October 07, 2021 - Ask, Seek, Knock - A Reflection on Luke 11:5-13

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So 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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This parable that Jesus tells teaches us the advantageous of persistent prayer, but very often his advice to “ask, seek, and knock” is misunderstood. Many believe that we are encouraged to ask God for our material needs, but if you keep this passage in context, you will realize it has a totally different meaning. The apostles go to Jesus and ask him to teach them how to pray. He teaches them the beautiful prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”. 

In the context of that—his name being hallowed, his coming Kingdom, his will being done on earth as in heaven, his provision of daily bread, his forgiveness of sins, and his protection in temptation—we realize that our receiving is of the spiritual kind. This is made abundantly clear when he ends by saying that if we who are wicked know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. 

This is not about asking for our material needs; it is about asking for our spiritual needs. In John 15:7, Jesus clarifies: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). To ask for what we need we need to remain in Jesus and have his words remain in us. 

As for seeking, Jesus has also stated the criterion for this. In the chapter following this, we find him saying, “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:29-31). We are required to seek his kingdom and his righteousness (see Matthew 6:330). Spiritual things, not material.  These are “automatically’ provided. 

And as for knocking, I am reminded of a scene from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables where the criminal Valjean (vel-jean) has knocked on every door looking for sustenance. Finally, he meets a woman who takes pity on him. “Have you knocked on that one,” she asks. When he knocks on that door - the bishop’s door - and he finds not just a hot meal, a glass of wine, and a warm bed. He finds life. See, it’s not just the knocking that is important; it’s knocking on the right door. 

So, ask, seek, knock.