THE SERIES, “THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”
“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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, 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 7:7-11 (NKJV)
Many of you might not be into watching television – and perhaps today that is quite understandable.
But on May 20, 1993, the final episode of the TV show “Cheers” aired. Set in a bar in Boston, the show included a psychiatrist named “Frazier Craine”, played by Kelsey Grammar. I remember the first time I saw him on the show. I said to my VERY skeptical wife, “I KNOW THAT GUY!”.
Of course, she muttered something to the effect, “Yeah, right!”. I said, “I think that’s Kelsey Grammar, Pine Crest School Class of 1973, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.”
You know part of the rest of the story. YES, the part WAS played by Kelsey Grammar, and he went on to continue the character in the popular show, “Frazier”. And YES, he did graduate from my high school 2 years after I did. And YES, he played on the football team. And YES, of course he was on the drama team.
So I can say that I know him, right? Well, he DID go to the high school I attended at the same time I did. So that gives me SOME degree of connection with him. But if I were to go up to him and say, “Hi Kelsey – Jeremy Stopford, Pine Crest Class of ’71” what do you think he would say? I know, he’d say “that’s nice.”
You see, I was acquainted with Kelsey Grammar when he went to high school over 50 years ago. But to be ACQUAINTED with someone and to KNOW someone are two different things, aren’t they?
Today’s passage says the same thing:
it’s Who you KNOW that counts!
This is one of the most often quoted passages in the New Testament. it is considered a passage of promise, and it is! It is considered a passage of presumption, but it isn’t. To understand the promise of verses 7-8 let’s first look at verses 9-11.
First, PRAYER FINDS ITS ROOTS AS A RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE (vs. 9-11)
The most precious, tender relationship in Scripture is, in general, that of a parent and child, and in particular, that of a father and son. Dads know what is best for their children! Note the comparative in verses 9-10.
Do you remember ever wanting something REALLY SPECIAL when you were a little kid? OH I so wanted the drum set on sale at Leplers in downtown Rye, NY! $50! FIFTY DOLLARS! Dad said, “IF you save it, you can have it!”. It took me months saving my allowances and doing odd chores around the neighborhood. One day I had that $50 and I said to Dad, “TODAY is the day to buy the drum set.” Dad somehow had this innate wisdom that I’m sure came with his own childhood experiences. He wisely replied, “I am willing to bet it will be destroyed the first day you have it home.” We went down to Mr. Lepler’s store where I proudly set my $50 on his counter and said, “Mr. Lepler, we are here to pick up my new drum set.” We got it home, unpacked it, set it up in the basement, and within 3 hours…I had put a hole through the top of the main drum.
The father/son relationship in these verses is a pattern God develops as an all-wise Heavenly Father. One of my favorite chapters is Proverbs 23 which the Lord in His wisdom had me reading the day my dad died at the age of 90 years. The chapter talks about the Father Who is the MIGHTY Redeemer of the fatherless (see verses 9-11). Look also at verses 13-15 and verses 24-26. I like verse 22a which says, “Listen to your father who begot you…”. But you ask, “my father has passed away” or “he lives miles from here in another state”. “How can I listen to him?”. The key is WHAT you are listening to! Listen to – REMEMBER – his words, those intimate conversations that are just yours and his. What wisdom did he give you? What encouragement, what challenge?
The hard part, of course, is for the Christian who had an earthly father who he either never knew or worse, who was not a good example to follow. In that case, the images of what to expect with an Heavenly Father are tough to visualize. But in due time, and with the diligent reading of the Good Book, the child of his Heavenly Father will find a relationship which is tender and loving. That’s what the Savior means in verse 11 of our main text: “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”. As a result, the Christian recognizes his need to be dependent upon a sinless Father! THIS is a RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE!!!
Second, PRAYER BEGINS AS AN HEART ATTITUDE: “ASK” (verse 7).
ASKING is not DEMANDING! We all have seen the helpless mother in the aisles of Walmart! Can you hear her children? Can you? “MOM! I WANT THIS, and I want it NOW!” And when they get to the counter, the four darling urchins are taking advantage of the suggestive sales by the register and loading mom’s cart with those dollar items that suddenly put the grocery bill to an unreasonable total – all because of the little tykes’ WANTS!
True Biblical “ASKING” refers to the heart attitude of the petitioner! It recognizes that I am in a lesser position that the One I am petitioning!
What heart attitudes should we have?
* HE IS ABLE: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Ephesians 3:20)
* HE IS WISE: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)
* WE MUST NOT BE SELFISH! HE ALONE IS TO BE GLORIFIED: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3)
* OUR LIVES BACK UP OUR PRAYERS: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)
* OUR PRAYERS WILL CONFORM TO HIS WORD: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Third, PRAYER MOVES FORWARD AS AN HEAD ATTITUDE: “SEEK” (verse 7).
“Seek” means “to strive after, desire, work toward a goal, to covet earnestly.” It means that I am to have the attitude that thinks that I will agree – come in compliance with – that which You Father require of me! Have you read these verses lately:
“But SEEK first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 – my emphasis)
“If then you were raised with Christ, SEEK those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1 – my emphasis)
Fourth, PRAYER FINDS ITS FULFILLMENT IN A PERSISTENT ATTITUDE: “KNOCK” (verse 7)
There once was an ad in the paper promoting the business of Mr. Opper Knockity. It read this way: “I take care of all your piano needs. Remember, Opper Knockity tunes only once.”
To “knock” means “to strike repeatedly.” Thus from the Greek it is pictured as “to KEEP ON asking, KEEP ON seeking, KEEP ON knocking.”
By practical application, it means that while you are knocking, the Spirit is taking care of the HEART (“ask”), of the HEAD (“seek”), and of the SPIRIT (“knock”).
Even so does the Lord Jesus! Revelation 3:20 says in part, “Behold I stand at the door and…KNOCK”. He is KNOCKING for our heart, for our fellowship.
As we close, I’m reminded of the words quoted by a VERY wise experienced missionary in one of his prayer letters, words that were written by an unknown author:
“nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer.”
As you look at YOUR CHURCH, is it and all it does founded on PRAYER?
As you look at YOUR LIFE, are you and all you do founded on PRAYER – on a tender relationship with your HEAVENLY FATHER?
It’s WHO you know that counts!!!