This evening I had the privilege of preaching Matthew 7:7-12. The following is my sermon transcript:
PRAYER OF PERSISTENT PETITIONS
If I can summarize what this portion of Scripture is all about, it has to do with persistence prayer that involves asking, seeking, and knocking. Perhaps I can also say that effectiveness of prayer involves asking, seeking, and knocking. Either way this section obviously has to do with subject of prayer once again. I say once again because this is not the first time we see Jesus addressing this topic in the Sermon on the Mount. Back in chapter 6, our Lord Jesus has devoted lengthy section on prayer, namely in verses 5 to 13. Jesus being the Master Teacher he demonstrates that a good teacher always repeats.
Initially this passage of Scripture may seem obscure or out of place, but if we consider the context it makes much sense. If we would to go back to 6:25 and on, Jesus commands his disciples not to worry about temporal needs of life. Instead one should seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. And then chapter 7 begins with a command not to judge hypocritically, but to judge righteously and discern rightly. Now, how does a disciple of Jesus Christ overcome worries and seek God first apart from persistent praying? Also, how does a disciple of Jesus judge righteously and discern rightly apart from persistent praying? You see, if we look at this portion of Scripture in light of its context it totally makes sense.
Hence this evening God brings our attention once again to prayer, but specifically, praying persistently. But even more specifically, the type of prayer we will focus this evening is simply one of several aspects of praying, namely making petitions. I say this because praying involves more than making petitions. As you hopefully know by now, praying also involves adorations, confessions, and thanksgivings. So what we’re about to focus tonight is simply one of several aspects of praying, which involves making petitions to God but doing that with much active persistence. That is why I title this message: “Prayer of Persistent Petitions.” Let’s now listen to what that involves by our Lord Jesus: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” According to our Lord persistent petition involves three aspects, namely continual asking, continual seeking, and continual knocking. And let me attempt to unpack one aspect at a time.
In Greek this is in present active imperative. In fact all three verbs are in present active imperative. In other words, all verbs are commands to continue to ask, continue to seek, and continue to knock.
Also, to ask clearly implies humility and a sense of need. We have a saying of certain individual, “He’s too proud to ask.” But such attitude and action cannot be of God’s kingdom citizens. Jesus says at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). In other words, if you’re too proud to beg to God, then you don’t belong to God or of his kingdom. As I said before, what keeps people from heaven is pride.
Would you please turn your Bible with me to Luke 18:10-13? I don’t know of any other passages in the Bible that gives more vivid contrast of prayers than Luke 18. Notice the Pharisee does not ask anything. Instead, he simply tells God how good he is. On the other hand, the public asks, that is, he pleads to God for his mercy.
If you observe what Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, do you see repetitive patterns of a command-and then-consequence? First, a command to ask, then the consequence is “and it will be given to you.” Then there is second command, to seek, then its consequence is “and you will find.” Finally, there is third command, namely to knock, and its consequence follows with “and it will be opened to you.” If you would to observe this verse, you just can’t miss repetitive command-and-consequence relationships.
The reason why this is important to point out is because hopefully these wonderful consequences would encourage us to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. In fact the word “for” in verse 8 in Greek is the reason why we need to be persistent: For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Hence it is safe to imply that if you don’t ask, it will not be given to you; if you don’t seek, you will not find; and if you don’t knock, it will not be opened to you. And such implication is not too far from what another NT writer says. According to James 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask.”
Seeking is persistent asking plus persistent acting, as oppose to being passive. Seeking does not mean to just sit around and become passive. The very word to seek implies action.
The Bible says the wicked does not seek God. For instance, Psalm 10:4 states, “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’.” Also, Romans 3:10-11 states, “There is none righteousness, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.” Because of man’s fallen nature he cannot and will not seek God. In fact everyone who possess fallen nature, according to Romans 3:16, destruction and misery are already in their paths. Such hopelessness is biblical reality for all mankind.
But here’s the good-news of hope. Because man cannot and will not seek God, the Christian message is that God in a form of man came to seek and save his own that are lost. And his name is Jesus. In fact his very name means “the Lord who saves.” In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And that is one of precious angles of the biblical gospel. Hence the message of true gospel or true Christianity is not about man finding God as if God is the one who is lost, rather it is God who faithfully seeks, finds, and saves the lost men that belong to him.
And once such men are found by God, those individuals go through radical transformations. And such transformations have two-sides, namely one that is instantaneous (a theological term for this is called justification) and the other that is gradual and generally takes a lifetime (sanctification). And it is the sanctifying works that Jesus is commanding here in a form of persistent petitions, namely seeking. I believe Psalm 27:4 echoes this form of petition when David said, “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.”
To seek means you are searching for something that is more precious than the finest jewelry. We must seek God as if our whole life depends on it.
- NAU Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
[stay tune for the remainder]