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God is not reluctant, nor deaf, nor sleeping. So keep asking; keep seeking; keep knocking.
"So I say to you, 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." Luke 11:9-10 NKJV
Ask, Seek, Knock
God doesn't have a "Do not Disturb" sign hanging on the door of heaven. But sometimes when we pray, it feels to us like God is not in and may have gone fishing. It is a big issue for believers when we pray and our prayers are not answered. Especially so when we read--"Ask and it will be given to you!" Jesus made it sound so easy. We know it is not that simple.
Unlike the sleepy friend in the previous passage, the words of Jesus encourage us to ask, seek and knock. We are to persist in doing so with confidence and boldness until we receive what we need. At the end of this section, Jesus assures us that God is generous and loves to give his children good gifts. But if that be true, then why do we have to bang so long and so hard!
In Genesis 32 there's an instructive story about Jacob who had fled the land of his father because his brother threatened to kill him. Now about 20 years later, Jacob was returning with his household and flocks, and knew his father's land now belonged to his brother. He feared for his life. So the night before he was to cross the river and face his brother, he took all the precautions he could think of to ensure a peaceful reunion.
Then, alone on the river bank, Jacob wrestled all night with God in a dead heat. Toward daybreak, Jacob's hip dislocated in its socket and the struggle ceased. By the light of dawn the two weary combatants looked each other in the face. "What is your name?" the one said to the other. "Jacob!" he replied. The other said, "You are no longer Jacob, your name will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed." Then in reverence and awe, Jacob asked, "Please tell me Your name." He answered, "Why do you ask My name?" And He blessed Jacob there. When the sun rose, Jacob, filled with the presence of God and limping on his hip, crossed the ford of the river.
How are we to comprehend the ways of God? How far and how long are we willing to go in seeking the answer to our prayers? Maybe it's not God who needs time to accomplish the miracles we ask. More likely we are the ones who need the time.
Ask and you will receive something for your asking; although not necessarily what you thought you needed. In 1980 I was praying for divine intervention. I needed guidance and the kind of miracle that would turn my life around. And here's what I received. Back problems requiring surgery and all kinds of complications related to recovery with the prospect of being semi-disabled for most of the coming year. Who can understand the mind of God! It made me wonder if I should ever ask God for anything again!
I spent most of the next nine months at home lying on the living-room sofa. Dissatisfied with the latest novels, I started reading the classics of religious literature. I dusted off an old seminary text, The Fellowship of the Saints, and started reading, underlining, and making notes in the margins. I began journaling, using Jesus' sermon on the mount as the focal point. Each day on the top of the page, I jotted down just one verse or phrase. Then I scribbled out my thoughts concerning that Scripture, wrote down my feelings about the limited things that were happening in my life, and added my prayers. The days passed slowly, and gradually I began to realize what a treasure it was to be able to fill my mind with the words of Jesus and learn from the saints. Like a miracle from God, my spirit grew wings even though my body was restricted.
Another project I started on that sofa was an idea inspired by the two-fold question of St Francis of Assisi--God, who are you; and who am I? Wanting to know the answers to those questions, I turned to the Bible and started in the first chapter of Genesis. I used different colored pencils to underline everything that described what God was like and everything describing who I was. At the end of each book of the Bible, it was exciting to summarize what I had learned.
A note from my 1981 journal reads: "God has been good to me in the past and I'm sure will be good to me in the future. Therefore it's highly likely God is being good to me in the present, also. My identity has always been bound up by what I was able do physically. Am I willing now to be laid back, if that's what God has chosen for me? Am I willing to lose everything I formerly knew and possessed, in order to start over and be re-created in God's likeness? Stripped of everything so that I will be made new!"
Ask, seek, and knock. These are physical exercises, vigorous and unrelenting, performed in the soul and spirit. They allow time for God to surprise us and turn our lives upside down.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What is something you lost but found again through much searching?
Describe a time in your life when you felt like you couldn't get through to God. Was that issue ever resolved between you and God? If so, what was the outcome? If not, whose court is the ball in? Explain your answer.
In what ways is prayer like asking, seeking and knocking? Knocking on a closed door--is that a good description of prayer? If God already knows what we need, why do need to ask for it? Is searching for meaning in life also a form of prayer?
Is "Ask and you will receive" a blank check from God? Why or why not?What would prompt Jesus to encourage asking, seeking and knocking? Why would they be words that his disciples needed to hear?Is Jesus promising that our asking, seeking and knocking will be rewarded? How convinced are you that these words are true?
Jesus left the statement very general. He didn't say what we would receive or find. Discuss the story of Jacob from Genesis 22. What did Jacob receive for his asking? Was it what he needed? Would you be willing to limp through the rest of your life in return for what he received?
In your life, is there any relationship between physical activity and being spiritually alive, between busyness and spiritual growth? Are you more likely to discover God through active pursuit or by just going about your normal daily business?
How do we deal with these verses in light of the fact that some people spend many years asking, seeking and knocking, and haven't received anything yet for their efforts? How do you respond to one who says these words just raise false hopes?
Is it possible to embrace whatever situation you are in as a good gift from God? Give an example of someone you know who seems to be able to do that.There are always extremes and exceptions to rule out, but on the whole are you able to declare that what has happened to you is God's good gift? If you really believed that, how would it change your outlook & attitude?