7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8 (ESV)
“When we pray, we must not let it come to: Fie (disgust) upon thee; but certainly hold and believe, that we are already heard in that for which we pray, with faith in Christ. Therefore the ancients ably defined prayer an Accensus mentis ad Deum, a climbing up of the heart unto God.” – Martin Luther
Jesus has already spoken some familiar words in His Sermon on the Mount. Today’s text reveals more familiar phrases. The concept of asking, seeking and knocking coincides with the previous section known as the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:7-13). Today’s text is filled with cause and effect statements.
To ask (αἰτέω; aiteo) is a present active imperative verb. In other words, it is an active, continuous command from Jesus to do something. Believers in Christ are to keep on asking God for what they need. Perhaps this persistence involves all prayers, or specifically one.
It is an order to request, and in some contexts to demand, something from God ((Matt. 7:7; 27:20; Luke 23:23; John 16:24; Acts 3:2; Col. 1:9; James 1:5; 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15). It is a further clarification on the seriousness of prayer.
The corresponding promise to asking is that it will be given to you. The phrase it will be given (δίδωμι; didomi) is a future, passive verb. The one praying will receive what is asked. At the very least, this means that the one asking will receive an answer to their request. At the very most it means that the prayer must be in conformity to God’s will (I John 5:13-15).
To seek (ζητέω; zeteo) is a second present, active imperative verb. It means to try and find, to learn where something is, and to desire information. Jesus’ promise is that the one seeking an answer from God will actively find it (εὑρίσκω; heurisko) in the future.
To knock (κρούω; krouo) is also a present, active imperative verb. It means to hit or whack on a gate or door (Matt. 7:7, 8; Luke 11:9, 10; 12:36; 13:25; Acts 12:13, 16; Rev. 3:20). The result is that either the gate or door will be opened (ἀνοίγω; anoigo). This is a future passive verb.
Jesus then gave an overarching promise. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” What a blessed series of promises from the Lord. However, the promise comes with a corresponding responsibility; persistence in prayer.
Additionally, we must understand these verses on prayer, and the respective promises, cannot be divorced from their immediate context. To do so is to fail to appropriately interpret the text. Context determines meaning.
“We still often find it hard to show mercy even when we know the Lord’s character. We still need wisdom to distinguish between those who will mock the Gospel and those who will not trample upon the good news (Matthew 7:1-6). Moreover, we are in desperate need of God’s help in order that we might live up to the high calling throughout the Sermon on the Mount to be salt and light (5:13–16), obey the law of Christ in heart and deed (vv. 21–48), abstain from hypocrisy (6:1–18), and serve the Lord wholeheartedly (vv. 19–34),” explains Dr. Sinclair Ferguson.
“This need is the reason why our Savior returns to the subject of prayer in today’s passage. Living in conformity to His way is impossible if we attempt to do it in our own power. But if we persevere in prayer, seeking to be empowered by the Spirit to obey Christ with gladness, God will enable us to be faithful to His call (7:7–8).”
May we ask, seek and knock persistently for God to give us the strength and conviction to not hypocritically judge people and to discern when to leave people who mock and reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus promised that He would answer our prayers (asking, seeking and knocking) when we desire to be godly men and women of the kingdom of God.
Soli deo Gloria!