Church, Culture & Society, End Times Issues, Faith

An Incentive to Pray

AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 7:7-12

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Theology has been called the Queen of the Sciences. Dr. S. Lewis Johnson suggests that prayer be called the Queen of Experiences. What a privilege it is for a person to be able to pray to the one, true, and living God. It is a privilege that must not be neglected.

The importance of prayer is reflected in the fact that prayer is the only subject in the Sermon on the Mount to which the Lord referred to twice. Theologian John Murray noted that Jesus did not teach His disciples how to preach, but He did teach them how to pray. In prayer, men have power with God. It is a sad fact to realize that in Bible colleges, and in seminaries, a formal study is made of hermeneutics, and homiletics, but little, or no formal study is made of prayer.

To encourage people to pray, Jesus set forth several incentives to pray, beginning with the promise, that, if a person is persistent in prayer, their petition will be granted.
One reason why persistent prayer is required is to prove one’s faith. The Christian who perseveres in prayer has authentic faith. Belief in the Doctrine of Predestination is no hindrance to prayer. Rather, belief in the sovereign God who controls all things, including the future, encourages prayer, for it invites belief in divine certainty. When prayer is offered in the will of God, what is asked for shall come to pass, it shall be given. Church Historian, Michael Horton was asked once, “Why pray if God is sovereign?” to which he replied, “Why pray if He isn’t?”
Great saints, who believed in predestination, were great individuals of prayer. They prayed because they realized that God ordains not only what will come to pass, but the means by which events come to pass. One means God has ordained is prayer. Prayer is confirmation of God’s providence.

Prayer is the mark of a true believer. When the Lord wanted Ananias to go and greet Saul of Tarsus after Saul’s conversion, the Lord said to him, “Behold he prayeth.” In his prayer, Saul was given a vision of Ananias coming to him (Acts 9:11-12). It is the characteristic of a Christian to pray.

True, other religions have people who pray. But the prayer of the Christian is to the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are many gods to whom individuals pray. The Greeks had many gods, as did the Romans. There are many Norse gods, and Hindu gods by the thousands. Demons also present themselves as god like entities, with great power. In the book of Daniel, the Angel Gabriel struggled with the “Prince of Persia.” Michael, another great angel, had to come and help Gabriel prevail (Dan. 9:21; 10:13).
However, there is only one true and living God, who can hear, and answer the prayers of His children. It is to Him, that the Christian prays. “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me” (Isaiah 45:5). To the one true God, the Christian prays, for prayer is the speech of the soul to God (S. Lewis Johnson).

Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. Believers are to ask, seek, and knock. They are to continue to ask, continue to seek, and continue to knock on heaven’s door especially when trying to identify spiritual dogs and swine, for that is the context of this verse.
The lesson is learned. There are many important matters that need divine wisdom, but the wisdom, the answer to prayer, is not always easy to find. So stress is laid on the importance of importunity in prayer with a rise in intensity. If we do not receive by asking, then let us seek. If we do not find an answer in seeking, then let us knock. Let there be intensity, and persistency in prayer.

By teaching intensity and persistency in prayer, Jesus teaches that individuals should have no confidence in themselves. Arrogance and self-confidence is the curse of Christendom. The temptation is to believe that divine enablement in life is not needed. But we do need the Lord. We cannot live without God. And so we must pray, and in prayer we must ask, seek, and knock.

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In the act of prayer human responsibly does not negate the sovereignty of God. In the act of prayer, cold formal praying is not encouraged. It is the heartfelt prayer that God hears. The Lord does not want vain repetitions, but He does bless heartfelt persistency, for such praying reveals faith. The person of faith will ask, and seek, and knock and in the process will develop spiritual discipline. In the act of prayer the believer will be drawn closer to the Lord, for persistent prayer is pleasing to Him.

Therefore, we read, “every one that asketh receiveth.” Here is not only an encouragement to pray, but a Divine promise. The wise Christian will therefore pray, and in prayer, the believer will take the promise of God and present it back to Him. “Lord, you promised that if I asked, I would receive. Lord, I have asked, I have sought, and I have knocked.” God must answer. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” (1 John 5:14). So we must ask in the will of the Lord. “Nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God” (Unknown).

Why God Will Answer Persistent Prayer

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

God will answer prayer because He is a good father. If a son were to ask for a loaf of bread, a good father would not give him a stone to eat. The reason why Jesus placed bread and stone together, is because in His day, a loaf of bread looked very much like a stone. The imagery would be familiar and attractive to His audience.

     10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

The depravity of the human heart leads some people to believe that God does give a serpent to His children. It is an unworthy view of God. The good heart will believe that God will give good gifts to His children, and He will not give to His own a serpent.

    11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

The argument is very simple to understand, even if it sets forth an unflattering view of humanity, for Jesus calls people evil. Individuals might talk about a spark of divinity being in each person. Individuals may exalt the goodness of mankind, but Jesus is under no illusion. People are evil by birth, and then by choice. They remain evil until they are born again, and receive a new nature. Nevertheless, despite the natural corruption of the human heart, no one is as evil as they can be, which is why, if a son asks his father for something he legitimately needs, he can expect that from his father. In like manner, the Christian who needs something from God, can expect that it shall be given. God will give good gifts.

Some of the good gifts of God can be noted. There is the kingdom of God. The Christian who prays, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” shall know something about kingdom living. That is a good gift. The Christian who prays, “Give us daily our daily bread,” will be fed. That is a good gift. Being forgiven of our debts as we forgive our debtors is a good gift. Being led not into temptation is also a good thing. So there are many good gifts of God. He will give us food, He will give us clothing, and He will give us everything we need, to the point that we do not need to be anxious.

The Mt. Everest of Ethics

The Golden Rule

    12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

It has been noted that The Golden Rule sounds very much like what Confucius said, and also Rabbi Hillel.
Rabbi Hillel said, “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man.” Rabbi Hillel was an honored Jewish teacher who died c. AD 10.
Confucius said, “Do not to others what you would not done to yourself.” Confucius was a Chinese teacher and philosopher (551-470 BC).
The words of Jesus differ from the thoughts of Confucius and Hillel in context. The wisdom of Confucius and Hillel was given to teach people how to avoid retaliation. They are good counsel, but selfish in nature. They can be fulfilled without divine enablement. In contrast, The Golden Rule given by Christ does not stop with man’s relationship to man, but incorporates a spiritual element because we read, “for this is the law and the prophets.” By keeping The Golden Rule the whole essence of the Law, and all that the prophets taught, is fulfilled.
With these final words, the Lord comes full circle. Jesus had said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). In His teaching, Jesus proved He had not come to destroy the Law.
The Sermon on the Mount formally ends with The Golden Rule.

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