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Ask, and It Will Be Given to You

July 4, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 11:9-10 (NRSV)

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Focus

Jesus encourages us to ask God for what we need, confident that God will indeed respond to our prayers. When it seems that God isn’t responding, we’re urged to ask and keep on asking, search and keep on search, knock and keep on knocking. Though it can be discouraging when God’s answer to our prayers isn’t what we had hoped for, we continue to pray on the basis of Jesus’s promise. When we pray, God will respond, doing what’s best for us even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In Luke 11, after giving his disciples a model prayer, Jesus has some more things to say about prayer. First, he encourages us to pray with “shameless audacity” (see last Thursday’s devotion). Then Jesus adds some additional reasons why we can pray with confidence in God’s response. He says, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (11:9-10).

This passage uses three verbs in the imperative mood: ask, search, and knock. All three of these verbs are in the present tense in Greek, which conveys the sense of ongoing action. We could accurately paraphrase the Greek by translating, “Ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; search, and keep on searching, and you will find; knock, and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened for you.” In other words, the form of these imperatives underscores what we learned in the previous section. Jesus teaches us to ask God for what we need in prayer and to keep on asking until we receive it. Preachers who advocate an “ask only once” view of prayer must have forgotten what Jesus teaches here.

In this section of Luke, Jesus reinforces the fact that God will indeed answer our prayers. In fact, his teaching appears at first glance to promise that we will always get from the Lord what we request of him. That’s one way to read “For everyone who asks receives” (11:10). Now, to be sure, Jesus is saying that God will answer our prayers. But he is not saying that God will always give us exactly what we want. When we ask something of the Lord, we will receive. Sometimes God will do precisely what we request. Often, however, God’s answer is not what we were expecting, or even what we wanted.

One might say that Luke 11:9-10 points to the problem of unanswered prayer. But the phrase “unanswered prayer” is not quite right. It would be more consistent with what Jesus teaches to say that this passage raises for us the challenge we face when God’s answers are not in line with our hopes. Sometimes when we ask for something in prayer, God says “No.” Many times, in my experience, God says “Yes and no” or “Not yet.” In times such as these, we can easily feel as if God is silent. We might even wonder if God is withholding his grace from us. We see this kind of questioning in Psalm 77:7-9: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

The presence of such a prayer in the Psalms gives us freedom to say to the Lord exactly what’s in our minds and hearts, without holding back. There are times when it feels as if God has forgotten to be gracious. You might even be in one of those times right now. If your personal theology is built on Scripture, then you know that God has really not ceased to be gracious. But it sure can feel that way. In such times, you don’t have to constrain your prayers, making sure you dot every theological ‘i’ and cross every theological ‘t.’ Rather, you are invited to speak to the Lord freely, opening your heart to him without fear or hesitation.

Jesus will address the question of God’s goodness in the next verses of Luke 11 (see tomorrow’s devotion). So far, he promises that if we pray, God will in fact answer. And, through Luke’s use of present imperative verbs, Jesus urges us to keep on praying no matter what. Even when it seems as if God isn’t answering us, in faith we ask and keeping on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.

Reflect

Can you think of a time (or times) in your life when you asked God for something in prayer and were astounded by his quick, positive response? How did you respond to this?

Can you think of a time (or times) when you asked God for something repeatedly but did not receive the answer you had hoped for? How did you respond to this?

How do you deal with the problem of so-called “unanswered prayer”?

What helps you to pray and keep on praying, even when God’s answer is not what you’d like?

Act

Take Jesus at his word. Ask and keep on asking for something you’d like God to do. Pay attention, not only to God’s answer, but also to what’s going on in you in the process.

Pray

Gracious God, thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for the privilege of telling you whatever is on my mind and heart, without needing to hold back. Thank you for the encouragement to pray and keep on praying. Thank you for the promise that if we pray, you will listen and you will answer.

Lord, sometimes it’s hard to receive your answer to prayer. I’m quite happy with “Yes.” Sometimes “Yes and no” is okay. “Not now” isn’t easy for me. “No” can be so discouraging, especially when my request makes so much sense to me. Help me, I pray, to receive your answers to prayer with consistent trust in you, even when you’re not responding as I had wished.

Help me, gracious God, to be persistent in prayer, to pray and keep on praying. May I remain in conversation with you through the day, whether I’m at work or at home, in my neighborhood or at the grocery store, in church or on the soccer field. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Easy Street Prayers


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2 thoughts on “Ask, and It Will Be Given to You

  1. Margie Tomlinson says:

    Two reflections from my personal “treasures old and new” notebook. One a quote from Wycliff on this passage. prefaced with these words. “Jesus you really did say “everyone who asks receives” and Wycliff adds: “Ask for what you do not possess. Seek for what is not apparent. Knock that obstacles may be removed. The answer will be complete no exceptions.” When I consider the author of this quote and what this man of God prayed for it helps to remember where another man of God prayed and his prayers seem to go unanswered. Daniel 10:10-14. Verse 12 is a great comfort during those (long) delays. Thank you looking forward to the second part of this. Blessings Margie T.

  2. DiAnne says:

    Excellent!

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