ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE (MATHEW 7:7-11)
Bro. John Kurian, Kottayam
This passage, a part of the Sermon on the Mount is often taken to mean that God will answer our requests for material needs like food, clothing, healing etc. While it is true that God will meet our physical needs, in answer to our prayers, there is a deeper spiritual significance to these verses. When we examine the context and the setting of this passage, we are constrained to believe that this passage means much more than that. To understand the real significance of these statements, we need to go to the Sermon on the Mount and see what the Lord is trying to teach here.
The Sermon on the Mount is a description of the distinctive life style of a member of the Kingdom where Christ is the King. This shows the essential nature of a Christian. In the opening verses of Ch 5, there is a mention of the 9 good attitudes that a Christian ought to manifest starting with poverty of spirit. He should have a sense of his own spiritual need, a sorrow for the lack of Christ likeness in him, a hunger and thirst for a righteous life etc. From v.21 of the same chapter, we have a list of 9 wrong attitudes that should not be seen in the life of a member of the Lord’s kingdom – Spirit of hatred, immorality, lying, revenge etc. As we see the high standard expected of us, we come to the conclusion that we can not maintain these right attitudes by our own strength. For example, the instruction to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us found in 5:45-47 is impossible for us to obey in our human strength. We come to see here in v.49 that all this is actually a manifestation of the nature of God. It is a manifestation of the divine nature of which we have been made partakers as stated in 2Pet.1:4. As we stand before these high moral standards set before us in the sermon, we would exclaim “who can live like this? Who has the strength to rise up to this level of life?” It is at this point that Christ says “ask and you shall receive”. It is asking for spiritual strength and grace that is primarily meant in this context. And the Lord promises to give that to all those who ask.
We very often ask only for material things. Our prayers are like a shopping list of temporal needs presented before God. God is seen as one who sits up there just to give us our physical needs. Many believers call upon the name of God only to see their needs met. We want healing, promotion, money and comforts and that is what most of us call God for. But as we look at the model prayer that Christ taught in Matt. 6, we see that the Lord wants us to pray primarily for spiritual things and not for the material. Only one out of the 6 requests in that prayer has to do with our temporal need; that again is only in the 4th place (“give us this day our daily bread”). All the rest has to do with worshipping God, doing his will, maintaining good relationships with every one around and being delivered from evil. Then again in the recorded prayers of Apostle Paul in Eph. Ch 1 & 3, Col.1 and Phil 1, we see the apostle praying for the spiritual strength and growth of the believers. There is no request in these prayers for deliverance from persecution, healing etc. Godly men always prayed for things spiritual rather than for things material. We can see this from the great hymns written by men like Sadhu Kochukunju upadeshi, V.Nagal and others. In these songs, we see them praying for deliverance from the love of money and the attractions of this world. How many of us earnestly pray for these things?
Today we have material affluence – good houses, car, highly paid jobs etc. That is what we have been praying for and the Lord in His goodness has granted our requests. But we are empty and lean spiritually. Our lives are barren. We love the world, there is sin and strife and covetousness among God’s people. We have become very materialistic in our outlook. We do not have spiritual virtues because we have not asked. As the Lord said, “you have not, because you ask not”
We need to realize that God is willing to give us spiritual insight and wisdom if we earnestly long for it. The right translation here is “Keep on asking”. It is not about asking casually once or twice, but it is about seeking, hungering and thirsting after God continually. This should become the greatest desire of our heart and the pursuit of our life. When someone asked Evan Roberts, the man greatly used of God in Welsh revival concerning the secret of this revival, his reply was “there is no secret; ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE’. Matt 7:7 says “every one who asketh receiveth”. This can not be true of requests pertaining to physical needs or issues related to temporal necessities. Because in matters like healing, obtaining a job etc. we do not know always what God’s will exactly is, for it is not revealed in the Word. God has promised to grant our requests if we ask according to His will (1John 5:14). We know for sure that prayer for victory over sin, deliverance from covetousness or love for this world is according to His will. Therefore everyone who asks for these things are sure to receive them. In Luke 11:13, a passage parallel to Matt. 7:11, the Lord promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. The grammar used in the original Greek points to the gifts and works of the Holy Spirit rather than to His person. This means that ‘the good things’ mentioned in Matt. 7:11, refer to the character, help and enablement of the Holy Spirit to live a victorious Christian life.
Our prayer life needs to be transformed. May we learn to pray more for spiritual things than for material things. Then we shall see the Lord answering our prayers, as promised here, enabling us to manifest divine nature in our daily lives, giving us the strength to maintain the good attitudes and forsake the evil attitudes as taught in the Sermon on the Mount.