’s not automatic. We are to call upon Him and pray to Him, and He will listen. However, His plan will only be found when we find HIM – and we will find Him, when we SEEK Him with all our heart. This makes sense because He is not a vending machine; He is a Person who wants a relationship with us. God doesn’t just point us in the right direction, He wants to walk with us in intimate fellowship. In this case, ASKING isn’t enough; we need to SEEK Him with all of our heart!
This is the same sentiment in another familiar verse. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) promises that “IF My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and PRAY and SEEK My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” God prescribed this way to approach Him when things go south in our nation. Praying (humbly ASKING) was part of it – but not enough. We need to SEEK His face (not just His hand), and when He shows us what displeases Him, repent of our wicked ways. THEN, the healing He promised will be released from heaven to earth. Nothing about this is automatic: Both ASKING and SEEKING are involved – as well as humility and repentance.
So, there we have it: We are to ASK and keep on asking and SEEK and keep on seeking. KNOCKING is yet another level of prayer – but when do we KNOCK, as opposed to ASK and/or SEEK? Luke 18:1-5 (NKJV) says, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'”
Notice that Jesus told this parable to prevent them from growing weary in prayer. He didn’t want them to be discouraged, to “lose heart.” Effective prayer is persevering prayer! God is not an unjust judge; He is our loving Father. We do not have to overcome His reluctance to receive blessings! However, there is much opposition in the spiritual world that must also be overcome to see heaven come to earth. Daniel prayed for his nation and God answered right away, but there was opposition in the spiritual realm that delayed the answer. (Daniel 9:1-27) So, just like Daniel and just like the widow in the parable, we need to KNOCK and keep on knocking – and the door will be opened to us!
One more example found in Luke 11:5-10 (NKJV) seems to tie it all together… “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So, I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…”
KNOCKING seems to be a forceful way to lay hold of God! It’s for the highly motivated – like the woman needing justice and the man needing bread. The woman with the issue of blood was also desperate! She fought her way through the crowd to touch the tassels on Jesus’ robe – because she needed to be healed and she knew she would be if she did. She knew the “door” to knock on – and she persisted until she succeeded. This kind of “aggression/forcefulness” is allowed, even necessary, because it is accompanied by the level of fervency needed to bring heaven to earth in dire situations.
In Matthew 11:12 (NKJV), Jesus tells us that “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers [allows] violence, and the violent take it by force.” Here is how the Amplified renders it: “And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize–a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with most ardent zeal and intense exertion].”
Sometimes, it takes great force/effort to lay hold of God – like when Jacob wrestled with the angel! (Genesis 32:24ff) Sometimes, we need to do more than ASK and more than SEEK. Sometimes, only KNOCKING is appropriate – and that’s exactly what God wants us to do in those cases. Like James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b NKJV)
So ASKING, SEEKING, and KNOCKING are all forms of prayer, and the moral of the story is this: ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK – and keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking! Use the proper intensity to match the need, and don’t lose heart. Divine delay does not mean denial! Persevere in prayer; the answers are worth it. People are worth it. GOD is worth it. Just don’t stop…
“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 AMPC)