by Charles Spurgeon
Scripture: Luke 11:9-10
“I say to you: 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.” [Luke 11:9-10]
To seek aid in the time of distress from a supernatural being is an instinct of human nature. We are not saying that unredeemed men and women ever offer truly spiritual prayer, or ever exercise saving faith in the living God; but still, they are like children crying in the dark, with a painful longing for help from somewhere or someone. Or like the soul in deep sorrow almost invariably cries to some supernatural being for help. No one has been more ready to pray in time of trouble than those who have ridiculed prayer in their days of peace and prosperity; and probably no prayers have been more true to the needs of the hour than those which atheists have offered under the pressure of the fear of death. In one of his papers, Addison describes a man, who, on board ship, loudly boasted of his atheism. Then a strong storm came up and he fell to his knees and confessed to the chaplain that he had been an atheist. The average sailor, who had never heard the Word before, thought it was strange, but were more surprised when they heard the atheist say, “that he never believed until that day that there was a God.” One of the old sailors whispered to one of the officers, that it would be a good idea to throw him overboard, but this was a cruel suggestion, for the poor creature was already in enough misery—his atheism had evaporated, and in mortal terror he cried to God to have mercy on him.
Similar incidents have occurred, more than once or twice. Indeed, so frequently does boastful skepticism fail in the end that we always expect it that it will. Take away unnatural restraint from the mind, and it may be said of all men and women that, like the sailors with Jonah, every person cries out to his or her God in their time of trouble. As birds fly to their nests, so men and women in agony fly to a superior being for help and comfort in the hour of need.
God has given to all the animals he created some special form of strength—one has the ability to run very fast when being chased by a predator; another with a great horn pushes down its enemy, and a third with tooth and claw tears its adversary to pieces. To man he gave only a little strength compared with the animals among which he placed in Eden, and yet man was king over everything, because the Lord was his strength. So long as he knew where to look for the source of his power, man remained the unbeatable and unchallenged king of all those around him. That image of God which was evident in his life sustained his sovereignty over the birds of the air, and the animals of the field, and the fish of the sea. By instinct man turned to his God in Paradise; and now, though he is to a sad degree a dethroned monarch, there lingers in his memory shadows of what he was, and remembrances of where his strength must still be found. Therefore, no matter where you find a man or a woman, when you meet one who is in distress, they will ask for supernatural help. I believe in the truthfulness of this instinct, and that men and women pray because there is something in prayer. When the Creator gives his creature the power of thirst, it is because water exists to meet its thirst; and just as he creates hunger there is food to correspond to the appetite; so when God prompts men and women to pray it is because prayer has a corresponding blessing connected with it.
We find a powerful reason for expecting prayer to be effective in the fact that it is an institution of God.
In God’s Word we are, over and over again, commanded to pray. God’s commands and means of fulfillment are not foolishness. Can I believe that the infinitely wise God has ordained for me an exercise which is ineffective, and is no more than child’s play? Does he command me to pray, and yet has prayer produce no more result than if I whistled in the wind, or sang to a bunch of trees? If there is no answer to prayer, then prayer is a monstrous absurdity and God is the author of it; which is blasphemy to assert. No one, unless they are a fool will continue to pray when you have once proved to them that prayer has no effect with God, and never receives an answer. If prayer yields no results then it is an exercise for idiots and madmen, and not for sane persons!
I will not this morning enter into any arguments on the matter; rather, I am coming to my text, which to me, at least, and to you who are followers of Christ, is the end of all controversy. Our Savior knew very well that many difficulties would arise in connection with prayer which might tend to stagger his disciples, and therefore he has balanced every opposition by an overwhelming assurance. Read those words in our text, “I say to you,” I—your Teacher, your Master, your Lord, your Savior, your God: “…say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” [Luke 11:9-10]
In the text our Lord meets all difficulties first by giving us the weight of his own authority, “I say to you “; next by presenting us with a promise, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”; and then by reminding us of an indisputable fact, “everyone who asks receives.” Here are three mortal wounds for a Christian’s doubts as to prayer.
I. First, then, OUR SAVIOR GIVES TO US THE WEIGHT OF HIS OWN AUTHORITY, “I say to you.”
The first mark of a follower of Christ is that they believe their Lord. We do not follow the Lord at all if we raise any questions on points upon which he speaks positively. Even though a doctrine may be surrounded with ten thousand difficulties, the fact is that “Jesus said it’—even though it cannot be proved at the moment, sweeps away every doubt, so far as true Christians are concerned.
Our Master’s declaration is all the argument we need, “I say to you,” is our logic. We read in the scriptures that Jesus, “…has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). He cannot be wrong, he cannot lie, and if he says, “I say to you,” then that is the end of all debate.
But, brothers and sisters, there are certain reasons that should lead us all the more confidently to rest in our Master’s word upon this point. There is power in every word of the Lord Jesus, but there is special force in his words before us today.
Some have argued against prayer, saying that it is not possible that prayers could be answered, because the laws of nature are unalterable, and they must and will go on whether men and women pray or not.
They say that not a drop of water will change its position in a single wave, or a particle of infectious matter be altered from its course, though all the saints in the universe should plead against storms and disease.
Now, concerning that matter, we are in no hurry to give an answer; our adversaries have more to prove than we have, and they seem to prefer to prove a negative. To us it does not seem needful to prove that the laws of nature are disturbed. God can work miracles, and he may work them yet again as he has done in the past, but it is not a part of the Christian faith that God must work miracles in order to answer the prayers of his servants. When a man in order to fulfill a promise has to rearrange all his affairs, and, so to speak, to stop all his processes, it proves that he is only a man, and that his wisdom and power are limited; but God is able, without reversing any power, or removing a single step in his plans, to fulfill the desires of his people as they come up before him. The Lord is so omnipotent that he can work results, similar to miracles, without in the slightest degree suspending any one of his laws. He did, as it were, in the past, stop the mechanism of the universe to answer prayer, but now, with equally godlike glory, he orders events so as to answer believer’s prayers, and yet does not suspend any natural law.
We hear the voice of the One who is competent to speak on the matter, and he says, “I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you.” Whether the laws of nature are reversible or irreversible, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” Now, who is he that says this? It is he who made all things, without whom “…nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3). He is certainly able to speak the way he does. O eternal Word, you who were with God in the beginning, balancing the clouds and fastening the foundations of the earth, you know what the laws and the unalterable constitutions of nature are, and if you say, “Ask and it will be given to you,” then surely it will be so, no matter what the laws of nature may be. Besides, our Lord is adored by us as the sustainer of all things; and, seeing that all the laws of nature are only operative through his power, and are sustained in their motion by his might, he therefore must be aware of the motion of all the forces in the world; and if he says, “Ask and it will be given to you,” he does not speak in ignorance, but knows what he affirms. We may be assured that there are no forces which can prevent the declarations of the Lord’s own word. From the Creator and the Sustainer, the word “I say to you,” settles all controversy forever.
But another objection has been raised which is a very old argument, and has a great appearance of force. It is raised not so much by skeptics, as by those who hold a part of the truth; it is this—
That prayer can never produce any results, because the decrees of God have settled everything, and those decrees are unchangeable.
Now we have no desire to deny the assertion that the decrees of God have settled all events. It is our full belief that God has foreknown and predestined everything that happens in heaven above or in the earth beneath, and that the foreknown position of a reed by the river is as fixed as the place of the throne of a king, and “the blown dust of the earth is steered just as the stars in their courses.” Predestination embraces the great and the small, and reaches to all things; thus the question is, why do we pray? Ok, let us ask this—wouldn’t it be just as logical to ask why breathe, eat, move, or do anything? We have an answer which satisfies us, namely, that our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has ordained his people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny declares that I must pray—I pray; destiny decrees that I will be answered, and the answer comes to me. Moreover, in other matters we never regulate our actions by the unknown decrees of God; as for instance, a man never questions whether he will eat or drink, because it may or may not be decreed that he will eat or drink, a man never questions whether he will work or not on the ground that it is decreed how much he will do or how little, as it is inconsistent with common sense to make the secret decrees of God a guide to us in our general conduct, likewise we feel it would be the same in reference to prayer, and therefore we still pray. But we have even a better answer than all this.
Our Lord Jesus Christ comes forward, and he says to us this morning, “My dear children, the decrees of God needn’t trouble you, there is nothing in them inconsistent with your prayers being heard. ‘I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you.’” Now, who is he that says this? Why it is he who was with God the Father from the beginning (John 1:2) — and he knows what the purposes of the Father are and what the heart of God is, for he has told us in another place, “the Father himself loves you.” Now since Jesus knows the decrees of the Father, and the heart of the Father, he can tell us with the absolute certainty of an eyewitness that there is nothing in the eternal purposes in conflict with this truth, that he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds. He has read the decrees from beginning to end: has he not taken the book, and opened the seven seals, and declared the ordinances of heaven? He tells you there is nothing there inconsistent with your intense prayers mixed with tears, and with the Father’s opening the windows of heaven to shower upon you the blessings which you seek. Moreover, Christ is God himself: the purposes of heaven are his own purposes, and he who ordained the purpose here gives the assurance that there is nothing in it to prevent the effectiveness of prayer. “I say to you.” O you that believe in Jesus, your doubts are scattered to the winds, for you know that he hears your prayers.
But sometimes there arises in our mind a third difficulty, which is associated with our own judgment of ourselves and our estimate of God. We feel that God is very great, and we tremble in the presence of his majesty. We feel that we are very little, and that, in addition, we are also vile; and it does seem an incredible thing that such guilty nothings should have power to move the arm which moves the world.
I believe that fear often hampers us in prayer. But Jesus answers it so sweetly: he says — “I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you.” And I ask again, who is it that says, “I say to you?” Why, it is he who knows both the greatness of God and the weakness of all men and women. He is God, and out of his excellent Majesty I hear him say, “I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you.” But Jesus is also man like ourselves, and he says, “Don’t fear your littleness, for I am, bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, and I assure you that God hears the prayers of men and women.” The words come to us with the harmony of blended notes; the God Jesus, the man Jesus, both speak to us — “Don’t fear my majesty, your prayer is heard. Don’t fear your own weakness; I as a man have been heard by God.”
And yet, again, if the fear of sin should haunt us, and our own sorrow should
depress us, I would remind you that Jesus Christ, when he says, “I say to you,”
gives us the authority, not only of his person, but of his experience. Jesus
needed to pray. No one ever prayed like he did. He spent whole nights and days
in prayer and in earnest intercession; and he says to us, “I say to you, Ask,
and it will be given you.” I think I see him coming fresh from the dense shrubs
of the hills, where he had knelt all night in prayer, and he says, “My
disciples, Ask, and it will be given to you, for I have prayed, and it has been
given to me.” I think I hear him say it, with his face and his clothes all
bloody red, as he rises from Gethsemane, with his soul overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death. He was heard in that he feared, and therefore he says to
us, “I say to you, knock and the door will be opened to you.” Yes, and I think I
hear him speak to us from the cross, with his face bright with the first beam of
sunlight after he had borne our sins in his own body, and had suffered all our
griefs to the very last bit of shooting pain. He had cried, “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me,” and now, having received an answer, he cries in triumph, “It is finished,” and, in so doing, commands us also “to ask, and it will be given to us.” Jesus has proved the power of prayer.
Oh but, one says, “he has not proved what it is to pray about the troubles I am facing.” How foolish you are, for the Savior’s troubles were worse than yours could ever be. There are no depths so deep that he has not dived to the bottom of them. Christ has prayed out of the lowest dungeon and out of the most horrible pit. “Yes but he has not cried under the burden of sin.” How can you speak so thoughtlessly! Was there ever such a burden of sin borne by any man as was laid on him?” True, the sins were not his own, but they were sins, and sins with all their crushing weight in them too; yet was he heard, and he was helped to the end. Christ gives you, in his own experience, the divine proof that the asking will be followed by the receiving, even when sin lies at the door.
This much is certain, if you, who are believers, cannot believe in the effectiveness of prayer based on the very words of Christ, then it has come to a strange pass; for, O beloved, you are leaning all your soul’s weight on Jesus. If he is not true, then are you trusting in a false Savior. If he does not speak truth, then you are deceived. If you can trust him with your soul, you must of necessity trust him with your prayers.
Remember, too, that if Jesus our Lord could speak so positively here, there is a yet greater reason for believing him now, for he has gone back into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God the Father, and the voice does not come to us from the man of poverty, wearing earthly clothes, but from the enthroned priest with the golden sash around his chest, for it is he who now says, from the right hand of God: “I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you.” Don’t you believe in his name? How then can a prayer that is sincerely offered in that name fall on deaf ears? When you present your petition in Jesus’ name, a part of his authority clothes your prayers. If your prayer is rejected, Christ is dishonored: you cannot believe that. You have trusted him, then believe that prayer offered through him must and will win the day.
We cannot talk longer on this point, but we trust the Holy Spirit will impress it upon all our hearts.
II. We will now remember that OUR LORD PRESENTS US WITH A PROMISE.
Note that the promise is given to several types of prayer, “I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The text clearly asserts that all forms of true prayer will be heard, provided they are presented through Jesus Christ, and are for promised blessings.
Some are vocal prayers, men and women ask; never should we fail to offer up every day and continually the prayer which is uttered by the tongue, for the promise is that the asker will be heard.
But there are others who, not neglecting vocal prayer, are far more abundant in active prayer, for by humble and diligent use of the means they seek for the blessings which they need. Their heart speaks to God by its longings, strivings, emotions, and labors. Let them not cease seeking, for they will surely find.
There are others who, in their earnestness, combine the most eager forms, both seeking and speaking, with knocking, for knocking is a loud kind of asking, and a vehement form of seeking. If our prayer is vocal speech with God, or if it is the practical use of ordained means, which is real prayer, or if it should, best of all, be the continued use of both, or if it is expressed only by a tear or a sigh, or even if it remain quite unexpressed in a trembling desire, it will be heard. All varieties of true prayer will meet with responses from heaven.
Now observe that these varieties of prayer are put on an ascending scale. It is said first that we ask: I suppose that refers to the prayer which is a mere statement of our needs, in which we tell the Lord that we want this and that, and ask him to grant it. But as we learn the art of prayer we go on further to seek: which signifies that we marshal our arguments, and plead reasons for the granting of our desires, and we begin to wrestle with God for the mercies needed. And if the blessing does not come soon in time, we then rise to the third degree, which is knocking: we become demanding, we are not content with asking and giving reasons, but we express a deep sincerity and seriousness into our requests, and demonstrate the scripture which says, “…the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men [and women] lay hold of it” [Matthew 11:12].
So the prayers grow from asking—which is the statement, to seeking—which is the pleading; and to knocking—which is the urgent persistence in the request. Now to each of these stages of prayer there is a distinct promise. Those who asks will receive what they ask for, but those who go further and seek will find, will enjoy, will take hold of, will know that they have obtained what they wanted; and those who knock will go even further, for they will understand, and to them will the precious thing be opened—they will not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but they will comprehend it, will “understand with all saints, what are the heights and depths.”
I want; however, you to notice this fact, which covers everything — whatever form your prayer may assume it will succeed. If you only ask you will receive, if you seek you will find, if you knock, the door will be opened to you, but in each case, according to your faith, it will be done to you.
The clauses of the promises in our text today are not to be viewed jointly, that is together: he that asks and seeks and knocks will receive, but they are to be viewed separately, distinct from each other: those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who knock will have the door opened. It is not when we combine all three that we get the blessing, though doubtless if we did combine them, we would get the combined reply; but if we exercise only one of these three forms of prayer, we will still get that which our souls seek after.
These three methods of prayer exercise a variety of our graces. Some have said this passage tells us that faith asks, hope seeks, and love knocks. Faith asks because she believes God will give; hope having asked expects, and therefore seeks for the blessing; love comes nearer still, and will not take a denial from God, but desires to enter into his house, and to sup with him—to eat and drink with him, and, therefore, knocks at his door until he opens it.
But, again, let us come back to the main point; it does not matter which grace is exercised; a blessing comes to each one, if faith asks it will receive; if hope seeks it will find; and if love knocks, the door will be opened to her.
These three modes of prayer suit us in different stages of distress. There I am, a poor beggar at mercy’s door, I ask for help and I receive it: but in time I lose my way, I get confused, and can’t remember how to find the one who helped me before, so I seek him with a certainty that I find him again; then I am in the last stage of all, not merely poor and bewildered, but so defiled as to feel shut out from God, like a leper shut out of the camp, then I may knock and knock, and the door will open to me.
Each of these different descriptions of prayer is very simple. If anybody said “I cannot ask,” our reply would be, you do not understand the word. Surely everybody can ask. A little child can ask. Long before an infant can speak it can ask—it does not need to use words in order to ask for what it wants, and there is not one among us who is incapacitated from asking, for our prayers do not need to be fancy with elegant sentences. I believe God abhors those kinds of prayers. If a person asks for charity with elegant sentences he is not likely to get it. Finery in dress or language is out of place in habitats of the poor and needy. I heard a man in the street one day begging out loud by means of a magnificent speech. He used grand language in very pompous style, and I dare say he thought he was surely going to receive an abundant amount of money by his fine speech, but I, for one, gave him nothing, but felt more inclined to laugh at his pretense. Is it not likely that many great prayers are about as useless? Many prayers during our Prayer Meetings are a great deal too fine. Keep your figures of speech and metaphors for others, use them for those who want to be instructed, but do not parade them before God. When we pray, the simpler our prayers are the better; the plainest, humblest language which expresses our meaning is the best.
The next word is seek, and surely there is no difficulty about seeking? In finding there might be, but in seeking there is none. When the woman in the parable lost her money, she lit a candle and looked for it. I don’t suppose she had ever been to the university, or qualified as a lady physician, or that she could have sat on the School Board as a woman of superior intelligence—but she could seek. Anybody who desires to do so can seek, whether they are a man, a woman, or a child; and for their encouragement the promise is not given to some particular philosophical form of seeking, but simply that “he who seeks finds.”
Then there is knocking: well, that is something that is not difficult. We used to do it when we were boys, sometimes—too much for the neighbors’ comfort. If the knocker on the door was a little too high, we had ways and means of knocking at the door even then; a stone would do it, or the heel of a boot, anything would make a knocking: it was not beyond our capacity by any means. Therefore, it is put in this fashion by Christ himself, as much as to tell us, “You don’t need any scholarship, any training, any talent, and any intelligence for prayer; ask, seek, knock, that is all, and the promise is to everyone who uses these means of praying.
Will you believe the promise? It is Christ who gives it. No lie ever came from his lips. O don’t doubt him. Keep on praying if you have prayed, and if you have never prayed before, God help you to begin today!
III. Our third point is that JESUS TESTIFIES TO THE FACT THAT PRAYER IS HEARD.
Having given a promise he then adds, in effect — “You may be quite sure that this promise will be fulfilled, not only because I say it, but because it is and always has been true.” When a man says the sun will rise tomorrow morning, we believe it because it has always risen. Our Lord tells us that, as a matter of indisputable fact, all through the ages true asking has been followed by receiving. Remember that he who stated this fact knew it.
Now, as a finite human, if we state a fact then we must also state, “Yes, as far as my observation goes, it is true,” but the observations of Christ have no limits. He has heard every true prayer ever offered to him. Prayers acceptable to the Most High God—the Father Himself, come up to him through the very wounds of Christ. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ can speak by personal knowledge, and his declaration is that prayer has succeeded: “Everyone that asked received and he that sought found.”
Now here we must, of course, understand the limitations which would be made by ordinary common sense, and which are made by Scripture. Not everyone that flippantly or wickedly asks or pretends to ask of God gets what he asks for. It is not every silly, idle, unconsidered request of unregenerate hearts that God will answer. In addition, Scripture limits it again, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. Or, 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]. If we ask that we may consume the good things on our lust we will not have them, or if we ask for that which would not be for our good then we will not receive what we asked for. But except for these things, the statement of our Lord has no other qualification — “every one that asks receives.”
Let it also be remembered that frequently even when the ungodly and the wicked have asked of God they have received! Often in the time of their distress they have called on God, and he has answered them. Now, some say this is simply not true—God does not answer the prayers of unbelievers, but Scripture says he does! Ahab’s prayer was answered, and the Lord said, “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son” [1 Kings 21:29]. Likewise, the Lord also heard the prayer of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, who did evil in the sight of the Lord [2 Kings 13:1-4]. The Israelites also, because of their sins they were given over to their enemies, cried to God for deliverance, and they were answered, yet the Lord himself testified concerning them that they only flattered him with their mouth. Does this stagger you; Does he not hear the young ravens when they cry? Do you think he will not hear man that is formed in his own image? Do you doubt it? Remember Nineveh. The prayers offered at Nineveh, were they spiritual prayers? Did you ever hear of a church of God in Nineveh? I have not, neither do I believe the Ninevites were ever visited by converting grace; but they were by the preaching of Jonah convinced that they were in danger from the great Jehovah, and they proclaimed a fast, and humbled themselves, and God heard their prayer, and Nineveh for a while was preserved.
Many a time in the hour of sickness, and in the time of woe, God has heard the prayers of the unthankful and the evil. Do you think God gives nothing except to the righteous? What were you when you first began to pray? Were you good and righteous? Has not God commanded you to do good to those who are evil? Will he command you to do what he will not do himself? Has he not said that he “sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” and is it not true? Is he not daily blessing those who curse him, and doing good to those who despitefully use him? This is one of the glories of God’s grace; and when there is nothing else good in the man, yet if there is a cry lifted up from his heart the Lord often agrees to send relief from trouble. Now, if God has heard the prayers even of men who have not sought him in the highest manner, and has given them temporary deliverances in answer to their cries will he not much more hear you when you are humbling yourself in his sight, and desiring to be reconciled to him. Surely there is an argument here.
But to come more fully to the point with regard to real and spiritual prayers, everyone that asks receives without any limit whatever. There has never been an instance yet of a man really seeking spiritual blessings of God without his receiving them. The tax collector stood far off, and was so broken in his heart that he dared not look up to heaven, yet God looked down on him. Manasseh laid in the dungeon, he had been a cruel persecutor of the saints; there was nothing in him that could commend him to God; but God heard him out of the dungeon, and brought him forth to liberty of soul. Jonah had by his own sin brought himself into the whale’s belly, and he was a bad-tempered servant of God at the best, but out of the belly of hell he cried and God heard him. “Every one that asks receives, and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks, the door will be opened”—every one.
If I wanted evidence I would be able to find it in this church. I would ask anyone here who has found Christ, to bear witness that God heard his prayer. I do not believe that among the damned in hell there is one who dare say “I sought the Lord and he rejected me.” There will not be found at the last Day of Judgment, one single soul that can say. “I knocked at mercy’s door, but God refused to open it.” There will not stand before the great white throne, a single soul that can plead, “O Christ, I would have been saved by you, but you would not save me. I gave myself up into your hands, but you rejected me. I repentantly asked for your mercy, but I did not receive it.” Every one that asks receives. It has been this way until this day—it will be so until Christ himself will come again. If you doubt it, try it, and if you have tried it, try it again. Are you in rags?—that does not matter, every one that asks receives. Are you foul with sin?—that is not significant, “every one that seeks finds.” Do you feel yourself as if you were completely shut out from God?—that doesn’t matter either; “knock, and the door will be opened to you, for every one that asks receives.” “Is there no election there?” Yes, yes, doubtless there is, but that does not alter this truth which has no limit to it whatsoever—“every one.” What a rich text it is!” Every one that asks receives.”
When our Lord spoke this, he could have pointed to his own life as evidence; at any rate, we can refer to it now and show that no one asked of Christ who did not receive. The Canaanite woman at first had her request rejected when the Lord referred to her as a dog [Matthew 15:26], but when she had the courage to say, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table,” she soon discovered that everyone that asks receives. Likewise, the woman who came behind Jesus in the crowd and touched the hem of his garment, she was no asker, but she was a seeker, and she found.
I think I hear, in answer to all this, the sad wail of one who says, “I have been crying to God a long time for salvation; I have asked, I have sought, and I have knocked, but it has not come yet.” Well, dear friend, if I am asked which is true, God or you, I know whom I will stand by, and I would advise you to believe God before you believe yourself. God will hear prayer, but do you know there is one thing before the prayer of salvation? What is it? Why, it’s the gospel! The gospel does not say—he who prays will be saved, that is not the gospel; I believe he will be saved, but that is not the gospel I am told to preach to you. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he “—what?—” he that believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Now, you have been asking God to save you—do you expect him to save you without you believing and being baptized? Surely you have not had the nerve to ask God to ignore his own word! He would say to you, “Do as I command you, believe my Son, he that believes [in Me] has everlasting life.” Let me ask you; do you believe Jesus Christ? Will you trust him? “Oh, I trust him,” one says, “I trust him completely.” Soul, do not ask for salvation any more—you have it already—you are saved. If you trust Jesus with all your soul, your sins are forgiven you, and you are saved; and the next time you approach the Lord, go with praise as well as with prayer, and sing and bless his name. “But how do I to know that I am really saved?” One says. God says, “He that believes and is baptized, will be saved.” Have you believed, have you been baptized? If so, you are saved. How do I know that? On the best evidence in all the world: God says you are—do you want any evidence but that? “I want to feel this.” Feel! Are your feelings better than God’s witness? Will you make God a liar by asking more signs than his sure word of testimony? I have no evidence this day that I dare trust in concerning my salvation but this, that I rest on Christ alone with all my heart, and soul, and strength. “I have no other refuge,” and if you have that evidence it is all the evidence that you need seek for this day. Other witnesses of grace in your heart will come in time, and cluster around you, and adorn the doctrine you profess, but now your first business is to believe in Jesus.
“I have asked for faith,” one says, “Well, what do you mean by that? To believe in Jesus Christ is the gift of God, but it must be your own act as well. Do you think God will believe for you, or that the Holy Spirit believes instead of us? What has the Holy Spirit to believe? You must believe for yourself, or be lost. He cannot lie, will you not believe in him? He deserves to be believed, trust in him, and then you are saved, and your prayer is answered.
I think I hear another say, “I trust and believe that I am already saved; but I have been seeking for the salvation of others in answer to my prayers;” Dear friend, you will get it. “He that asks receives, and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks, the door will be opened.” “But I have sought the conversion of one person for years with many prayers.” You will have it, or you will know one day why you don’t have it, and you will be made content not to have it. Continue to pray on in hope. Many a person has had his prayer for others answered after they had had died. I think I have reminded you before of the father who had prayed for many years for his sons and daughters, and yet they were not converted, but all became very worldly. His time came to die. He gathered his children around his bed, hoping to bear such a witness for Christ at the end that it might be blessed to their conversion; but unhappily for him he was in deep distress of soul, he had doubts about his own salvation in Christ. He was one of God’s children who are put to bed in the dark; this being above all the worst fear of his mind, that he feared his dear children would see his distress and be prejudiced against religion. The good man was buried and his sons came to the funeral, and God heard the man’s prayer that very day, for as they went away from the grave one of them said to the other, “Brother, our father died a most unhappy death.” “He did, brother; I was very much astonished at it, for I never knew a better man than our father.” “Ah,” said the first brother, “if a holy man such as our father found it a hard thing to die, it will be a dreadful thing for us who have no faith when our time comes.” That same thought had struck them all, and drove them to the cross, and so the good man’s prayer was heard in a mysterious manner.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but while God lives, prayer must be heard. While God remains true to his word, supplication is not in vain. The Lord give you grace to exercise it continually. Amen.
Ask, Seek, Knock and Good Gifts
by Brian Stoffregen
God’s Generous Response to Boldness in Prayer
by John MacArthur
Exploring a Life of Prayer
by Jane E. Vennard
The God Who Delights In Answering Prayer
by Rev. Bryn MacPhail
‘Lord, teach us to pray’ or, The Only Teacher
by Rev. Andrew Murray
‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ or, The Certainty of the Answer to Prayer
by Rev. Andrew Murray
Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 2nd sunday after Shunoyo
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