Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
Several years ago, a popular Christian author wrote a book about prayer that began with a bold statement. The preface of the book began “Dear Reader, I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers.” Some of you may recognize these opening words as belonging to Bruce Wilkinson the author of the bestseller “The Prayer of Jabez.” This book was given to me by a Christian friend who was gushing with excitement as if he had just found a long buried treasure in his back yard. Bruce Wilkinson apparently thought the same as he claimed, “One sentence with four parts…tucked away in the Bible…contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.” The one sentence this author refers to is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!”
It is not my purpose today to write a review of this book. It has now been ten years since it was written and others have done a good job of critiquing it (hint—the bad reviews are right!). Instead, I want to note that many believe it is possible to simply ask God and God is obligated to give. Some believe they have hit on the formula—not found in the Old Testament, but in the New—Matthew 7:7-8. This is their key to extraordinary favor with God. It is simply “I believe in God and therefore I demand what I want!” These verses like most in the Bible do not stand alone without qualification. The larger context is the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus has already given extensive teaching on the subject of prayer. We needn’t think that God will answer any prayer unless the guidelines of the model prayer in Matthew 6 are observed. I have to believe that in the word “ask” there is full intention that all of the teachings of the Lord’s Prayer have been received. It must be further noted that these verses follow immediately upon Jesus’ demand for close personal scrutiny of our lives (Matt. 7:5). While we are seeking answers from God, we must also hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6).
If Matthew 7:7-8 does not seem to work for you, maybe you haven’t considered what Jesus said before this. The apostle John explained it well: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. (1 John 3:22) This is the real key to extraordinary favor with God.
Pastor V. Mark Smith