Jesus gives us glimpses and insights into prayer. We have moments throughout his ministry when he retreats from the crowds to go be alone in prayer. We see him agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane on his final night with a profound prayer in light of the impending betrayal and crucifixion—Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will be done. And in other places, we see him teaching on prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer.
There is a moment within the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus grants us insight into the intent of our prayers. Read Matthew 7:7-12. What a powerful invitation to prayer! Sadly, too many have separated this passage to either focus on the first half about ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ and the second part of ‘The Golden Rule.’ When read together, they complement and complete the other!
If you don’t ask, you are guaranteed to not receive! Asking is a key part of petitioning prayer. Statements like, ‘God, heal Mary’ or ‘God, bring peace to our violence’ or ‘God, help me out of this pit I’m stuck in’ are good asking prayers! The next part, Seek, is the discerning of the Spirit and seeking the heart of God. Much of spiritual formation is realized in the seeking. And let’s be honest, seeking can sometimes be hard! It requires patience, perseverance and willingness to move beyond our knowledge. Through that seeking, we discover the doors of opportunity to knock upon. How often have you prayed for something to have doors close and suddenly a new door opens that is better than you imagined? Through the ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ window, we realize that prayer is a journey which at times can feel a bit dragging.
Yet the key to this teaching is the final verse. If we are praying from a place of me-ism, or selfishness, then often we forget the impact on others. As we ‘Ask, Seek and Knock,’ how might this impact those around me? Would I want them to be asking the same thing? For if we are called to love our neighbor as our self, does this prayer lead me closer to that reality or further from it?