“Everyone who asks receives” (Luke 11:10a).
Jesus ‘ words in today’s lesson from Luke, “I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9), are among the better known of his sayings. (It is occasionally pointed out that the first letters of the three verbs, Ask, Seek, and Knock, themselves spell out ASK in a serendipitous acrostic.)
The triple urging along with the emphatic introductory, “I tell you,” show how urgent it was for Jesus to teach his disciples the importance of this aspect of prayer. His emphasis on petitionary prayer follows his gift of the Lord ‘s Prayer, and therefore may be seen as a commentary on it.
It is significant that this is one of the rare occasions in which Jesus gave key teaching only in response to a request — he didn’t teach about prayer until the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Further, they made the request only after they had observed Jesus praying. The implication of this sequence of events is that one is best taught about prayer only when one is genuinely desirous of learning. The disciples had spent a lot of time with Jesus before they asked to be taught how to pray. It is reasonable to assume that, likely being observant Jews, they had bee been taught about prayer before their discipleship began. Their request, then, is evidence that they wanted something more than they had already been taught, more than they were already in the habit of practicing.
Jesus’ response involves four points: 1) persevere in prayer (with the implication that one does not automatically get everything one asks for in prayer in the way one hopes and at the first time one prays); 2) those who do persevere will eventually receive what they truly desire; 3) God answers prayers as and when is best, for he loves those who pray even better than the best parents love their children; and 4) the gift of the Holy Spirit is ultimately the most important thing to pray for — or, at least, is the most loving gift that God gives.
The implication of these points is that among those who pray, very often they do not really know what they should pray for, and therefore will usually ask for things that are not helpful, necessary, or even proper. A loving God answers the heartfelt desire of the petitioner in the best way, even when the petitioner does not fully know the desire. Yet those who persevere in prayer gradually mature in the knowledge of their true desire, and therefore pray more truly.
Look It Up
The Lord’s Prayer is provided in Scripture in two places; Luke 11:2-4 (part of today’s reading) and Matthew 6:9-13. Compare and contrast the two texts.
Think About It
Consider the old question children often ponder: If you could have one, and only one, wish granted, what would it be? What is it that you really want?