“Let Prayer Change You”

Matthew 7:7-11

Holy Week has passed. Last Sunday we discovered that the empty tomb has the power to change our lives and give us new birth and a fresh start. We have also discussed taking time to actually read the Bible, through observation and application the scriptures teach us and change us. And today we will take a deeper look at how the gift of prayer can be a catalyst of change in our lives as we follow Jesus. 

Prayer is mentioned over 850 times in the Bible. Given that number, I believe it is an extremely important and pivotal part of our relationship with God. Prayer is one of the most significant things that we can do as believers. It strengthens our connection with God, and it deepens our faith. 

The Scripture passage read today focuses on the importance of prayer. This passage takes place towards the end of the most famous sermon Jesus ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus covers several topics, but here is what he has to say about prayer and how it can change our lives. This passage is broken up into two sections, and the second gives meaning and insight to the first. In verses 9-11, Jesus uses an image of a good-willed earthly Father to help us understand how prayer has the power to change us. He says if a child asks for bread, surely a father would not give them a stone. Or if a fish, the father would not give a snake. So, if we as earthly fathers can respond to our children’s requests in a way that is best for them, shouldn’t we be able to trust our heavenly father to do the same? To be clear, I realize that this illustration has a way of breaking down, because there are some earthly fathers who don’t make decisions to treat their children with their best interests in mind. However, what Jesus is speaking about here is a good-willed earthly father – one who wants to bless his children. Jesus believes we can relate to God as our father and us as His children.


All of this gives us insight into verses 7-9. Jesus offers three action words that help us discern how to interact with Him when it comes to prayer, and how to be changed by prayer. Jesus begins with three words regarding our prayer life…ask, seek, and knock. In the Greek language these are called imperatives— essentially meaning they are commands from God. But even more than that, they are present imperatives which means that it’s not just a one-time command, but it is something we are called to do continuously. 

Keep on asking, 

keep on seeking, 

keep on knocking. 

We find, as we read, that there is a unique feature in them…there is a progressive intensity as we move from verse 7 to verse 9. 

ASK and it will be given to you…

SEEK and you will find… 

KNOCK and it will be opened to you.

First, we are instructed to ask. This is the simplest of the three forms of action. When we ask for something, we are making a request, and we are anticipating something in return. 

God, please provide this for me… 

God, please help me in this situation… 

God, please heal my loved one… 

When we ask, we are not demanding. We are polite, and we are patient. But we ask with confidence in the ability God has to act on our behalf. 

When Lydia and Emily were growing up they would come to Val with all kinds of requests. They began asking for things like hot cocoa, or let me ride on your shoulders. Now they ask him to help them change the oil in their cars or help them troubleshoot what is wrong with their motorcycles. Whatever they are requesting, Val manages to assist them. There have been times when they have asked Val and he has been unable to help them. He had met his limit. But that hasn’t stopped them from asking. They continue to ask with confidence anyway, because they know that he loves them and will be there. 

We ask God, with confidence because, unlike humans, God has no limits. He parted the Red Sea. He fed Israel with Manna. He put on human skin and became one of us. He conquered death. We also have a God who loves us with an unconditional and everlasting love. 

So, we bring our requests to Him, trusting that there is nothing that is too big for our heavenly Father. 

Second, Jesus commands us to seek. 

While asking relies solely on the response of the one being asked, seeking indicates action of our own. We seek because we are looking for something. We seek because we know there is something to find. When I lose my keys in the morning, I have to seek them out, which typically involves asking Val for help. Seeking takes more effort on our part because it requires us to strive even more for the things we desire. And, because of this extra effort, sometimes it can be bothersome…Sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes it can remain elusive. But I go on seeking because what I’m looking for is important to me. 

So, when Jesus commands us to seek in our prayer life, it has a way of maturing us, refining us, teaching us, strengthening us, and changing us… 

When I was a kid I loved to search for four leaf clovers. What is funny is I would stay outside in the sun, hunched over for hours until I found one. When I did it was like I had won the lottery. The payoff was worth it. And the more I found, the more expectancy I had that it would happen again.

Jesus says seek with expectancy. There have been times in my life when I have searched for the heart of God. I have searched for the right answer to my circumstances, I have sought God’s guidance. When He responded through the mundane and the miraculous it has taught me to keep seeking. 

By doing so, I have discovered a deep relationship with God along the way. I realize that He is with me in the seeking and my relationship with God grows more as we seek together. 

Lastly, Jesus commands us to knock. There are two obvious things to notice about knocking. First, if we are knocking there must be some element of resistance. There must be something in the way. If the door were already open, we wouldn’t need to knock. However, this action of knocking indicates that the door I am knocking on can indeed be opened. There is a potential opportunity behind the closed door. Jesus is teaching us, therefore, the significance of steadfastness and passion in our prayer life to keep on knocking until the right door is opened, because it may not be the first door we have chosen. 

Having a prayer life of persistence makes us resilient people. I recently saw a statistic that said Usain Bolt, the record holding Jamaican sprinter, 

has run for a total of 2 minutes 

on the way to win 

8 gold medals in 

three Olympics and 

earn 119 million dollars. 

However, we often forget that he has trained for 20 years in order to run for a total of 115 seconds. That is the kind of dedication praying with persistence takes. There may be hours of knocking that result in a single answered prayer in our life. When it comes to praying to our good-willed heavenly Father, we are commanded to keep knocking on the door of opportunity, possibility, and potential, knowing that the door that we stand before may not open right away. 

Additionally, that closed door may lead us to another one that will open and be better for us in the end. 

Every one of us in this room this morning has situations, circumstances, desires, and emergencies that Jesus tells us to bring to him. 

We are invited to ask with confidence, 

to seek with expectancy, and 

to knock with persistence. 

What I have found to be true in my life and over 20 years in church ministry, is that the answer to our prayers typically comes as either a “yes”, a “no”, or a “not right now”. This is the tough part about the passage, that God defines good differently than we do. Sometimes when we pray, we are given exactly what we asked for and almost immediately. 

While other times we are told no for our protection, and other times the answer is ‘not yet’ because the timing is not right. 

Sometimes, I am afraid that we tend to pray the way a lot of children do. They tell their dad what they want, what they feel they need, and how they want him to respond. But if he does not tell them what they want to hear, they do what every respectable child does, they go to their mom. They have a tendency to do whatever they need to do to get what they want regardless of what their parents think is best for them. 

The key is to remember that we have a good-willed heavenly Father who is responding to 

our confident asking, 

our expectant seeking, and 

our persistent knocking 

in a way that has what is best for us in mind. 

God does not respond to our prayers out of anger or frustration toward us, but out of an everlasting love for us. 

We have a Father who knows what is best for us and responds to our prayers out of love, out of mercy, and from a perspective that is eternal in nature. Our prayer needs to align to God’s will, not our will.

Prayer is a powerful tool in the life of a believer. One of the most profound outcomes of practicing an 

ask, seek, and knock prayer life 

is a change that takes place inside of us. This change is described by Paul as he writes to the early church in Philippi, Philippians 4:6-7, 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is a peace that comes to us that cannot be explained when we bring our situations and circumstances to God. When we place it all at His feet, we can trust that He knows what is best. We don’t have to manipulate or control a situation to meet our desires, because we believe that God has our best interests in mind. Anxiety has the tendency to attack our hearts and our minds. It cripples our emotions, and it clouds our thinking, but prayer can guard us from anxiety and fear. 

With God’s help, this practice can become a daily part of our lives that changes us over time to become agents of peace ourselves. Without making prayer a priority, however, we can easily allow our hearts and minds to become vulnerable to these attacks again. 

It is recorded that early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.” (Today In the Word, June 29, 1992) 

So, be careful not to let the grass grow on your path. 

Choose a time and place when and where you can be consistent. Daily, ask, seek, and knock so that your mind stays connected to our loving heavenly Father and let the power of prayer change you. 

With that in mind, I have intentionally placed our congregational prayer time after the message. 

Let’s ask, seek and knock in our prayers today as a community of believers. Knowing that Almighty God loves us and is eager to hear, provide and guide us with His will. 

Let’s pray.