Last night we continued our study of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew chapters five through seven (otherwise known as the Sermon on the Mount). The notes are rough until the end, but here they are…
A hard to understand verse. May mean something like: “Be discerning with spiritual things,” or even, “Don’t ask “dogs,” ask God…”
Disciples live by asking God for things (what they need), and then by living off what he gives them. The verbs here are in the present tense (continual, habitual asking, seeking, knocking).
How the disciple asks:
v.7-9 as a son or daughter …with a logical approach (in view of who the Father is)
v.10 proper perspective
v.11 actual needs, daily things (James 4:3 – asking to spend on pleasures)
v.12 relational reconciliation
v.13 holiness and victory in spiritual warfare
See also John 15:1-8, James 4:2, Luke 11:5-13 & 18:1-5
…since you live in a world where your heavenly father gives you the good things you need, be this way for others… Also, therefore probably refers to all of 5:17-7:11
Challenges from this teaching:
1. To those who don’t yet trust and follow Christ:
As we’ve been seeing, one of the ways to view the Sermon on the Mount is to see in in connection with Matthew 4:17– this is Jesus explanation of what he means when he says, “Repent.” So this would mean that in these verses he’s saying something like, Repent–stop living without asking God for what you need, and without depending on him. (See also Jeremiah 17:5). Stop mistrusting him (7:9-11). Stop thinking the door won’t open (7:8) And stop trusting other things instead of the true God. Come to him! Ask him for what you need! See Isaiah 45:18-22–
18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. 19 I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20 “Assemble yourselves and come; Draw near together, You who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. 21 Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
2. To Christians:
- If we’re not spiritually alert, we can live like the world, and not be asking God for the things we need. Instead, we need to let the Word of God invite us to live free from the fear that God can’t be trusted and that talking to him is pointless. The extent to which I pray, and depend on answers to prayer to live, is the extent to which I’m trusting God. If I do not or will not pray, it means I am trusting someone or something other than God. (ex: “Trust in the Lord…Lean not on your own…”). This does not mean that I pray and then do not do (“God typically answers the prayer for daily bread by enabling me to work to feed myself.”) But I pray before I work, and while I work, and after I work, because even when I get up and work for my pay check, I am still dependent on God to provide for me in a thousand ways. You could say that Christians trust God by praying and working with a confidence that God hears our prayers.
- Nothing in this teaching, and especially in the rest of the New Testament, should make us think that God will give us everything we ask for, because that would be to ignore the details of this teaching. He’s our father, not a search engine or a vending machine. If God was a machine he would give us everything we requested. But since he’s our father, his own understanding about what we as his children truly need will govern how he answers our requests. This might feel limiting at first, but actually if you think about it, this enables us to ask boldly for what we think we need, because we know we can’t mess it up—God will not answer prayers he knows are based on ignorance or selfishness, because answering those prayers will not be most beneficial to us in the long run.
- We should be careful not to keep thoughts in our minds which tell us that, even thought Jesus teaches these things, asking God for things isn’t actually important. For instance it’s really easy to get tempted to think things like: “Why should I pray if God already knows what’s going to happen?” or “Why should I pray if God has already planned out what he’s going to do?” But these thoughts can’t be right about prayer—or Jesus’ teaching here doesn’t make any sense. Here’s some quick theology about prayer: Prayer matters because everything in the universe is relational and conversational. Things get done because God the Son asks God the Father for things, and God the Father grants his request. Prayer is when Jesus grants his followers the right to address God as if they share his own status—they say “Father,” and then they ask God to do things, as if they are Jesus. And the Father hears their requests because they have joined the eternal conversation, and they are now part of the way things get done in the world—by asking and receiving. This might seem like some sort of heady “theology” but really, it just lets us read Jesus’ words about asking and seeking with total simplicity. He tells us to ask, because if we do, God will answer. That’s how things work.