Two Sundays ago, we listened to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11, where he calls us to understand prayer relationally. That is, praying is not just about putting in an order with God and waiting for him to deliver us what we want. Instead prayer is a means by which we experience and live out an intimate relationship with our Father. In fact, in a great little book called Why We Pray, author William Phillip calls prayer the “audible form… of real, living relationship with God.”
So as we bring our needs to God—and we do so actively, patiently, and persistently—we’ll grow deeper in our experience and understanding of him as our Father. We’ll learn to trust him, we’ll learn how dependent we are on him, and we’ll also find that he is willing and able to give us good things—the things we need. More specifically, in the context of Matthew 7, our Father will give us the very things that he demands of us in the Sermon on the Mount.
As a follow-up to Sunday’s message, I wanted to share something that I hope will encourage you to ask, seek, and knock.
If we’re honest, many of us would have to admit that there are times when we feel too ashamed or weak to ask God for anything. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t trusted him lately, or because we’ve disobeyed him. Maybe we feel that our lack of faith or love for him makes our prayer unacceptable. After all, why would God listen to me? Why would he give me what I need when I haven’t been treating him like a father? Why would he provide for me when I’ve been an unfaithful son or daughter?
As far as I know, there’s one answer to these questions, and it’s Jesus Christ. Listen to William Phillip again:
Your prayers and mine will not be heard because of our faithfulness but on account of Jesus’ great faithfulness. Our prayers will be heard not because we deserve a hearing but because he does. Our prayers will be heard not because of our perfection but because of his marvelous perfection. (p.55)
Phillip is right, of course. And maybe we already know this. Perhaps we’d loudly confess it. But do we really believe it and pray in the light of it? What he is talking about, after all, is a great part of what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name!” In other words, the only reason we get to pray and be heard is because of Jesus’ perfect relationship with the Father. He is the Son in whose status we get to share. This means that if you and I have trusted in Jesus, then his privileged status is ours, too (John 1:12). So because God the Father will never ignore, reject, or laugh at the prayers of his Son, he will also never ignore, reject, or laugh at ours.
So ask. Seek. Knock. It’s what Jesus calls us to do. And accept the awesome fact—as hard as it is to believe—that because of what the Son has done in your place, you can stand before God and say like Jesus, “Father I knew that you always hear me” (John 11:42).
Why We Pray by William Phillip (Crossway, 2015)
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller (NavPress 2009)
Prayer: Experienceing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller (Dutton, 2014)