Thursday, April 20, 2017
Christian Spirituality XXVIII: Asking, Seeking, Knocking
Christ is risen! Yes, He truly is Risen!
Today I will write about Matthew 7:7 – 12. Verse 7 reads like this, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Orthodox material that I read is quick to point out that the verb tense in this verse (in the Greek) is the present progressive. A better English translation would be, “Be asking… Be seeking…. Be knocking…. The Orthodox Study Bible adds that we, “…ask in prayer, we seek by learning God’s truth, and we knock by doing God’s will.”
I like to link this to 1 John 5:15, “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.” The way I read this, it is saying that our praying IS our receiving! We have already received it! Now, before you get excited, we must remember what prayer is, what God’s will is, and what praying in Jesus’ name is.
From our own very limited perspective, all our prayers are good. We all pray for good things, or at least we think so while we are praying. We pray for better jobs, a good house, good weather for the farmers, health for our children, healing for ourselves and those that we know and love. Yes, we all ask the Lord for things like these while we pray.
How often do we pray for God’s will to be done? Or that we would know God’s will in our lives?
It is interesting to me that some people can rattle off what God’s will is for them at the drop of a hat. I wonder if that is really the truth. I suspect there is a high percentage of these folks whose ideas of what God’s will is for them changes with relative ease. I knew a pastor who hated living in the north and dealing with winter. He loved to golf. All of a sudden, he knew it was God’s will that he move to Texas. And sure enough, he found a church that needed a pastor and that town had a great golf course and he packed his bags and was gone. He said it was God’s will that he move to this town.
Was that God’s will for him? I don’t know. I can’t say for anyone else because I have a hard enough time with the specifics in my own life. And truthfully, unless our jobs entail something that is unlawful or immoral, I don’t think God really cares what we do to make a living. I think we can just rely on what we love to do. And perhaps just doing what we love is God’s will.
But there is a larger picture, one more general that I find that people often miss. How do we treat people? How do we live in the world or even our family? Yes, there are some passages and texts in the Bible that tell us very specifically what God’s will is for us. We can look at the Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount. Just these two items would keep us busy (and humble)! Not just keeping laws however, which is how many people read them, but in guiding the way in which we live.
I wonder if there are lot of people, even Christian people, who don’t even pay attention to either of these. I hear some tell me that I don’t need to bother trying to live the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus was just giving us the goal of the Christian life and not what was required or anything. If you are able to follow all these rules, when good, but if not, that’s OK because we are not saved by keeping laws, or so the story goes.
Jesus will tell us point blank in 7:21 that to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we must DO God’s will. So, I think finding out God’s will is important. And it isn’t complicated. It’s pretty simple actually. Much of it is either written down or is taught by our Church. I would like to share this short list of verses that say we are judged according to our works or words.
Romans 2:6-10, 13
2 Corinthians 5:10
1 John 2:17
1 Peter 1:17
This list is by no means exhaustive. Rather in my daily reading of Scripture, I pay attention and try to make connections. These are ones that I have written down over the past few months.
So, the most important thing to ask for is eternal life with the Lord and He does not keep it a secret of how we are to get there and what we must do. It’s pretty plain and simple, although not necessarily easy. And when we fail, we will encounter the mercy of God. Remember in Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father in perfect.” What this is really saying is that mercy is a sign of the Kingdom. The perfection of God is mercy. So, just by practicing mercy, we can travel far and fast in the spiritual life.
It is an error, a false Gospel, that we can ignore the law, that we can accept Jesus as our Savior and then basically do as we will. The deceiver Satan sews ideas such as this when we are not diligent and watchful. When we start thinking like that, it is good to recall the words of Christ Himself in Matthew 7:21. This, and similar verses like the ones above, should develop within us a certain amount of fear, or wonder and awe, that we should desire to stay close to our Savior. Yes, we will fail. We will fall. Humility becomes an essential ingredient to our living the Gospel and we recognize our failures and our falling and we humbly seek the Lord and His mercy and forgiveness. We rise again. We choose narrow path.
It is here that we sift and sort through what is really important and we find out what are the essential things to ask of the Lord. One thing to recall is that in the Lord’s Prayer, the one He commanded us to say, there is not one petition in it that is earthly or temporal (not even daily bread which really refers to Eucharist). I wonder if it is here that we eventually learn wisdom. You know as we struggle through life, prayers that are seemingly unanswered, endure some suffering, experience trials, we come to the realization of what is more important. Yes, it is OK to ask the Lord to heal Gramma’s heart, her physical heart after a heart attack or something. We should pray for this! Yet, let us also learn to ask the Lord for strength in bearing suffering. Ask the Lord to help Gramma in her suffering. For it is through suffering that the Lord teaches us wisdom, love, and how to truly be compassionate and holy.
Suffering has much to teach us. As we grow in faith, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts to the lessons He is trying to teach us through our trials. Let us seek the Lord merely for Who He is and prostrate ourselves before Him and ask His help to teach us how to love more fully, putting others first, treating them as better than ourselves. Let us keep knocking that He would open our hearts and teach us the ways of holiness, to set us on the narrow path, and keep us from false teachers.
Those last two items, I will take up next time. Until then, keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. The Lord is listening. Follow Him. He is leading us to our answers. Life itself contains many of the answers to our prayers if we but remain watchful and open to seeing.
Dennis the Little