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Daily Scripture Reading – Acts 12
Verse of the Day – Matthew 7:7-8
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
We have seen that prayer is defined as asking so that we might receive that which we need from God, and it is seeking Him so that we might trust Him to provide those things for which we have asked. In asking and seeking we know that the focus is on God, not on us or our needs. As we depend upon Him and ask Him and seek Him, we are reminded that He is our Provider and that He is in control of every aspect of our lives.
Today we see that prayer is likened to knocking so that the door might be opened to us. What door? The door to communion. Jesus is telling us here that we are able through prayer to ask of God and seek from God, but it all starts with the knock – opening the time of communion with God.
We must never think of prayer as a chore, and if we view it as a duty it must be a duty of love for God. We must also never take prayer lightly, as if communion with the Almighty is a little thing or an easy thing! Throughout Scripture we see examples of men and women who struggled in prayer. Hannah prayed with such focus and lack of self awareness that Eli thought she was drunk. Daniel prayed for 21 days before he received an answer brought by an angel who had to fight his way there. Jesus agonized in the garden, facing the cross and pleading for the will of the Father to be accomplished, and when the disciples were asked to pray with Him and for Him during this time they grew weary while praying and fell asleep.
Prayer is never easy. It is never cheap. And we should never think that we have the right to burst in on God and make demands. We approach Him with faith and with boldness, but we must do so humbly and reverently. We are after all speaking with God.
As we look at what it means to knock we need to remember that prayerlessness is sin. Prayerlessness, whether caused by pride, apathy, greed, or an attitude of legalistic obedience, hinders our communion with God. To knock then is to do what is necessary to gain entrance into this time of communion with God. It is to prepare our hearts and minds by confessing sin and meditating on the truth about who God is.
Do we desire to pray? Do we want to spend time with God? Do we long for that “sweet hour of prayer”? Or is it more like a fast food drive through where we place our order and drive around and wait for the answer to be delivered so we can get on with our day?
Interestingly, when we as a church allow sin and impurity to harden our hearts, Jesus comes and does the knocking. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” This is not a verse that speaks of Jesus knocking on the door of the heart of a lost man seeking to gain entrance – no, this is Jesus standing outside the door of the lukewarm church! This is the church that has become so dependent upon themselves, their self-righteousness, and their programs that they feel that they have no need of the power of the Holy Spirit. Even when the church is in this hardened state, Jesus desires fellowship with us, though He must deal with our sin. He does so by knocking – by letting us know He needs to be let in – that our sin needs to be confessed and the door opened.
Just as He seeks communion and fellowship, to “dine” with us, so we too must come to God desiring to commune, to be fed by His Word through His Spirit. We must knock. The things of God are not easily opened. We must be diligent to seek after God, to ask, even if the answer takes some time. We must be ready to commune with God, never expecting an automatic hearing from Him. He is holy. And while we are told to approach Him with boldness, we must do so with humility knowing that it is only by the blood of Christ that we have this access.
We cannot rush into prayer. We must remember that we are talking to God. And we must prepare to enter His presence. Jesus taught us about this when He gave us the model prayer and began by saying to our Father, “Hallowed be Your Name.” Above all else in prayer, whether we are asking, seeking, thanking, pleading, interceding, or praising, our focus must be on the holiness of God – we cannot forget that He is holy.
In the Scriptures there are examples of those who forgot that God was holy. In one instance recorded in 2 Samuel 6:6-7, the ark was being carried in a manner contrary to God’s instructions. It was put on a cart instead of being carried by the priests. The priests carried the ark before the people in a way that reminded them all of God’s holiness. But this time, transporting it on the cart, the cart started to tip and Uzzah reached up to steady it – no doubt a good intention, but again, contrary to God’s specific commands. When Uzzah touched the ark, he died. He handled that which was holy in an unholy manner.
Does this mean that God will kill us if we pray without preparation, or if we dare enter His presence without giving thought to His holiness? Well, think about it. To fail to be holy, or prepared, or reverent, or humble when we approach God is to sin, is it not? And what are the wages of sin? Death (Rom 6:23). Our reaction to this proves that we have a low view of God, a high view of self, and a wrong view of sin. We think of God as one of us. We think God owes us. And we think sin is nothing more than a failure or mistake.
We learn then that when we pray we must first knock – we must be prepared to enter the presence of God. We can be humble and bold at the same time when that boldness is founded upon the truth about the atoning death of Christ. He died so that we could come boldly in faith. His life and death and resurrection makes the Way for us to come to God in prayer, knowing that we will be heard and that our prayers will be answered. Not because we have needs, but because God is faithful to provide for us!
The underlying truth in these words shows us that when we ask, seek, and knock we are coming to God on His terms, focused on Him instead of ourselves and our needs, and we are expecting Him to commune with us based on the work that Christ has done on our behalf. How precious the truth then that we do not pray alone, for Christ Himself makes intercession (Heb 7:25) for us and the Holy Spirit takes the things that we cannot even express with words (Rom 8:26-27) and utters them to the Father!
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