What are you asking God for?
Jesus promised us, “Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Does that mean simply by asking God, we get everything we pray for?
That’s what this episode is all about.
To give the full quote from Matthew
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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (vv. 7, 8)
Could this be more simple? Ask. Seek. Knock.
Prayer is asking God, and…
It’s easy to see that when we ask God for something it’s a form of prayer, but have you ever considered that seeking and knocking are also types of prayer. All three are important and each one leads to the next.
Pretend you’re on that grassy hillside where Jesus is preaching his Sermon on the Mount. Just minutes before he told us we’d get answers when we ask, seek, and knock, he said,
your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (Matthew 6:32)
What does it mean to ask?
Aiteo: ask – is strictly a demand for something due, something rightfully yours;
But if God knows what we need, why do we need to ask Him for it?
It’s the asking process that acknowledges God as the Giver of all good. In asking God for something, we are admitting that we are not the source of our needs or the solution to our problems, He is.
When our kids were little, we taught them to ask for something they wanted. We usually knew what they wanted before they asked and could have just given it to them, but that can lead to an entitlement attitude. What would happen if God gave us everything without us asking Him or acknowledging Him as the source? How often would you pray? We might get complacent and not turn to Him, because we already had everything we need.
Asking God for what you need is an act of humility, as well as an admission that you are the child and God is the Parent.
Asking God is not always enough
Sometimes we need to put our asking into practice by seeking answers, searching for ways to follow through with what God has given us when we ask.
The “prayer of seeking” is a prayer of earnestness in the heart. It purifies our motives from selfishly pursuing what we want to what God freely gives us, if we’ll just open our eyes to see and seek His abundant generosity.
For example, if you have a treasure map that shows where the gold is buried, it’s not enough just to have the map and know where the treasure is. If you want it, you have to go search for it. And when you find the place, you have to dig for it. The digging is kind of like knocking on a closed door. And that’s the third step in this process.
It’s time to knock at the door
There are times when I have prayerfully asked for and received guidance, I have searched for and found the steps to take. And then… I hit a roadblock.
Just when I feel I’m getting somewhere in my prayers, there’s some kind of obstacle blocking my path. When this happens, we can either turn away in defeat or we can knock at what seems to be a dead end, closed door, or missed opportunity.
When God leads us to a closed door, literally or figuratively, He wants us to knock. The knocking shows we are sincere in our desire, prove our sincerity, not to Him but to ourselves. This knocking is a powerful prayer.
There’s always an answer
When you ask God for something, you will receive something. When you seek, you will find and when you knock, a door will open.
It may not be exactly what you asked or searched for.
The door that opens may not lead where you thought it did, but it will be what God wants you to have, what will best promote your spiritual growth, and will be even better than what you had wanted in the first place.
It reminds me of the little boy who was praying and said, “God, thanks for the baby sister, but I asked for a puppy.”
The real key to asking, seeking, and knocking can be summed up in one word: expectancy.
When a thirsty child asks her mother for a glass of water, there’s an inherent expectation that she will give her something to drink. It’s even more than just expecting her mom to give her what she needs, it’s an absolute assurance and confidence that her mom will take care of her.
The child knows this.
When you pray, do you have this same expectation, assurance, and confidence that God will meet your needs?
Are you asking for something that is rightfully yours?
Are you as trusting as a three-year old?
Too many times I have heard people complain that God didn’t answer their prayers, and we’ll get into that in a minute, but it was obvious they didn’t really expect Him to.
Or they didn’t even bother to pray at all because they thought “Oh God’s too busy helping other people. My problems aren’t big enough to bother Him with.”
They don’t know what is rightfully theirs as heirs of God’s kingdom.
We need to be like little children.
We need to pray like three-year-olds, full of expectation, knowing and trusting completely that God will take care of our needs., and give us what is rightfully ours.
Jesus assures us that God loves us and will give us what we need. He says,
Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
It’s not a promise that you get what you ask for, but what God knows you need.
What are your motives when asking God for something?
But have you noticed? We don’t always get what we pray for.
It’s time to think about our motives when we pray.
You may feel like my great aunt, who was pretty good about getting what she wanted out of life.
She confided in me one day when something didn’t go the way she wanted it to, “ Sometimes I just can’t get God to do what I want Him to.”
Why our prayers aren’t answered
Here’s a question that we need to think about. Why aren’t all our prayers answered the way we want them to be?
The book of James says,
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
This should not be a surprise. Self-will is not prayer. It doesn’t submit to God and His will. It’s trying to get what you want, how and when you want it. You’re not trusting God’s wisdom, generosity, or timing.
Of course, it’s easy to see that someone praying for a fancy new sports car or a million dollars just might be over the line as far as praying with the wrong motives. It’s always easier to see when someone else crosses that line than when we do.
What about when we have prayed will all sincerity and submitted as best we know how to God’s will, and there is still no healing or solution from our prayers?
I don’t have the perfect answer for that. I’m still praying about some things in my life.
But I encourage you to keep trusting God to show you what is needed. I have seen so many answered prayers, it gives me courage to keep praying.
Sometimes it’s not anything about you. You haven’t done anything wrong. There’s some outside influence that is preventing the healing or solution. Ask God to show you what to pray about.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, please feel free to reach out to me.
Is asking God for a new car okay?
There’s nothing wrong with asking God for a car, if you need one. But even that prayer is assuming that you know a car is the answer.
God might have a better solution for you.
Maybe someone will be led to pick you up and this will give you needed companionship or you will be able to help them in some way.
My friend Dorothy
I have a friend, Dorothy, who has not had a car for many years.
On weekends she would take the bus from her work in Boston to her home in Maine.
It would have been a lot quicker for her to hop in her car. But she saw the bus ride as her opportunity to minister to mankind.
She could tell stories all day about sharing her faith and praying with her seatmates on the bus. Her overarching prayer was to bless mankind and not just have her needs met.
More recently, living on the West Coast, she would often call a Lyft or Uber.
More times than not she would end up sharing her faith with the drivers. If she had been driving her own car, those opportunities wouldn’t have presented themselves.
Her motive was always to bless mankind and not just get where she wanted to go.
Praying with pure motives (or not!)
What are your motives when you pray? It’s a question that has many layers of answers.
It’s not always easy to see how our own self-will can be so discreetly entwined in our prayers. Even when we are praying for something good and unselfish.
On more than one occasion, I have realized as I was praying for someone to be healed or some situation to be resolved, I was actually nurturing a selfish little monster in my heart that wanted to get credit for having prayed so well as to bring about a solution.
Guess what. There was no healing until God uncovered that sin and cast it out.
Praying for God’s will or our own?
We pray for God’s will, but we don’t always submit to it, and if we do, it’s not for very long sometimes.
It’s not an easy thing to do, to submit completely, irrevocably, to God’s will. It’s scary to give up our freedom to do what we want to.
If there’s one thing a lot Christians pride themselves on, it’s their free will.
But the most effective prayer is not an exercise of our free will, it’s the surrender of it.
Jesus’s prayer for God’s will
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus uttered those famous words we love to quote but don’t really understand,
not my will, but Thine be done. (Luke 22:42 KJV)
Jesus didn’t use his will to choose what God wanted. He resigned it to God’s will. He gave up his “right” to choose and submitted completely to God’s will.
When you ask for something in prayer, are you asking God for what you want or for what God wants?
Examining our motives is not a one-time event.
Every day, and sometimes moment by moment, we need to examine our hearts to see if we are actually submitting to God’s will or still pursuing our own desires.
We do so much through sheer human will power, both good and bad. We make things happen by brute force or clever manipulation.
Following God’s will is letting go of the human mind’s force and manipulative tendencies, and relying on God’s power and persuasiveness instead.
This requires eating more than just one piece of humble pie.
Sometimes it’s the whole pie.
Sometimes we need to buy out the entire humble pie bakery.
What should we ask for?
Jesus promises us
And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all. (Matthew 21:22 NASB)
That doesn’t mean you’ll get whatever you pray for. It has to be in accord with God’s will.
But I know some people who pray earnestly for God’s will, but they really aren’t surrendering to it and still tell Him what to do. I have caught myself doing that way too many times.
Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God.
So we should probably pray for that first too.
I hear so many people praying to God to give them a new job, a new house, a new car, etc. But that is just asking for what you want. And we’ve already talked about that.
Who are we to think we know what is best for us better than God does.
Remember King Solomon right after he became King? God appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom, not money, power, or fame.
That’s a good model for us to follow.
Some ideas to pray about
Here are a few ideas of things we can ask for in prayer.
And remember that asking means knowing that you deserve these things. Yes you do. You deserved your full rights as a child of God. Having what God has ordained for you as His child is your divine right.
- Ask for God’s will and purpose for you to be made plain to you
- Ask God to reveal your spiritual birthright as an heir to the kingdom
- Ask to receive more of the mind of Christ (1Corinthinas 2:16)
- Ask for purity, humility, wisdom, etc..
- Ask for freedom from trusting or depending on something besides God
- Ask to hear God’s voice and direction
- Ask for ways to help others know God better and follow Christ
- Ask for opportunities to understand and follow Jesus more closely
- Instead of praying for a new house, pray to understand your place in the kingdom of heaven
- Instead of praying for a new car, pray to know that God will always put you in the right place, at the right time, in the right way.
Go deeper in asking God for something
Effective prayers go deeper than just asking God for the things we want.
Try to get at the spiritual essence of what you’re really praying for.
Ask God in full confidence that He will give you what is rightfully yours.
Seek and follow His guidance.
Knock at those “closed doors.”
And you will see and do things you never thought possible.
James Early is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster and conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Bible quotes in this episode
Matthew 7:7 NASB
7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 6:32 NASB
32 your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Matthew 7:9-11 NASB
9 Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
11 So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
James 4:3 ESV
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Luke 22:42 KJV
42 not my will, but Thine be done.
Matthew 21:22 NASB
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
1 Kings 3:5, 9 NKJV
5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?