Let’s pray.

 

 

 

[Matthew 7:7-11]

 

 

 

When we think about prayer we Christians often talk about Pastor George Mueller, who was called a man of prayer or a warrior of prayer.  The reason is because he is known for receiving the most answers to prayers in history.  He is said to have received answered prayers more than 50,000 prayers.  As I was preparing for this sermon, I learned about Pastor George Muller's six lifelong prayer tips and shared them with you (Internet): (1) Trust in Jesus!  Pray on the merits of Jesus, not on your merits.  (2) Forsake sin!  If we pray with sin, God will not hear our prayers.  Forsake the sin hidden in your heart (Ps. 66:18).  (3) Believe!  We must believe in the word of promise that God has sworn and pray (Heb. 11:6).  (4) Pray with patience!  The attitude of a prayer is firstly patience, secondly patience, and thirdly, patience.  As a farmer waits patiently for the harvest, so the one who prays must wait (Jam. 5:7).  (5) Study God's will and pray!  Pray with a godly motive.  We must not seek the gifts of God for selfish purposes (Jam. 4:3).  Here are 6 attitudes to pray while discerning God's will: (1) Give up your will.  (2) Dont trust your feelings.  (3) Look to the Holy Spirit and the Word.  (4) Consider your circumstances.  (5) Pray for Gods will to be revealed.  Check that you are calm when making a decision.  (6) If possible, pray at dawn!  The people of prayer were the people of dawn.  Hold on to the God who helps you at dawn (Ps. 46:5).

 

We have already meditated on the prayer Jesus taught in Matthew 6:5-13.  First in verses 5-8 we learn three teachings about prayer: (1) The first lesson is that when we pray, we should not pray like hypocrites.  (2) The second lesson is that when we pray, we should pray to our Heavenly Father who is in secret.  (3) The third lesson is that when we pray, we should not be babbling like the Gentiles.  Then Jesus taught the famous “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13.  The Lord's Prayer can be divided into four parts: (1) We must pray to our Father God in heaven.  (2) There are three 'Your' petitions: (a) 'Hallowed be your name' (v. 9), (b) 'Your kingdom come" (v. 10), (c) 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven' (v. 10).  (3) There are three 'us' petitions: (a) “Give us today our daily bread” (v. 11), (b) “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12), (c) “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13).  (4) It is “doxology” (v. 13b).

 

In today's text, Matthew 7:7-11, we can see Jesus teaching about prayer again.  We can summarize this teaching of Jesus' prayer in three ways (Willmington):

 

First, it is Jesus' command to prayer.  The command is to keep praying earnestly to Heavenly Father.

 

                Look at Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  The three verbs Jesus used here, “ask”, “seek” and “knock” are all imperatives of the present time.  That is, Jesus commanded his disciples to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking at the door.  In other words, Jesus is commanding His disciples to continue to pray earnestly to Heavenly Father.  So the question we can ask here is, for what do the disciples of Jesus keep praying earnestly to Heavenly Father?  Some commentators say that the prayer that Jesus' disciples should continually ask for is to seek diligently the will of God (Willimington).  Another commentator says that it is God's wisdom and guidance that they should earnestly pray to their Heavenly Father.  The reason is that in verses 1-6, which is the closest context to today's text, Matthew 7:7-11, God's wisdom is desperately needed for God's guidance in order to fulfill Jesus' commands to not to criticize (condemn), to give up hypocrisy, and to judge (Wiersbe).  I think both of these interpretations make sense.  However, I think the interpretation of Word Biblical comments is more valid than these two commentators.  The assertion of the interpretation of the commentary is that the prayer subject that Jesus' disciples should continue to earnestly seek from God the Father is the “good gifts” in verse 11 of today's text (Hagner). Look at Matthew 7:11 – “If 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!”  If this interpretation is correct, what are the “good gifts” that Jesus' disciples should continue to ask Heavenly Father for as Jesus commanded them?  To answer this question we have to look at verse 13 of Luke 11:9-13, which is similar to today's text Matthew 7:7-11.  This is Luke 11:13 – “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  The “good gifts” that Matthew spoke of, Luke said, is the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it is the Holy Spirit that the disciples of Jesus had to keep earnestly asking Heavenly Father as Jesus commanded them.  Then why did Jesus command his disciples to keep asking Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit?  The reason is because it was the earnest prayer of Jesus.  Look at John 14:16 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--.”  What does “another Counselor” mean here?  The Greek word for the Counselor is paraklhto, originally derived from a legal term.  In ancient courts, it was the custom of the accused to summon and stand by the accused's best friend when he was severely interrogated by the lawyer employed by the plaintiff and was put in an embarrassing position in which he could not defend himself.  In this case, this friend becomes a 'parav-klhte' to the defendant.  The Counselor, therefore, means a comforter who gives victory by risking his life to help the needy’ (Internet).  In John 14:16, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit ‘another Counselor’ (ajllo paravklhto), which contains profound allusion.  The adjective ‘other’ of ‘other Counselor’, ‘ajllo’, means something else of the same kind and nature.  In other words, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is ‘another Counselor’ because the Holy Spirit whom Jesus will send has the same person and the same purpose as Jesus, and will work in Jesus’ name and in Jesus’ place (Internet).  Jesus prayed for his disciples, asking God the Father to give them another Counselor, the Holy Spirit, so that he would be with them forever.  The reason is because Jesus knew that He would have to leave them by dying on a cross, bearing all their sins.  So Jesus said to his disciples, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (16:7).  The reason Jesus Himself asked God the Father to send the Counselor the Holy Spirit to his disciples was because he wanted the Holy Spirit to be with them forever, teaching them everything and reminding them of everything Jesus said to them (14:26).  The reason Jesus asked God the Father to send the Holy Spirit was because when the Spirit of truth comes, He will testify of Him (15:26).  And when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide them into all truth and will make known to them the things to come (16:13).

 

                The good gifts we need to earnestly and continually ask our Heavenly Father is the Holy Spirit.  Those who still do not believe in Jesus as their Savior (Eph. 2:8), please continue to earnestly seek God's gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8).  When God gives you the gift of faith, you will not only be saved, but the Holy Spirit will dwell in you.  And those of you who have already believed in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in you, please continue to ask God the Father for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ref.: Eph. 5:18).  This is because we must all be filled with the Holy Spirit and fully bear the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  In the midst of this, we must all be filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly preach the word of God like the early church members (Acts 4:31).  Also, we must continue to ask our Heavenly Father for spiritual things that are in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit and that He gives us (Internet).  We know that our Heavenly Father is a good God, so He will give us the best things.

 

              Second, it is our assurance in prayer.  That assurance is the assurance of answer to our prayers.

    

Look at Matthew 7:8 – “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  I still remember studying the Bible about the five assurances when I received discipleship from a pastor in college. One of those five assurances was ‘The assurance of answering prayers’ and the Bible verse of the assurance of answering prayers was John 16:24 – “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  At that time, while receiving discipleship training, I memorized this Bible verse.  But rather than having the assurance of answers to my prayers, I wanted to have the assurance of answering prayers.  In particular, I wanted my joy to be complete as I received answers to my prayers from God as it was said, “Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”  But looking back now, I can’t remember the prayer topics that I asked God for at that time.  And in conclusion, I have to confess that God, who is good, worked all things together for good out of all my shortcomings and always gave me good things.  You too may have prayer topics in which you continue to earnestly pray to Heavenly Father.  But, are you not discouraged when you think that your prayers are not answered even if you keep praying to God?  If that is the case, please remember that Jesus spoke in parables starting from Luke 18:1 about always praying and not getting discouraged.  A brief summary of Jesus' parable is as follows: In a certain town there was a judge who had no fear of God and who didn’t care about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the pleas, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”  For some time he refused.  But finally he vindicated her because she kept bothering him and was wearing him out (vv. 2-5).  After telling this parable, Jesus said: “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (vv. 6-8)  What does it mean?  Doesn't this mean that God's chosen ones will soon hear your supplications crying out day and night?  But what's the problem?  It is our faith.  Surely God is a God who hears our constant cry of prayer.  But the problem is that we continue to doubt Him.  Especially when God's prayers are delayed, we doubt God.  Regarding those who pray to God in doubt, James 1:6-8 in the Bible says: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  The Bible says that those who pray to God while doubting are double-minded and unstable in all he does.  The Bible says that such a person should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord.  Perhaps the reason why you and I continue to pray to our Heavenly Father and yet we do not receive answers to our prayers is because we have doubts when we pray to him?

 

                In today's text, Matthew 7:8, the reason why Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” was because he wanted to teach his disciples to pray with the assurance (faith) that their prayers will be answered while continuing to ask God the Father.  This is what John Calvin said: ‘Nothing inspires and encourages our prayers more than the assurance that God always hears our prayers.  Prayers with doubts are nothing but dead rituals that are powerless, cold and negligent’ (Park).  In fact, when we pray with the assurance of answers to our prayers, don't we get great comfort and strength?  Not only that, when we have the assurance of answers to our prayers, our hearts become peaceful and bold.  There are promises in the Bible that give us the assurance of answers to our prayers: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Mt. 21:22), “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (Jn. 14:14), “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (15:17).  It is the faithful covenant God who grants our prayers.  He is a God who faithfully fulfills his promises to us.  The amazing thing is that even though we are unfaithful, God is faithful (2 Tim. 2:13) and faithfully fulfills his promises to us.  What should we do?  We must continue to pray to our Heavenly Father in faith.  In other words, we must constantly ask God for good things with the assurance of answers to our prayers.  Look at Jude 1:20 – “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.”  When we pray to our Heavenly Father, we must pray not only in faith, but also in the Holy Spirit.  As we pray in faith and in the Holy Spirit, we must continue to ask in faith in our unchanging Heavenly Father, who gives us every good and perfect gift.  Look at James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Clearly, the Bible says that every good and perfect gift come down from the Heavenly Father who does not change.  I hope and pray that you and I will continue to pray to Heavenly Father with faith in this word and pray with the assurance of answers to prayers.

 

Third and last, it is a comparison of prayer.  The comparison is the evil father and our Heavenly Father.

 

                Look at Matthew 7:9-11: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If 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!”  After telling his disciples to keep asking God the Father for good gifts with the assurance of answers to their prayers, Jesus compared the evil father and our Heavenly Father in Matthew 7:9-11.  The point of this comparison is that if they know that a physical father, though evil, gives good gifts to his children, how much more will the good Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.  Even if we think with common sense, isn't this correct?  What earthly father would give his children a snake when he asks for a fish?  Wouldn't even the father, no matter how evil, try to give good things to his children, at least to his own blood?  How much more will our Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask?  When I think of the word “how much more” (v. 11) here, I meditate on two Bible verses: (1) The first Bible verse is Luke 18:7 – “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”  This is what Jesus said in a parable that we should always pray and never lose heart (v. 1).  In this parable, Jesus compared a judge in a certain city, who did not fear God and did not care about men (v. 2) and God (v. 7).  The content of the comparison is that if the unjust judge (v. 6) also granted the plea of a widow who kept on bothering him in order to get justice, how much more would God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? (v. 7)  If even the unjust judge granted the petition of a widow who bothered him, would our heavenly Father God hear and answer the prayers of the chosen me and all of you, whom he loves?  (2) The second Bible verse is Jonah 4:11 – “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”  This word was spoken by God to his servant Jonah the prophet, and God compared Jonah with God himself.  The content of this comparison is that Jonah had compassion on the plant for which he did not work and did not cause it to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight (Jon 4:10), and that God had compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there were more than 120,000 people who did not know the difference between the right and left hand (v. 11).  Does the plant matter or 120,000 souls matter?  On what more should we have compassion?  If we cherish the momentary things for which we did not labor, how much more, God loves us so much that he gave his only begotten Son Jesus on the cross for us.

 

               In Isaiah 49:15, God says: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”  Here, God is comparing the mother who gives birth to and raises a suckling baby and God himself.  The point of that comparison is that even if the mother forgets her child, God never forgets us.  How could a mother forget her child?  But even if she forgets, the Father God will never forget us, whom he has adopted as his children in Jesus Christ.  And no mother will ever give a drug to her baby when she cries.  How much more will our heavenly Father give the best to us who are praying to him?

 

There is a story about Pastor George Mueller's 52 years of persistent prayer (Internet).  It is said that the prayer subject he spent the most time on was praying for the salvation of five friends he had shared life with since childhood.  Pastor Mueller, who continued to pray for these five friends, began to believe in one or two people.  But there were two friends who did not believe until the end.  So Pastor Mueller prayed for them for about 52 years.  It is said that Pastor Mueller is now old, and one day he preached the word at church, earnestly preaching the last sermon with the last remaining strength of his life.  It is said that one of his friends who was listening to his last sermon that day repented and believed in Jesus.  However, the other friend said he did not believe in Jesus.  Eventually, Pastor Mueller passed away. After that, the friend who had not believed until then heard the news of Pastor Mueller's death.  But in particular, he heard that his friend Pastor Mueller had been praying for him for 52 years and eventually came to believe in Jesus.  It is said that after believing, the friend testified as he toured the whole of England: ‘All of Pastor Mueller's prayers have been answered.  And I am the final answer.  All your prayers will be answered.’  I hope and pray that we will be able to receive God's answers to our prayers and glorify God by constantly asking and seeking our heavenly Father with the assurance of answer to our prayers.