ŇAsk, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.Ó  Matthew 7:7,8.

 

 

ŇAsk, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto youÓ (v.7)

 

In this verse, and those which follow unto the twelfth, is laid down the third part of this chapter, concerning prayer; and it consisteth of two branches: a commandment to pray, and effectual reasons to persuade us thereunto.

 

I.

The commandment is propounded in three several terms: ask, seek and knock; each whereof has his promise annexed thereto: ye shall have, ye shall find, and it shall be opened unto you. Now for our better understanding of ChristŐs meaning herein, two rules must be observed:

 

1. That Christ here speaks not of every kind of asking in prayer, but of that only which Himself commandeth and alloweth; for we may ask and not receive, because we ask amiss, as St James saith (Jam. 4:3); but he that asketh according to ChristŐs direction in this place, shall receive.

 

Now in all acceptable prayer to God, four conditions must be observed:

 

(1) We must ask while the time of grace and mercy remaineth; for if the day of grace be once past, we may ask, seek, and knock, but all in vain. This is plain by the five foolish virgins, who asked and sought for oil, but found none, yea, they called and knocked, but it was not opened unto them (Matt. 25:8,9,12). Now the time of this life, while God offers mercy unto us in His Word, is the acceptable time and the day of grace (2 Cor. 6:2), and therefore herein we must ask, seek, and knock.

 

(2) We must not ask as seemeth good unto ourselves, but according to GodŐs will, and as His Word alloweth. The sons of Zebedee were denied their request, because they asked they knew not what (Matt. 20:22). But this is our assurance that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us (1 John 5:14).

 

(3) We must ask in faith, that is, believe that God will grant us those things which we ask according to His will (Jam. 1:5,6), If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God,É.but let him ask in faith, and waver not; for the wavering minded man shall receive nothing of God; therefore saith Christ, Whatsoever ye desire in prayer, believe that ye shall have it, and it shall be done unto you (Mark 11:24).

 

(4) We must reserve the time and manner of GodŐs accomplishing our requests to His good pleasure. It was the sin of the Israelites that they limited the holy one of Israel, by prescribing Him what they would have for their provision, and when they would have it (Psa. 78:41). We therefore must wait on God, as David did (Psa. 40:1), I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined His ear unto me, and heard me. God defers the granting of our requests, because He would try the affections of His children (Song 3:1). The church seeketh Christ, but cannot find Him, that is, where and when she will. And indeed herein do we shew forth faith, when we refer the time and manner of receiving our requests to the good pleasure of God; for he that believeth will not make haste (Isa. 28:16).

 

2. The second rule to be here remembered concerning prayer is that these promises are not made directly to the work of prayer, but to the person that prayeth; and yet not to him simply, as he doth this good action of prayer, but as he is in Christ, for whose meritŐs sake the promise is accomplished. And therefore Christ here speaks to them whom He takes for granted to be the true members of His mystical body, which is His church. This rule must be remembered for the right understanding of the promises of God concerning prayer; for hereby it is plain that our prayer is not the cause of the blessings we receive from God, but only a way and instrument in and by which God conveyeth His blessings unto His children; for a true prayer is a fruit of our faith in Christ, in whom alone all the promises of God are yea and amen (2 Cor. 1:20), that is, sure and certain unto us.

 

 

Now having found ChristŐs meaning, let us come to such instructions as are to be gathered hence:

 

1. First, observe that Christ doth not barely propound this commandment to pray, but repeats the same by a kind of gradation in three distinct words; ask, seek, and knock; whereof the latter imports more vehemence than the former. And this He doth to check the slackness and coldness of our prayers, and to shut us up to fervent zeal and diligence in this duty, both in public and private. And to move us to godly zeal and diligence in this duty, consider the reasons following:

 

(1) ChristŐs alone example, which in moral duties is a perfect rule. Now though he had little need to pray in respect of Himself, for He did never sin, yet how often, and how long, and with what fervency did He give Himself to this duty? He spent whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12) , and in prayer in the garden He sweat water and blood (Luke 22:44). We have also MosesŐ example, who spent forty days and forty nights in prayer and fasting for the people, when they had sinned (Deut. 9:18,19). If he were thus fervent in prayer for their sins, how earnest would he be for his own? And Daniel humbled himself many days, and prayed fervently for his people (Dan. 9:3,4 etc.). David prayed seven times a day, and rose up at midnight to give thanks unto God (Psa. 119:164,62). And Paul willeth the Romans that they would strive or wrestle with him by prayer unto God (Rom. 15:30). All these are worthy examples unto us; and if we compare ourselves with them, we shall see we have much more cause so to do; for our sins abound above theirs, and therefore we had need to pray for supply thereof against the time of need; for our days of peace will not always last, we have enjoyed it long, and therefore must look for days of trial, for the state of GodŐs church is interchangeable.

 

(2) All of us must come to deal with God, both in the day of death, and at the day of judgment; at both which times all worldly helps and comforts will forsake us, and by no means can we shun that account; therefore it will be good for us while we live, often to set ourselves before the Lord, that so we may make ourselves familiar and acquainted with Him against that day. But if now we estrange ourselves from God in regard of this exercise of prayer, then at our end we shall find the Lord to be strange unto us, and to profess that He knows us not, which will be woe unto us.

 

(3) Every good thing we have or stand in need of comes from the mercy and bounty of God in Christ; and prayer is an ordinary means for the procuring of GodŐs blessings. We therefore must give ourselves to the faithful practice of this duty. Indeed if grace and other blessings were our own, or from ourselves, we might well spare this labour. But what hast thou (saith Paul to every Christian) that thou hast not received? (1 Cor. 4:7). Be not therefore secure and idle, for GodŐs blessings come not when we snort upon our elbows, but in the use of means; and happy are we that may use those means; for in using we receive, in seeking we find, and in knocking it is opened unto us.

 

2. Secondly, our Saviour Christ by trebling this commandment to pray, would give us to consider that there is some weighty cause we should be instant in this duty; and that is, in regard of the great miseries and manifold dangers whereunto we are subject in this life; for as Peter saith (1 Pet. 4:18), the righteous shall hardly be saved, and no marvel, for we have without us the devil and all his angels plotting our destruction, and the world a dangerous enemy, whereby the devil works; within us, we have our own corrupt hearts, daily drawing us to the practice of sin, the bane and poison of our souls. Now what is to be done in this case? Surely our only refuge is constant and fervent prayer unto God, as Christ here implies by this threefold command; for in all things we must let our requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6). This hath always been the practice of all the faithful, as we may see in GodŐs book. But if we had no example, this commandment were sufficient to persuade us unto this duty. Also, dost thou want any grace of God, as faith, repentance, knowledge, zeal, patience, strength against temptation, or assurance of GodŐs favour? Why, ask, and thou shalt have; seek, and thou shalt find. And this must be our course in outward wants, and for temporal blessings, as health, peace, liberty, plenty, etc. Indeed the wicked worldlings seek to wise men, and wise women in their miseries, but this is to forsake God, and to go to the devil. GodŐs people must go to their God (Isa. 8:19).

 

3. Thirdly, the trebling of this commandment in diverse terms must teach us to be instant and urgent with God in prayer. This is an holy and acceptable importunity, when the Christian heart gives God no rest. The Lord promiseth to His people (Jer. 29:12,13), that they shall cry unto Him, and go and pray unto Him, and He will hear them; they shall seek Him, and find Him, because they shall seek Him with their whole heart. (Isa. 62:7), The LordŐs remembrancers are commanded not to keep silence, nor to give the Lord any rest. (Matt. 15:22), the woman of Canaan is commended, because she will take no answer nor repulse from our Saviour Christ, till her daughter was cured. And (Luke 18:5) the poor widow by her importunity prevailed with the unrighteous judge; which parable Christ propounds to teach us to be constant and earnest in prayer. We therefore must shake off our natural coldness and negligence in prayer, which is the common sin of the world in regard of this duty. And we must labour for knowledge both of our own sins and miseries, and of GodŐs mercies, that so we may pray with understanding, and in zeal and fervency as Christ here requireth. Alas many pray not at all, and others know not what they ask, though they say the LordŐs prayer, or some other set form of prayer. And most men that have knowledge suffer their minds to wander from God by vain imaginations. Now all comes for lack of that feeling in prayer which Christ here requireth.

 

 

Thus much of the commandment in general. Now out of the words more particularly we may observe two points:

 

1. First, where Christ bids us ask, seek, knock, He speaks not particularly to some, but generally to all His servants, so that all must pray; which plainly implies that His best and dearest servants are during this life in want of some grace or blessing. And indeed when God gives most excellent gifts and blessings to His children, yet then He leaves them in some notable want or trial for their humiliation and provocation to prayer. Paul was taken up into paradise, and there heard words that cannot possibly be uttered by man in this life (2 Cor. 12:4). This was a great grace and prerogative; but yet to humble him, lest he should be exalted out of measure, there was given him a prick in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him (v.7). Hereby he was brought to pray most earnestly for deliverance, but yet he must rest contented with GodŐs grace; for God will make perfect His power through the weakness of His servants (vv.8,9). This point must be observed, to discover to many secure persons their miserable state, who feel no want of grace in themselves, and therefore think all is well. But what meanest thou to profess Christ when thou have no need of Him nor of His graces? Oh know it, when thou sayest in thine own heart, thou art rich, and lackest nothing; then thou art poor, and blind, and miserable and wretched (Rev. 3:17). And indeed if thou knewest the corruption of thine own heart, thou wouldest cry out with the apostle, in respect of thy wants, O miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7:24).

 

2. Secondly, Christ saying not only ask, but seek and knock; doth hereby imply what is GodŐs dealing many times with His own servants; namely, that He forsakes them for a time, and in part, and in some sort hides Himself, and as it were locks Himself from them. Now thus he dealeth for two causes: First, hereby to chastise and correct them for their sins, for iniquity separates between God and His people, and their sins hide His face from them (Isa. 59:2). Secondly, to make trial of His graces in His children, to see whether they delight in His love, to shew them their own weakness, and to move them to cleave unto Him more inseparably. By all which we see, it stands us in hand to pray earnestly and continually, for God may forsake us for our sins; and He may justly take occasion to try what we have profited by His gospel, which we have long enjoyed with abundance of peace.

 

 

II.

Thus much of the commandment to earnest prayer. Now Christ enforceth it by two reasons; first by a promise, enfolded in this verse with the commandment, and confirmed in the next. Secondly, by a comparison (v.9).

 

1. For the first, the reason from the promise in this verse may be framed: If they which ask shall receive; if they that seek shall find; and they that knock shall be let in; then do you ask, seek and knock. But they that ask shall receive, they that seek shall find etc. Therefore do you ask, seek and knock.

 

(1) In this reason, our Saviour Christ teacheth us that when we pray to God, we must bring a special faith whereby we are assured that the particular things we ask according to GodŐs will shall be given us. So saith Christ (Mark 11:24), Whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believe that ye shall have it, and it shall be done unto you. And James saith (Jam. 1:6), Let him ask in faith; for he that doubts of GodŐs promise, defraudeth himself of the thing he asketh. Now if we must bring this special faith, then of necessity must we have a special knowledge of the will and promise of God for the things we ask; for as without faith we cannot pray aright, so without knowledge, no faith. And therefore we must be careful to acquaint ourselves with the will and promise of God, that by GodŐs commandment we may know what to ask, and by faith may also ask in assurance; for if we pray without this knowledge and faith, our prayers are but lip-labour and unprofitable.

 

(2) Secondly, hence we learn that the papists err grossly, which teach that this special faith is not necessary in prayer. This is a doctrine of devils; for we ought to bring in prayer a particular faith to apply to ourselves the promise of God concerning that thing which we ask in prayer. But this we can never bring, unless we first have a special saving faith, whereby we believe our reconciliation with God in Christ; for therefore do we believe that God will grant our particular requests, because by faith we know ourselves to be in Christ, in whom He loveth us; and therefore will make good His promise unto us, as the apostle saith (1 John 5:14), This is the assurance that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.

 

(3) Thirdly, hence we learn how to carry ourselves in all dangers, troubles, and afflictions; namely, we must settle our hearts by faith upon the promise of God, who hath said He will not forsake us, but be with us in trouble, and deliver us (Psa. 91:15). This is necessary, for without faith in great afflictions, our own natural passions will confound us. Hence Habakkuk speaking of grievous times of affliction saith, The just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4). And this David testified (Psa. 62:1), Yet my soul keepeth silence unto God: of Him cometh my salvation. (Psa. 23:4), Though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear none evil: for thou (Lord) art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

(4) Fourthly, this must stir us up to great diligence in prayer. We being GodŐs creatures, and our God requiring this service at our hands, ought to pray upon His commandment, though He had made no promise unto us.  But now sith He had made a gracious promise to hear and grant our requests, this must stir us up to all diligence and alacrity in prayer. See the practice hereof in David. Upon GodŐs promise he encourageth himself to pray (2 Sam. 7:27-29), Thou O Lord of hosts, hast revealed unto thy servant that thou must build Him an house. Therefore now, O Lord God (for thou art God, and thy words are true, and thou hast told this goodness unto thy servant) Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever; for thou O Lord hast spoken it. So Daniel, perceiving by the prophecy of Jeremiah, the promise of God for the return of the people from the captivity, doth set himself to most earnest prayer to God for the accomplishment of that promise (Dan. 9:2,3). And so must we do in all our wants: first search out GodŐs promise for the supply thereof, and then go boldly and diligently to God by prayer in the name of Christ.

 

 

ŇFor whosoever asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.Ó (v.8)

 

Here Christ confirmeth the former reason that was included in the former verse with the commandment to pray. In effect and substance they are all one; only here the reason is propounded more generally, without limitation to ChristŐs hearers, thus: Whosoever asketh, receiveth; whosoever seeketh, findeth; etc.; that is, observing the due conditions of prayer, which GodŐs Word requireth.

 

1st Objection: Here some may say that God oft hears those that pray without faith, as the cry of the poor when they curse their oppressors (Exod. 22:23). And so the Lord heard the Israelites when they asked quails in their lust (Psa. 78:18,27). Answer: True it is, God sometimes grants the requests of  those that pray without faith, but His hearing is not in mercy, but in anger and wrath, and is a means to execute His judgment upon them. Thus He gave the Israelites a king in His wrath (Hos. 13:11),  and so He gave them quails, for while the meat was in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them (Psa. 78:30,31). Thus the devils had their request granted, to enter into the herd of swine (Matt. 8:31,32), and so God permitted Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:12), but all was to his own shame, to manifest his absolute subjection unto God, that beyond His will he cannot go, no not to hurt the basest of GodŐs creatures.

 

2nd Objection: Ahab prayed and humbled himself and was heard, though he did it only hypocritically for fear of punishment (1 Kin. 21:29). Answer: This was a grant of a temporal benefit only, which God oft gives to hypocrites; but for spiritual blessings which pertain to salvation in Christ, whereof this text is principally to be understood, they are not granted to the wicked.

 

3rd Objection: Abraham prayed directly against the will of God, for the saving of Sodom, which God was purposed to destroy. Answer: Abraham no doubt had in him a special motion to make that prayer, and withal he asked leave of God to pray for them; neither did he pray absolutely, but with submission to GodŐs will, and so he sinned not, though he obtained not his desire; otherwise, without these cautions he had done amiss; and we must not make the extraordinary practices of the faithful, ordinary rules for our imitation. So that GodŐs promise here is firm, whosoever asketh those blessings of God which He had promised to give, in that manner which God approveth, shall be soon to receive.

 

The Use.

In this reason we learn that God is most ready and willing to hear His children when they pray (Isa. 65:1), I was found of them that sought me not, I said behold me, behold me, to a nation that called not upon my name; and (v.24), Before they call, I will answer, and while they speak I will hear.

 

(1) This then is first a plain proof that the Lord whom we worship is the true God; because He is so able to help, and so ready and willing to hear, being near to all that call upon Him in truth. Thus Moses reasoneth with his people to prove that they only had the true God for their God (Deut. 4:7), What nation is so great unto whom the gods come so near unto them; as the Lord our God is near unto us in all that we call unto Him for.

 

(2) Secondly, this must persuade us to love God unfeignedly and heartily, who is so ready and willing to grant our requests in prayer, specially considering we are by nature His enemies. A rare thing it is to see any resemblance of it I the world; and indeed among men this dealing is able to draw love from an enemy, when we shew ourselves willing to do him any good we can. This heaps coals of fire upon his head, to consume his malice, and kindle in him love to us. Oh then, how should GodŐs gracious bounty and readiness to hear us, draw our hearts to God in all love and thankfulness?

 

(3) Thirdly, this serves to be a notable stay and comfort to all those that are cast down in soul with the sight and burden of their sins; for behold, if they ask mercy at GodŐs hands, they shall have it; if they can call, he will hear; and if they will but knock at the door of His mercy, He is ready to open unto them. Here they use to plead, that they have long called, and cried, and knocked, but they find no comfort. Answer: O consider the usual dealing of God with His own children. For a time He will hide His face, and seem to lock up His mercy and compassion from them, as we may see by DavidŐs complaint (Psa. 77:7-9), Will the Lord absent Himself forever? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? Doth His promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be merciful? etc. But His intent herein is to humble them deeper, to make them knock more earnestly, that they may be more thankful for GodŐs mercy when they find it; and more careful to keep themselves from sin, whereby they may lose again that assurance. Indeed it is a most heavy cross, and the deepest grief that can befall a man, to have the conscience apprehend the wrath of God without any feeling of His favour. Yet in this case, here is comfort; let this poor soul out of the depth of his horror cry unto God with David, and out of the belly of the whale of desperation with Jonah, endeavouring against all feeling to lay hold upon the promise of mercy in Christ, and he shall find the Lord in due time ready to hear and to send comfort, yea, the sweetness of His love shall distil most joyously into his poor soul.