How shall we pray?
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11.9-10)
We usually consider these famous words of promise in an evangelistic context, urging seekers to come to Christ. But we realise they are made equally for all believers, because the Saviour immediately spoke of the Father’s readiness to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
The Lord employs three words to describe prayer, each one having a distinctive meaning and point – Ask! Seek! Knock!
Asking may be seen as an upward act; as when a child asks something of a parent. The word implies a direction, from the lesser to the greater, from the dependant to the provider, from the petitioner to the Lord. The asker is seen as being humble and needy before the everlasting, all-powerful, holy Father on high. The asker must have sincere reverence for God who is – The great, the holy and the high.
Seeking has a different character. It is an active, going-forward word, powered by the energy of desire. If there is no thirsting, no longing, there is no seeking. If a flat, expressionless prayer for revival fails to inspire or stimulate fellow believers in a prayer meeting, how will it move the heart of God?
The seeking word also embraces the elements of persistence and faith. What if God should delay his answer to our prayer to draw out our faith and trust? Our patient seeking will demonstrate our faith.
By contrast, a knock speaks of something immediate. We knock in the expectation or hope of an immediate response. This is not an action of dreamy, distant hope. We knock in the belief that if God so chooses, he can respond very quickly, and this may mean that I must be ready to be the instrument in his hands.
We are assured that everyone who asks, in the lowly spirit of the word, will receive. Everyone who seeks, with longing, will in due course find. Everyone who knocks in urgency will experience the opening of the door.
For what shall we ask? Surely the first blessing and empowering of the Spirit to be asked for is holiness. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us an awareness of the approach of sin, rising from the flesh within, or from the world or Satan without.
The Spirit is the one who activates the believer’s conscience. And the Spirit enables us to mortify or kill the sinful word, action or thought to which we are tempted. The Spirit alone enables us to stay apart from those things that are distinctively worldly and odious, and refreshes our mind with urgings to good works. Are we asking for these priceless activities of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
We also ask every day for light, realising that we cannot receive this without reading and reflecting on the Scriptures.
We pray also for continuing assurance, knowing that this will not be generously given without our recalling the blessings of God, and giving heartfelt thanks for them.
We ask for direction, having learned that we cannot be given it if we have not made ourselves available to God, for some form of service.
We ask for instrumentality in witness, but surely the great Searcher-of-hearts can see how much we really care for lost souls, and how much we really long to speak to those who are lost.
We ask on our knees, we seek with real desire, and we knock because our needs are pressing.
You may also be interested in The Lord’s Pattern for Prayer by Dr Masters.
This volume is almost a manual on prayer, providing a real spur to the devotional life. The Lord’s Prayer – carefully amplified – takes us into the presence of the Father. Here too are remedies for problems, interceding for others, why God keeps us waiting, and the prayer of faith.