Why does Jesus instruct us to pray in the Sermon on the Mount and even show us how we should pray? As we examine these verses, I believe it’s pretty clear that God is our Father and wants us to realize and therefore depend on His love for us. Because of His relationship with us, we can go to Him in prayer with out needs. However, we should not take these verses out of context to insinuate that God sits on His throne, exalted in heaven, wearing a celestial plastic name tag saying “May I take your order?”
Notice, first of all in verse 7, that Jesus gives us 3 commands (imperative). The first of these is that we are to “ask”. Now, obviously, if we are asking for something that suggests a lack of some sort. I mean, you wouldn’t ask for something that you already had or had enough of. The Greek verb actually has the sense of imploring in earnest. You might even describe it as begging. This is not just a simple request but an urgent one. Jesus also tells us to “seek”. We’re not to just ask, sit on our hands, and wait for the answer to drop out of the sky. If we are so urgent in our needs that we are pleading with God then we will actively look for His solution. We will put feet to our faith. Again, since the verb in the Greek is in the present tense it should be understood that we are to continually seek. We should be persistent.
Finally, if we’re really serious in our prayer to God, we should also “knock”. Notice the progression, not only in activity but in intensity. If you’ve ever been home when someone has come by that you didn’t want to see and you hid out while they knocked on the door you know how irritating a persistent knocking on the door can be. I don’t believe that Christ’s point is that we should annoy God as if such a thing were even possible. I submit that His intention was that we should not give up on prayer and we should constantly and consistently come before the throne of God with our needs.
As we see in verse 7 and verse 8, prayer is effective. God is moved when His children pray and when we “ask…seek…and knock” we can be sure that we receive, find, and discover that the door is opened. But, the question is surely raised, what is it that we will find? Those with an unbiblical “name it/claim it” theology strip this verse from its context and use it to justify asking from a greedy heart, seeking in a covetous manner, and imagine themselves knocking on the door of the vault of heaven’s riches. However, let us remember the context of this command. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has painted a picture of humility, and a sincere, perfect devotion to God as demonstrated by not only the outward action of the person but the inward character of the individual. Now, recognizing that, all of us have to admit that none of us get close to that. I know, in my own heart, that when I get to heaven I want to compare notes with the Apostle Paul about the whole “chief of sinners” thing, because I’m pretty sure I’ve got him beat. If we truly meditate on our unworthiness and God’s righteousness and just how far we fall short of that then I doubt seriously we will treat God as the equivalent of an omnipotent Bellhop. I can’t conceive of someone who recognizes themselves as a sinner who deserves not God’s grace but God’s wrath and that it is only by His sovereign election that he or she is saved they will not pray selfishly. We can and certainly should come to God with our needs, the most preeminent of which is our spiritual need to have our hearts and minds made new and conformed to the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus in these verses directs us to persistently seek God in prayer. In fact, He commands it. As we will see in the following verses, we do not go simply as sinners imploring the Almighty Ancient of Days. We are children of God and we can approach Him as such, as we will see in the next verses.