Ask, and it shall be given to you

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. Matthew 7:7-8

This is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and comforting promises in all the Bible.  And yet, no sooner do we read a promise like this than we immediately begin to doubt it.  First of all, many people doubt this because it is just not true that God “answers” every prayer (by “answers” we usually mean that God says yes to our request and gives it to us).  There are many things that we have prayed for that simply have not been given to us.

I once read a story about a school in Cuba, where the teachers in order to indoctrinate the students to put their faith in the State rather than in God, told the children to pray to God for a piece of candy.  The children prayed, and they received no candy.  Then the teacher instructed the children to pray again, this time to Castro, and as they prayed the teacher went to each child and put a piece of candy on his or her desk.  When the children opened their eyes, there was a piece of candy.  Of course, the lesson was supposed to be that God doesn’t answer prayer, but Castro does.

Now it’s easy to poke holes in this exercise.  For one thing, the exercise did not prove that Castro heard the children’s prayers.  For if they had repeated the exercise in the absence of their teacher, there is no doubt they would not have received candy.  And who is to say that the first prayer to God for candy wasn’t answered by God when they eventually did receive the piece of candy?  However, the fact of the matter is that sometimes we doubt God because we’ve prayed for something and didn’t receive it.  So when we come to passages like our text, though we may read it and think how beautiful a promise it is, we don’t really take it to heart because of past disappointments.

However, we need to stop and ask ourselves what we are saying about Scripture if we are not willing to really take this promise seriously?  If this promise is not worth believing then no part of Scripture is worth believing.  If we cannot really be changed by the truth of our Lord’s words here, then how can we logically embrace the truth of the cross?  How can we believe the promise that God is going to take us to heaven when we die and yet not believe the promise that if we ask we shall receive?

On the other hand, what if we really could believe this promise?  What if we really took hold of the reality that “everyone who asks receives?”  Does that not have the potential to radically alter our lives, free us from unbelief, doubt, and discouragement?  It was such a belief in the faithfulness of God to hear and answer the prayers of his people that animated George Muller to support orphans only through prayer and faith.  He tells us in his own words that the main reason he established the orphanage on this basis was so that “God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL, and HEARS PRAYER STILL.”[1]  And Muller’s life speaks to us even to this day that God is a prayer-hearing God.

May the Lord give us the grace to believe his word and to truly become men and women of prayer.

[1] Autobiography of George Muller, edited by H. Lincoln Wayland (Baker: 1981), p. 115.

By: Jeremiah Bass