Summary: This message, delivered during a mid-week prayer meeting, tackles the question of prayer and God’s ’obligations’- or is it ours?


Wednesday Evening Prayer Mtg.

May 15, 2002

Pastor Todd G. Leupold


Prayer can seem like such a funny thing. . . How often do we vacillate between turning to God to save the world and not bothering to pray for even the simplest things, because we wonder if He is even listening, or cares, or will/can answer?

Just the other day, one person alarmingly declared that our country is in even worse shape than he had suspected. His evidence: “Every time I call Dial-A-Prayer I get a busy signal.”

We laugh, but we can sometimes feel that way when we pray to God, don’t we? It IS okay to admit it. And we react to this in all different kinds of ways. Sometimes we blame God. Sometimes we blame ourselves. Either way, we think that something is wrong.

It is at this time, as well as others, that we turn to texts such as Mt. 7:7-8. Unfortunately, we often misinterpret or misapply verses such as these - and the tragic results can be unfairly blaming ourselves or God, or even losing faith. Therefore, let us spend the rest of our time together looking more closely at these verses and their context.


Question: What do you of when you hear these verses? What do they mean to you?

Question: Are all of your prayers answered as you ask them? Your questions and searching?

So, then, what is Jesus saying here? Surely it must be Truth, but how? It cannot be denied or explained away, that Jesus IS here telling His disciples to ask in order to receive, to seek in order to find, and to knock in order to have the door opened.

A. Exaggeration.

To understand one aspect of this better, I would like to read you something that Dr. Robert H. Stein wrote in his book, Difficult Passages in the New Testament. {Read highlights on pp. 87-88.

Exaggeration or hyperbole is a common tool used by Jesus to emphasize an important truth. The important truth here is that God IS always receptive to hear and consider our prayers, petitions and our seeking. Even further, it IS His desire to bless us abundantly and see us happy and fulfilled. Jesus’ hyperbole here stresses these points.

But it is ALSO His desire to see us safe, being ever more conformed to His image, and living a life of loving Him and others!

C.S. Lewis illustrates: “…It is not unreasonable for a headmaster to say, ‘Such and such things you may do according to the fixed rules of this school. But such and such things are too dangerous to be left to general rules. If you want to do them you must come & make a request and talk over the whole matter with me in my study. And then - we’ll see.”

There ARE qualifiers and these are evident within the context of this Sermon on the Mount and throughout Scripture.

As Lonni Collins Pratt writes, “Prayer is more than petitions and praise. Prayer is what human beings were made for - communion with God. We miss something vital to the substance of what prayer is when we overemphasize God’s response to our petitions. .

Frogs need water. Roses need sunshine. People need the Lord.”

Sometimes, without realizing it, our prayers, while well intentioned, are actually hurtful for us, someone else, or God’s will. God sometimes uses His discretion to compensate.

Also, our prayers may be contradictory with someone else’s or just too powerful and not in His will and nature. If God did not use discretion, and automatically granted everyone’s prayers it would be an activity too dangerous for man.

B. Context I: Mt. 6:10,33.

Let’s look at some context. The core of Jesus’ sermon of the Mount, of which these verses are but a part, is Jesus’ teaching His disciples what it really means to be a disciple - that is becoming and acting as righteous people. Consider these key verses:

[Read Mt. 6:10,33]

The purpose of prayer is not to get whatever we want. Prayer is not an exercise of our “controlling” God. Prayer is a means of directly communicating with the Almighty, Creator of the Universe!

Leonared Ravenhill writes: “Prayer is not an argument with God to persuade Him to move things our way, but an exercise by which we are enabled by His Spirit to move ourselves His way.”

Context II: Loving Others

Another important context of these key verses, is to realize that these verses appear in the middle, and as part of, a discourse on how the disciple is to act toward and love others!

Read Mt. 7:1-2, 12.

If I were to summarize Mt. 7:1-12, then, it would be this:

Disciples are to do for others as they would ask, seek, and knock for God to do for them.

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