And he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him." And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything." I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.'So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to 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. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!'My mother had one guideline for raising children that she passed on to me. Actually, it is more like one guideline with two parts: "Be consistent and persistent." In a way, that is good advice for maintaining any relationship, including our relationship with God.
Jesus tells a little story to illustrate this. His point is that God is more generous, more kindhearted, than any friend whom we might ask at midnight for three loaves of bread. I have some friends I could make such ridiculous requests of. They might be peeved, but I could ask and get three loaves of bread from them at midnight.
I have two sons in college. Of course you know what college life is like. Students stay up all hours working on projects, hanging out with friends, etc. Thus, I often get a phone call, after I have gone to bed, from one of my sons. I always take the call. Yes, I wish he would call at a more convenient time. But I always welcome his call and would never want to give him the idea that there was a time he could not call on me.
The thing is this: God is a better father than I am. God is never peeved, whatever time of day or night we come to him, asking for anything. God loves to hear from his children, and I think he rejoices whenever we call on him. If we would only realize God's real attitude toward us, an attitude of magnanimous love, then it would encourage us all the more to be consistent and persistent in prayer.
Jesus makes a statement here that has been turned into song, probably more than once. It is a powerful, meaningful, poetic, and most importantly, a true statement: "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you." If we were to translate this more literally from the Greek it would be: "Askingly ask. Seekingly seek. Knockingly knock." In other words, "Ask and keep on asking for what you want from God. Seek and keep on seeking what you need from him. Knock and keep on knocking on God's door." If we are persistent in prayer, continuous in it, then Jesus promises we will receive, we will find, the door we have been knocking on will be opened.
I have been praying for a particular door to open for some months now. It has not opened yet, but I trust that God will open it. When he does, I may tell you about it.
Does Jesus' promise mean that we will always get exactly what we ask for in prayer? I hope not. I imagine I have asked for some stupid things sometimes. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is good at appropriately translating my prayers, making them better than they really are.
Here is what I believe: if we are consistent and persistent in prayer, God will answer, either with what we have asked for, or something better. And the very best that God can give us is his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit living in us who provides for us a relationship with God. And that relationship is really more valuable than any thing God could give us.