Matthew 7:7-12; Luke 11:5-13
By the end of this study, we shall see that these passages answer many pressing questions: Who are you praying to? Who answers your prayer? What is He like? What does this teach me about God’s love? Compassion? Goodness? What does this teach me about the Trinity? What does this tell me about Kingdom living? And finally, in that context, what does this teach me about praying?
“What particular answer will He give” is not the focus of any passage of Scripture. Many have misinterpreted this passage to say whatever you seek, you will find. This will be addressed in a bit.
Before we dive in, an explanation of the context: Read in light of Matthew 6:33; this whole section is teaching about the Kingdom, about seeking first the Kingdom, about trusting God to take care of His Kingdom’s subjects (that’s us), about the answer (see Luke 11:1-4) to the disciples’ desire to learn how to pray.
The Gospels up to this point are revealing what the Kingdom and the King are like. We cannot isolate this question about prayer, we must keep it in Kingdom context.
It is God who hears and answers, without fail.
He is always listening, is pleased when we pray, already knows what we need, always answers. We may feel He is silent, but He has promised to never leave us or forsake us–so our feelings of isolation and darkness must not let us forget the TRUTH. We feel alone, we are not. We think He is silent, or late, or absent; but He is not. In this parable, re-read Luke 11:5-13, we see the literary device of a foil. The man being bothered in his sleep who finally assents to give his friend bread, is evil. God is not. God is the opposite of this man being pleaded with. Our prayers are not directed to one who sleeps, or grows weary, or has an attitude when being disturbed. Rather, we pray to God who never slumbers, is always good, always does good, delights to hear and listen, is always with us, never forsakes us, and answers from the abundance of His goodness, mercy, and love.
Matt 7:11, He gives what is good. Who defines good? Are you asking for what is good? Good for who? It is a fruitful exercise to search the Scriptures asking God to teach you what His idea of good is. (revisit the story of Joseph?)
Luke 11:13 He gives the Holy Spirit. (read in light of Luke 4, looking for the role of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry!) Read this, remembering what the promised gift of the Spirit is! Sinclair Ferguson says this of the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of God is the executive of the powerful presence in the governing of the created order.” 1 Muse upon this. God promises to answer our seeking, knocking and asking for His Kingdom with His powerful presence.
Exercise for this week: find Scriptures showing the roles and/or names of the Spirit. Take great joy in knowing this is the Spirit that dwells in you! (example: Romans 1:4, Acts 9:31, Isaiah 11:2…)
What we Really Long For
I’m re-reading the Hobbit, a fitting book in this pandemic season. An adventure. And oh, how often Bilbo Baggins longs for home. Then, in the most despairing part of the adventure Gandalf leaves the hobbit and the dwarves. From then on, he still longs for home, but also for Gandalf–who would then take care of Bilbo and the dwarves. This story is a great reminder that in so many ways what we long for deep down is God’s presence, and His power to take care of us. And that is what God promises, and guarantees by sealing us with His Spirit. In the midst of tribulation (see John 16:33) He, the One who has overcome the world, is with us.
John 14:16-18 One of the many promises He has been working toward fulfilling! How is this related to our prayers, and to how He works and shows His power? How are you praying lately, in light of the difficult circumstances and changed routines and uncertain future we all face? Is the promise of His Spirit, His power at work for good, a reassurance?
And so, we come to Him for all we need, we are subjects of the King! And He reigns continuously, powerfully, majestically, in His goodness. He delights to answer the prayers of His people. He is nothing like the evil people who answer the petitions of friends and family. He can be trusted. He never shuts His door. He knows what we need before we ask. He never has to be woken. He never has a bad attitude.
We come in confidence (Ephesians 3:12-21; 1 Peter 3:12 and 5:7), but we do not come to name it and claim it. We ask knowing He delights to work through His Spirit; He will answer and we look expectantly. We seek first His kingdom, not our own.
As Easter is nearing, perhaps read through some Psalms of ascent, usually sung on the trip up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover? Psalm 116:1-2 “I love the LORD because He has heard my voice, and my pleas for mercy. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will pray to Him as long as I live.”