Matthew 7:7-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
[Jesus said,] “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 bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
- What delights me in this text?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
- What is God up to in this text?
Where I am sitting this morning in Southern Nebraska, the season is changing, harvest is in full swing, and it’s time to exchange summer’s warmth for winter’s bluster. I have a feeling that there is a lot of praying going around at this time of year in the place where I live. Most of it, of course, is weather related. “God, just hold off until I finish this last pass” or “Thank you God, for the soaking rain. Please give us enough to start the wheat” or “Just bring my husband back safely to us after a long day of hard work.” These are those honest, everyday prayers that tie us, every day and in every moment, into a deeper relationship with God.
In the above passage from Matthew, Jesus is also addressing prayer. It begins with a series of commands: “Ask. Seek. Knock.” They are simple commands, the kind that I might teach my two year olds or my puppy. Ask for what you need. Look for me. Knock on closed doors. Ad sometimes it is that simple. Sometimes, prayer is just a matter of the KISS principle (keep it simple, silly!) We are assured that our ordinary, everyday prayers are heard, considered by God, and answered.
Nevertheless, this passage explores more than just this theme. Beyond the commands, it talks both about our nature, and about God’s nature. The first are the statements that expect the response “By no means!” or “No way!” along with a “Everyone knows that!” After all, would you give your kid a stone if they asked for bread? No way! Or a live snake if they asked for fish sticks for supper? No way! God gave us common sense, and even more, God gave us compassion. When there is a need, we are called to fill it. We are not called to callously turn away, or even worse, to reject what they are asking for and give them something they absolutely don’t need instead. Everyone knows that! Jesus reminds us here about ourselves and who we are, especially when we are at our very best.
From this reminder, we then also learn about God. If we help our children, if we know better than to reject that for which they ask, then what would God be like? Even more. More attentive. More wise. More discerning. More generous. Just more. And now, being reminded who God truly is and what God has done for us, we are able to return to the commands and see them in a new light.
We call, and God answers. We look, and God opens our eyes. We knock at impossible doors, and God makes a way. Why? Because God loves and cares for us, and desires our health, our healing, and our wholeness. This gospel text will come back to our parish in worship on Thanksgiving. I look forward to your insights this month as we prepare for our feasts of thanks to the one who gives us so much more than we could ever ask for.