The Great Sayings in the Gospels

Sermon 43:: Ask And It Shall Be Given You

Matt 7:7‑11


Matt 7:7‑11

7          Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8          For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9          Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10        Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11        If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? KJV




On first glance this text looks like an open invitation to ask God for anything at all and have the certainty that God will give it.  In fact, many people have taken it and taught it in just that way.  I have heard preachers say that they have asked God for airplanes and all sorts of other things and He has given them in answer to this text.


Some people believe that it guarantees healing, wealth, comfort and every ‘goody’ that the human mind can imagine.


The reality is that the people of God, serious saints, prayer warriors, have asked God for many things, in faith, and have not received them.  One of the most famous of those prayers was that of the apostle Paul concerning what was apparently a physical affliction.


    2 Cor 12:7‑9

7          And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8          For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9          And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. KJV


The direct prayer was answered with a ‘no.’  However, if one thinks closely he will see that God did indeed grant him a ‘good gift,’ the grace to bear with the infirmity and even prosper spiritually in it.



Others rightly point to the issue that we are ask and keep on asking, etc., thinking that the mere persistence in praying for a particular thing will assure that we get it.  But is there more to it than that?  Can a person really get anything at all that he wants from God if he will merely be persistent in it?


How can we understand a text like this?  Where is the help for us to decipher what we are to take away from it?  Obviously, there is a ‘context’ that should help us but where is it and how do we get access to it?


What if some of the people who did have ‘context’ for this statement had written on the subject to give us some perspective?  Actually, they did.

John the Apostle

John was the man closest to the Lord Jesus during His life on earth.  He is the one who sat next to Him when they ate, the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, even though she had several sons other than Jesus.  This is the man who would have had many opportunities to ask for and receive explanations for difficult things that Jesus said.  Listen to his comments on the topic of asking and receiving from God.


1 John 3:22‑24

22        And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23        And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

24        And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. KJV


1 John 5:14‑15

14        And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

15        And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. KJV


John had much to say about obedience.  It is likely that during his later ministry some had begun to err concerning grace and were declining in their commitments to the keeping of the commandments of Christ.



In John’s mind, the issue of obedience, prayer, and receiving answers to prayer were inseparably linked.  To him, the person who received what he asked for was a person who kept the commandments of Christ, did what was pleasing in His sight, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, loved the brethren and did abide in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  This person, John was convinced, would only ask such things as he/she believed would be according to the will of God.


In other words, this issue of asking and receiving was reserved only for the serious believer and was as far from the “Santa Claus” religion of many as it could be.


In reality, this only makes sense.  The person who is not obedient to Christ and His commandments is in rebellion against God, right?  In what possible universe would we think that a person in rebellion against God would ask for anything expecting to receive it, except possibly, we might think that he could ask for forgiveness and repentance and those things be given to him.


If he is a believer and is experiencing some difficulty in his life while living in disobedience to Christ, would we not expect that such a difficulty might be the hand of the discipline of God upon him?  Would we think that God would take away the consequences of rebellion unless there is genuine repentance for the rebellion?


Certainly we can see the absurdity of thinking that John believed there was an open check waiting to be written for anything that anyone wants, not matter what their level of commitment to Christ might be or the level of obedience to His commandments!  This is crazy talk, similar to the thinking that many exercise at Christmas time and teach their kids to think.  “Just wish for it, ask for it, put it on your list.  Some magical person will bring it to you just because you are so sweet and you deserve it.”  Shall men really think of the Living God in such terms?  If they do, then their foolishness if obvious.


Then, John raised the issue of asking according to the will of God.  Now, human beings only have one source for learning what God’s will is and that is His Word.  Therefore, John assumes that the praying person, the one asking a favor of God, is familiar with His word and knows to some degree how the Holy One handles requests from men.


There are a few simple rules we should keep in mind.

  1. God rarely, if ever, acts on the requests of unrepentant people.
  2. God will not enable our rebellion, giving us things for us to use wickedly.
  3. God’s interests in us lie far more in our spiritual growth and welfare than in our physical well-being.
  4. If we are walking with God then we will love Him supremely and our neighbors as ourselves.  Our prayers will reflect that.


There are other issues that we will discuss to regulate our prayers.  But the Word of God teaches us what the Revealed Will of God is.  And, it teaches us how God has been pleased to answer the prayers of His saints in ages past.  Therefore, our requests of Him should fall within the pattern of those teachings if they have any hope of a favorable answer.

  1. The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning prayer.

Rom 8:26‑27

26        Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27        And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. KJV


Here we learn that all prayer is processed through the agency of the Holy Spirit, sometimes called “the Holy Ghost.”  This is the third Person of the Triune God, just as much God as the Father and the Son.  His role in redemption is interacting with man directly in his soul, first bringing him out of darkness and into the light of God, revealing his sins, the truth of God’s Word, and the saving ministry of Jesus Christ to him.  But the bringing of a person to saving faith and regeneration is only the beginning of the Work of the Spirit of God in the life of a believer.


Paul places before us the picture of the Spirit acting as a translator, taking human desires and presenting them before the Throne of God “with groanings that cannot be uttered,” Divine language which no human speaks on this side of the grave.  Paul shows us here that our prayers are not only translated into the heavenly language but also filtered and modified so that they are appropriate to be presented in the Throne Room of God.


We are ‘infirm,’ Paul says, not knowing really what to pray for or how to pray.  The best that we are able to do is unacceptable, incompetent, and seriously flawed.  Therefore, we must have the ‘help’ of the Holy Spirit.  He must direct our minds correctly, instill in us the proper things to desire and for which to pray.  Then, He must take even those prayers which He directed and modify them so that they are acceptable before the Father.


The intercession that is offered, then, is only that which is acceptable to God, in accordance with Him will, and pleasing for Him to answer.


We can only wonder what happens when nothing in a prayer is offered in such a way that the Holy

Spirit can modify it into something acceptable.


  1. Thirdly, we appeal to James, the half-brother of Jesus.


We do not know at what point James became a believer.  He rose quickly to be well-respected in the church at Jerusalem and even became pastor to some of the apostles.  When a disagreement arose at Antioch between Peter and Paul, it was brought to him for resolution.  His order of resolution has been considered as binding by the Christian church ever since.


He also wrote concerning prayer, expressing the confidence that God would hear appropriate prayers.

James 5:13‑18

13        Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14        Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15        And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16        Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

17        Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

18        And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.


Here James remarked upon the issue of asking great and profound things of God and was confident that prayers rightly offered would indeed result in powerful answers.  Here he is not really talking about the ‘gift’ of healing that Paul mentioned in 1 Cor. 12 but the personal interaction with God of one who is sick as he is assisted by the eldership of the church.


You will notice that twice the subject of sin is mentioned (vs. 15,16).  It is obvious that James believed that the only person who might expect answers to such prayers was a repentant individual.  Even valid and necessary prayers are hindered, in situations of real need, when one chooses to continue in rebellion or refuses to research the matter of sin and repentance in his life.


James also took up the subject of prayer in another place.


James 4:1‑4

1          From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

2          Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

3          Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

4          Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.


The things that we ask of God must not be selfish things, things that we would use to sin against Him or things that are contrary to the advancement of His kingdom or the welfare of His people.  Here it is quite clear that he does not have “Santa Claus” religion in his mind.


So long as people are involved only in their selfish interests and are only talking to God about such things as might benefit them personally, there is no interaction of the Holy Spirit, no listening ear in heaven and no promise that their prayers will be answered with anything but silence.


“Friendship with the world,” is particularly mentioned as a hindrance to one’s prayers.  It would be wonderful if we had a full, written, exposition of exactly what it was that James was referencing here.


We do know that Paul equated covetousness, the world’s great sin, with idolatry.


Col 3:5

5          Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: KJV


Therefore, prayers raised to God only so that one can ‘have’ more or be helped in some self promoting way, are doomed to be ignored at best and outright judged at worst.


The point is that repentance is a huge part of any life in which there is an ongoing series of answered prayers.  It is the very manifestation of genuine faith in God.


Given, then, the comments of these men, for what should we pray?


  1. First of all, we should continually make sure that we have put away our sins.  One good test is to look at how we are doing concerning the sins that have always troubled us, whether it be lust or covetousness or pride or envy or the love of this world.  Whatever has been our ongoing failure, it serves as a good barometer as to how we are doing concerning repentance.
  2. Spiritual needs should always be at the front.  Even in times of great physical distress either for ourselves or others, the greatest issue is the spiritual welfare of the one suffering.
  3. The Glory of God should always be our first concern.  Whatever our circumstance, if we love God supremely, we should desire that He be glorified, even in our tribulation and difficulty.
  4. We should look at the things that Jesus, the apostles and the prophets prayed for.  These things should be guides for us, models for our own prayers.  They are certainly things in accordance with the will of God.
  5. We should consider the teachings of God’s Word on prayer and modify our prayers so as to be in conformity with sound doctrine.
  6. And we should never, never, never ask for things from God merely out of selfishness.


That being said, we ought to pray and ask God for great things.  We should pray for ourselves that we might become all that He would have us be in every way, ultimately filled with His Holy Spirit and totally in love with Him.


We should pray the same for our brothers and sisters and for our church, that God might make of us all people who are worthy of the name ‘Christian.’


We should pray for the lost, for the moving of God’s Spirit upon them, especially those that we know and with whom we have regular contact.  We should consider no one as beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit or ‘too far gone’ to save.  We should literally lay siege to the throne of God for them.


There is no doubt but that we should pray for the sick, asking for miracles, and be faithful in that, even as we take the opportunity to minister to them physically and encourage them.


And, we should pray for the world in which we live that God might come upon it in power as He has done on many other occasions, turning the tide of corruption and immorality and restoring Himself as the acknowledged and worshiped Supreme Being of all men.


If we do it right, when we have finished with these things, our lusting after things that we do not need will have subsided and our deepest longings for God will be in full manifestation.


7          Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8          For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.


As we mentioned in the beginning, these words instruct us to be persistent and faithful in praying for things that we are certain are in accordance with the Will of God.  His delay in answering them should not sway us nor discourage us but push us to examine if there is something wrong with the way that we are approaching God or the real motives for which we are asking them.  As we learn of our own shortcomings in prayer, we must use those lessons to refine our approach to God, seeking to come closer and closer to asking “according to His will.”


We should rest confident, based on the record of scripture, that prayers offered rightly will indeed be heard and answered by Him.