Chapter OneFor the
Once when my wife and I were traveling and had gone out
to dinner with some friends, my cell phone rang in the
middle of our meal. I answered it, and it was our grandson,
David Todd, who was four years old at the time.
"Poppy," he said, "where are you?"
I told him where we were.
"Poppy," he said, "could you bring home the shopping
mall magazine from the airplane?"
Now that wasn't exactly a request I might have anticipated.
But it happened to be a major concern at the time to
I found out later (when his dad got on the phone)
that on a long airplane flight home with his mother, my
grandson had discovered that little magazine in the seat
pocket of the airplane that shows pictures of all those
wonderful and interesting products. (I think he's inherited
some shopping genes from his grandmother.) He started
paging through the magazine and looking at all those
things, and then got excited to learn that when the flight
was over he could actually take the magazine home with
However, he went to sleep during the flight, and when
the plane landed and they got off, he forgot the magazine.
When he remembered it too late, he
was quite disappointed.
So I promised my grandson that
I would bring him a copy of that
magazine on our way home. He had
asked me for it, and that's all he had
to do. Why? Because he's my grandson,
and anything he requests from
me-if it's within my power, and it isn't harmful for him-I'm
going to do for him.
I've learned in recent years that that's exactly how
God is in His view toward us as we make our requests to
Him. But this wasn't the perspective I always held on the
Breaking Down God's Reluctance?
Before I first entered the hospital years ago for cancer treatment,
I had the idea in the back of my mind that prayer was
breaking down God's reluctance to do something for us.
Maybe it was just my previous lack of attention to the
Word of God or to those who taught it, but for some reason,
this was my underlying attitude about it.
I don't mean that this thought was always consciously
in mind whenever I prayed. Nor am I saying I no longer
believe we should practice importunity and perseverance in
how we pray.
But I've modified my thinking a little about all this,
and what I've learned has changed my life. I've discovered
that God is in no way dragging His feet about providing
what we need. He isn't in heaven calculating whether we've
done everything perfectly right so He can in turn do something
good for us. Instead, He's waiting and more than willing
to provide everything we require.
As He watches over you and me, I don't think He's sitting
up in heaven thinking, If they'll just ask enough times,
I'll grant their request. I think rather that He's in heaven
wondering primarily why we don't ask more often.
So where did we get that idea that prayer is breaking
down God's reluctance? Why do we tend to think we have
to bash in the door of God's unwillingness?
The Bible doesn't teach that view. In fact, the Bible
teaches just the opposite about God: He "gives to all liberally
and without reproach" (James 1:5). When we're in
need, it isn't because of God's reluctance
to meet those needs, but
because of our reluctance to ask: "You
do not have because you do not ask"
If we ask God for something
that's good, and God sees that it's
good for us, He'll give it to us, and
we'll be able to joyfully affirm with
James, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).
Yet we often don't receive these good and perfect gifts
that God so keenly wants to give us, because we simply
don't ask for them.
An Open Door
There's a God in heaven who loves me more than I can ever
know, and who's just waiting for me to come to Him with
the needs and requests that are on my heart. And I'm especially
reminded of that whenever I read the wonderful
words Jesus said about prayer in Matthew 7.
They come near the end of His Sermon on the Mount.
Remember what Jesus said there about asking and seeking
"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.
"Or what man is there among you who, if his
son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he
asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you
then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to
your children, how much more will your Father
who is in heaven give good things to those who ask
You've more than likely read those words before. But
how fully and completely has it dawned upon you that
almighty God, as your loving Father, is eagerly waiting to
give you anything and everything you need and request? He
has given us, in essence, an open door into His almighty
presence and into His infinite storehouse of riches and
blessings-for He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly
above all that we ask" (Ephesians 3:20).
In this passage in Matthew, these three little words ask andseek and knock are all imperatives. They're commands from
the Lord Jesus. He didn't say, "If you feel like asking, then
ask." He didn't say, "If you get around to it, why don't you
seek?" Or, "If you're in the mood, you may want to try
knocking." No, Jesus was telling us, "This is My command
to you: Ask, seek, and knock. If you want Me to act on your
behalf, then that's how it works. My requirement is that you
simply ask." Whatever we need, we must ask for it. And
when we don't, we're disobedient to
You may sometimes think, I
probably shouldn't be wasting God's
time by telling Him about my little
problems. Or, I don't feel I have any
right to ask Him, knowing what kind
of person I am, and knowing who
God is. But the fact is, the Lord has
commanded you to ask Him.
Whatever your problems, whatever your needs, whatever
difficulties you're experiencing, if you haven't asked God
about them, you're disobedient.
But it's also much more than a matter of obedience or
disobedience. Our Father in heaven wants to hear You
express to Him all the things that you feel you truly want
As I read the words of Jesus in that passage, I can't sniff
even a particle of guilt anywhere in it (unlike some of the
books I've read on prayer, those that seem to be little more
than guilt-ridden tirades on why we don't pray and why we
should pray more). Jesus doesn't want to goad us into praying
as much as He desires to entice us into it.
It's almost as if He says, "Come, partake of My banquet.
It's free! Do you see the freshly baked bread piled high
on one table? It's for you. Can you smell the delicious
aroma of the roasted main course, the sweet fragrance of the
pastries and pies and cakes, the wholesome fragrance of
newly picked vegetables and fruits? It's all yours! I've provided
all you need. I have enough for everyone, and there's
no need to fear I'll run out of anything. I'm inviting you to
My feast-your place at My table is reserved. All I require
is that you ask My Father to give you what you need. That's
it! That's the only thing lacking."
Those three little words in Matthew 7:7 are not only
imperatives, but in their original Greek tense they have
a kind of continuing action connected with them. Jesus
is saying keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on
knocking. Don't ever stop; just keep doing it. Always,
whatever you need-just ask.
We could learn a lot from children on that score,
couldn't we? I remember hearing a story about a little boy
who was at home with his father while the mother was
away for the evening. The father (who wasn't as familiar
with the boy's bedtime routine as the mother was) was trying
to get the boy to sleep. Shortly after tucking his son into
bed for the night, he was reading his newspaper when he
heard a little voice calling out from the bedroom: "Daddy?
I need a drink of water."
The father went upstairs and brought him a drink of
water, and of course a short time later the boy called out to
say he had to go to the bathroom. Repeatedly the boy kept
calling his father to come up and take care of this or that-locating
a lost teddy bear, turning on a night light, shutting
a closet door.
Finally the exasperated dad reached the limit of his
patience. "No more. Young man, you're fine, so get quiet! If
I hear another sound from you, I'll come up and give you
For several moments, all was silent. Then the little
voice drifted downstairs once more: "Daddy, when you
come up here to spank me, could you bring me another
drink of water?"
That's how children are. They never quit. It doesn't
matter how many times you say no, they keep coming
back. They keep asking. They ask and ask and ask.
A, S, K
These commands in Matthew 7:7 come in a certain kind of
progression, with each one a little more intense than the
one preceding it. Ask is strong enough, but seek is stronger,
and knock is even more intense.
Sometimes God wants us to turn up
the heat in our prayers for something
we're asking from Him.
But the basic thrust of the passage
is simply that we're to ask. And
just so we don't miss its importance,
Jesus uses that little word a total of
five times in this brief passage on
In case you're ever explaining this passage to your children
or someone else, and they don't seem to be grasping
the main point of what Jesus is saying, tell them you'll show
it to them in a special code. Have them write down those
three basic commands in Matthew 7:7 in a list:
Then take a closer look at the first letters of each word
in the list. And there you have it! Simple as that: Just ask!
People often come to me, as a pastor, and ask for my advice
on some opportunity or decision or difficulty they're facing.
Sometimes I'll say, "Have you asked God about it?" And
more often than not the reply will be, "Well . no, I guess I
Let me tell you, asking God about it is always the best
place to start, no matter what issue or opportunity you're
facing. He needs to be our first resort, not our last. Why
would anyone come to David Jeremiah before they
approach the Creator of the universe? God has entire
worlds in His back pocket; what do I have in comparison
"We pray when there's nothing else we can do," writes
Oswald Chambers in Prayer: A Holy Occupation, "but Jesus
wants us to pray before we do anything at all."
So ask your Father in heaven for whatever it is you
need. Ask for provision of your daily necessities. Ask for
protection when you're threatened or afraid. Ask Him to
show you the right priorities in how you spend your time
and money and energy. Ask Him for special guidance when
your circumstances call for it.
Make sure you've learned the lesson Grace L. Naessens
I woke up one morning
and rushed into the day.
So much to accomplish!
No time to pray!
Problems tumbled in;
heavier came each task.
Why doesn't God help me?
He answered, "You didn't ask."
I wanted joy and beauty
but all was gray and bleak.
Why doesn't God cheer me?
He answered, "You didn't seek."
So I approached His door,
trying all my keys in the lock.
And God lovingly chided me:
"My child, You didn't knock."
I woke up this morning,
and thought about the day.
So much to accomplish!
So I took time to pray.