Summary: Approaching God in Prayer
How do you approach God when you have something to ask him?
• Specific words?
• Hoping for an answer but not sure?
• Get on your knees?
• Very “pally” or very respectful?
• Only at certain times?
• Only as a last resort when you have tried everything else?
When I was a child I was quite timid. I was timid as a child because I was frightened of the reaction of my father to what I might ask for. My dad was a strict disciplinarian - a typical army man if you like. I was frightened I would be turned down, which I often was. Many of us approach God the Father like this. We think we will be turned down or we are too timid to ask. Jesus tells us here that we can approach God, not in an attitude of timidity or fear, but one of boldness and confidence. Confidence that you will be heard.
Jesus encourages us to pray by telling us we will be answered. When you know you will be heard and there will be a positive reply it really does encourage you to ask more. How do we know this will happen? In verses 9-11 Jesus contrasts human parents with God the Father. He reminds us that even though we are evil in comparison with the perfect Father most of us love our children enough not to give them something inedible like a stone or dangerous like a live snake when they ask for food. Now, if we, bad as we are, can act like this in relation to our kids, how much more will a perfect God look after the needs of his children? We can indeed call him "Abba", "Daddy", in the true sense of the word.
But Jesus didn’t just tell us to pray in confidence he showed is it works himself. Let’s take Jesus and any other faith leader who has ever lived. All were men of prayer. All of them prayed when they were dying. All of them prayed for forgiveness when they were dying. But there is a very significant difference. When the others were dying they prayed for his own forgiveness. When Jesus was dying He prayed for the forgiveness of others. In fact, not once it is it recorded that Jesus ever prayed for His own forgiveness: because he had no need for forgiveness, Jesus had no uncertainty about where He would go after death. The leaders of other faiths were not sure whether God would send him to hell or to paradise. Jesus said with certainty, "Today you will be with me in paradise" and as living proof the others lay in their graves whereas Jesus rose from the dead.
What does asking, seeking and knocking mean?
What does ask, seek, knock really mean in practical terms because it's obvious God does not always give us what we want? It's also obvious that lots of people believe in him and are worse of, or so it seems, than those who have no belief. Some people seem to sail through life without any prayer, just by sheer hard work. How can you explain that?
First, in order to understand the answers to these questions we need to understand two major things about God.
God is creator of the universe
He is the creator of all material things and he provides all these things for the benefit of all mankind. Often we abuse this and frustrate his will such as when we don’t share resources like food and money equally, but we are all provided with life, food, sunshine, rain, and materials to help us live properly. As creator he provides these and we do not have to pray for them unless we are deprived of them through injustice.
God is Father
There are some things which are provided for his children alone: (ask what they are) salvation, eternal life in heaven, the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit. He longs for us to be like Christ. We call these blessings because they are not things you can have unless you know God.
So God the creator provides materially for all people. God the father provides spiritually for those who have a relationship with him - his children. Primarily, Jesus is saying, we are to ask for spiritual things from the Father for these are the real signs that you are blessed by him. This is extremely important when it comes to the question "What do I ask for?" Many of God's children, like human children, waste time asking for what is not good for them. We should primarily be engaged in asking for the spiritual goodies, not the physical. You can have all the physical goodies you want and be fat on them, but if you die without the spiritual life of God within you, what have you gained? So ask for the right things. You may receive them immediately.