Every Christian reading this would agree that the teachings of Jesus are difficult to understand. His wisdom, being the God of Creation, is far beyond our own understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9). In this blog series, we will unpack some of the most difficult teachings from Jesus, which come from Matthew 5-7 in the illustrious Sermon on the Mount. Each blog will touch on a different teaching from Jesus within His most famous sermon in an effort to help you apply His teachings to your life as a Christian working in the sport industry.
In our eleventh blog of the Sermon on the Mount series, we’ll help you better understand and apply Jesus’ teachings on bringing requests to God in prayer in Matthew 7:7-12.
Knocking on the Door
It is evident in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that prayer is essential. This is the second time that Jesus has taught the crowds about prayer and, specifically, how to pray. In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
In these verses, Jesus provides us with three different aspects of prayer and three different rewards that accompany those approaches. First, Jesus tells us to ask. While it is evident in Scripture that God knows what we will pray before we pray anything (Matthew 6:8), it is an act of faith to ask God to answer our prayer requests. Furthermore, the reward for asking is receiving! Jesus makes it very clear that those who ask will receive.
Second, Jesus tells us to seek. While prayer certainly involves bringing our requests to God, it also consists in seeking the Lord. When we desire to know God better or better understand Him, we should seek Him fervently through prayer. Jeremiah 29:13 corroborates this, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jesus promises us that the reward of genuinely seeking the Lord in prayer is finding! What you find may be answers to questions, a direction for your life, or a deeper understanding of God’s character.
Finally, Jesus tells us to knock. This one is the most intriguing because knocking implies a closed door or a door that is hard to open. You don’t need to knock on an already open door, so what can we learn from this? I think the most straightforward application is that our prayers need to be constant and persistent. There are times when we may feel that God is not answering our prayers or that he is ignoring a request that we have. In those moments, Jesus is telling us that we should not give up. Instead, we should be knocking at God’s preverbal door with persistence and faith that He does hear us and will answer according to His will. The reward of knocking is the door being opened. We don’t need to break in to get God’s attention, but we may need to knock with persistence!
The Good Gifts of God
Jesus compares prayer to a Father and Son relationship. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
It is important to note that Jesus makes this Father-to-Son comparison. This reveals something about God’s character. He is not a drill sergeant, a football coach, or a boss. God describes Himself as a Father. This should give us a great deal of encouragement and joy because the Creator of the universe desires to be a loving Father to those who are His children. Isaiah 64:8 furthers this truth, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
The main point that Jesus is making in Matthew 7:9-11 is that if earthly fathers are able to give good things to their children, though they are sinful, how much more will God the Father give good things to those who ask him? God is a better Father than any earthly Father; that is the point! So, when we ask God for things in prayer, we can fully expect Him to deliver!
The common belief that can come with this teaching from Jesus is that we will receive everything we ask from God exactly as we asked it. First, God will never give us sinful desires. This would go against His character as sinless and unable to tempt people to sin (James 1:13). Second, God may withhold things from us to benefit us (which would be considered a good gift). Often, we can ask for things in ignorance without seeing the negative impact.
There are reasons and times when God will not answer our prayers that Scripture outlines for us. James 4:3 teaches us that God will not answer prayers that are asked in vain so that we may use what He has given to fulfill our own desires.
Psalm 66:18 teaches us that God will not listen to our prayers if we are cherishing sin in our hearts. Better said, our prayers will not be answered if we are unrepentantly sinning against God.
Matthew 21:22 teaches us that faith is a requirement for an answered prayer. If we pray without genuine faith in the living God, in His Son, Jesus Christ, or without faith that He can accomplish what we are asking, our prayers will not be answered.
Finally, 1 John 5:14 teaches us that God only answers prayers that are in accordance with His will. If we ask God for things outside of His will, then He will not answer those prayers.
The Golden Rule
Jesus closes His teaching on prayer with a statement on the meaning of the entire Law, which was likely well-known by those listening to Him teach. Matthew 7:12 says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
This transition seems unrelated to the previous teachings on prayer. However, there is a connection that can be made. In the previous verses, Jesus taught that God is a better Father than earthly fathers and provides good gifts to those who ask (Matthew 7:11). In teaching this, Jesus reveals God's goodness, mercy, and grace.
God’s mercy is withholding from sinful people the punishment they deserve, God’s grace is His provision of good things to sinful people who don’t deserve them, and his goodness is evidenced in His perfect holiness. So, our response to God’s generosity towards His children should be to live in obedience to the Law and the Prophets by doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Prayer can be made more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus makes it clear that we should persistently and faithfully ask, seek, and knock in our prayer life. While it may seem at times that God does not hear our prayers, we can be comforted by Jesus’ teachings that our God is a Father, a much better Father than any earthly father, and will provide us with what we need and ask for, if it is in accordance with His character and His will.
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