By Jennifer Heeren, Crosswalk.com
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7
It sounds so simple: ask and you shall receive anything you want! But what if what you want isn’t good for you? What if what you want at the time goes against the law of God? What if two people on earth ask for the same job or the same spouse? They can’t both have it. And if you get everything that you ask for, doesn’t that place you in power over God? Let’s determine what this verse is really telling us about asking and receiving.
Understanding the Context of the Phrase 'Ask and You Shall Receive' in the Bible
Right after this concept of asking and receiving, Jesus shares that parents give good gifts to their children. If mere humans can do this, how much more can our loving heavenly Father give to us? It is important to remember how God wants to lavish good things on us (Deut. 28:11). But sometimes we must ask and continue asking because our initial motive is wrong. God won’t give us the answer to a whim of ours that comes out of wrong thinking. But the more we ask, the more what we want gets molded into what is really good for us.
This could be the main idea of the passage: to simply stay in an ongoing relationship with your living God. Ask for something you want. If the answer is yes, keep on communicating with God. If the answer is no, keep on asking your heavenly Father. Talk with God until you either receive what you want or the wisdom to know why you didn’t get it. Then continue to keep the communication open. Keep asking. Keep communicating. Most of all, keep loving your Father in Heaven.
This passage was mentioned in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. When you look at this passage as a whole, it speaks of the Kingdom of God and connecting our lives to that Kingdom. Jesus tells us how to grow in our character. It seems that the ask and you shall receive message would be along these same lines. We should always persevere to have a more God-like character. We ask. We learn. We grow. Then we ask again.
Sometimes we ask and then do receive what we asked for. But a lot of the time, asking may simply be a part of the process of learning and growing in wisdom. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon asked God for a discerning heart to help people and to distinguish between right and wrong, and the Lord was pleased with him. God was pleased that he asked for wisdom and discernment instead of fleeting things like wealth or honor. He gave Solomon a very wise heart, but he also gave him the wealth and honor that he hadn’t asked for. Solomon asked for the best thing and received other blessings as well.
Does This Mean that Every Time We Ask for Something, We Receive It?
If we ask for the things that are in the Sermon on the Mount, we will receive them. We can ask to grow in humility. We can desire to see righteousness in the world. We can learn to be more merciful and to promote peace. We can seek to be salt and light to a needy world. We can strive to lift up Christ whenever possible. We shouldn’t let the sun go down on our anger. We shouldn’t be ruled by lust. We should let our word mean something. We can grow in loving our enemies and praying for them. We can pray for those different from us instead of judging them. We can learn to give more to the needy. We can pray to not be anxious and trust God with our needs. We can keep growing in our ability to love our neighbor. When we ask to grow in any of these areas, we will receive. When we seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, God will give us everything that we need. What we need is more important than what we want. This quote from Timothy Keller says it very well: You should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.
If we are in Christ, we have already received far more than we ever deserved. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The Father chose us and adopted us as sons and daughters. He redeemed us and forgave all our sins. And he lavishes grace on our lives. We didn’t earn any of this, but he gave it anyway because he loves us. He gives us everything we need to live a godly life. So, keep on asking.
How to Apply 'Ask and You Shall Receive' to Your Prayer Life
Start with the Lord’s Prayer. Begin each prayer with the ideals in the Lord’s Prayer. It doesn’t have to be the exact words, but the meaning of the words should be there.
Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:9-13
Then, let your requests stem from that.
Pray to learn and grow, not to be seen by others as righteous. Let your prayer life be between you and God. Pray because you love God and want to be like Him. Don’t use words that you think sound eloquent. Just be yourself and speak plainly. After all, God knows what you need before you even ask.
Remember that you are praying to your Father in heaven. He is holy, but He also loves you. Pray for His will to be done in your life and in the world. Thank Him for the basic needs that you know He has met and will meet again. Ask forgiveness for any sin that you know you have committed. And forgive those who have sinned against you. Pray that God will keep you away from evil and give you a way out when you are tempted.
After praying like this, your heart will be in a good place to ask for the things you want while remembering that your heart and your character are of utmost importance. You will be praying with the right motives and the likelihood of asking for something trivial will be diminished. So, keep on asking.
Ask, seek, and knock because you will eventually find God’s answers to your problems instead of what you think you want in any given moment. Most of all, continually asking and seeking will keep you connected and in relationship with God for your life and afterward. Your relationship with God affects every other aspect of your life, so pour into this first and foremost.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Wenping-Zheng
Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. Her debut novel is available on Amazon. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.