Today’s reading: Matthew 7-8.
Leadership Journal tells the story of missionary Herbert Jackson who was assigned a car that would not start without a push. For two years he made sure to park the car on a hill or where he could find help pushing his car. When the Jackson family had to leave the mission field, Dr. Jackson explained the procedure to the new missionary, who then looked under the hood and said, “Here’s the problem – a loose cable.” With the cable fixed, the car started easily with a turn of the key. A bad connection had been blocking all the power of the car.
All of God’s power is available for us, but too often the prayer connection is missing. Jesus knew that and repeatedly urged his disciples to pray. His statements were emphatic.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11
Paul Miller focuses on this message in his book, A Praying Life, describing Jesus’ words as “extravagant promises.” Jesus also said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16). “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).
Miller describes a prayer path with a steep drop on either side, like walking along a fence. You fall off to one side if you fail to pray; you fall off the other by praying apart from God’s will. As James put it, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). But with Jesus it is all ask, ask, ask. He puts off any concern about improper requests in order to implore us to pray. Why? As Miller says, he knows “we are not balanced … we are either confident in ourselves or despairing in ourselves … we are paralyzed, not moving toward God.”
And then there is God. He is no unjust judge who must be worn down in order to act. He is not a sleepy neighbor whose door you must keep banging on until he comes and gives you bread. He is a loving father who longs to give his children good things. So Jesus says, ask. Then again he says, ask. He’s still waiting for you to ask.
Image by Jan Smith on Flickr, CC by 2.0