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Pointers along the way #696

Ask and receive

- Jacob Ninan

One common mistake many Christians make in reading the Bible is to take and interpret verses out of context. One reason for this is that pastors fail to teach them guidelines for reading and understanding the Bible.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Mt.7:7) is one such verse that gets misunderstood in this way. If we don't get what we ask for, we are told to keep on asking till we receive. If nothing happens after some time, we may be told that we didn't have enough faith to receive it, or that there may be some unconfessed sin in our life (or our ancestor's) that is blocking the answer. First of all, our ancestor's sins are not going to be thrust upon us (Ez.18:20). Secondly, if we didn't have faith in God, we wouldn't have asked Him in the first place! The third possibility that there could be unconfessed sin in our life needs to be checked out and cleared before we can proceed (Ps.66:18).

But what is missing here is the explanation that is available in the context itself. Mt.7:11 says very plainly that if our earthly fathers know how to decide what is good for us, our heavenly Father will certainly know much better what is good for us. Just as our earthly fathers decide that some things we ask for are not good for us, our Father God also makes some decisions about our prayer. This is one of the reasons why some of our prayers are not answered. If preachers simply tell us to keep on asking for whatever we want, we might end up wasting time or setting ourselves up for disappointment! Wouldn't it be better if we are taught to understand the will of God better, so that we can then ask Him for things more intelligently (1Jn.5:14)? If we do that, we will grow in understanding and maturity in the knowledge of God instead of dealing with God only regarding asking and getting.

As we live here on earth, we will have many earthly needs, and it is only natural that we ask God about them. God understands that (Mt.6:32). But then we ought to grow in our relationship with our Father and become more and more mature. Things of eternity should capture our mind more than things that would perish (Jn.6:27;Co.3:1). That we are not like Jesus in our behaviour should disturb us more than having material needs. Then we would begin to engage with God about becoming more like Jesus. We will learn the strategies and tactics of spiritual battle and get trained in a practical way (Ps.18:34). We will learn about the schemes of the enemy (2Co.2:10,11) and become able to resist him.

How sad it is many people are being attracted to Christ as the One who will meet all their earthly needs, and all their life their prayers are only about those! What they try to learn is how to get God to give what they want, with various techniques, going after men of God, and attending miracle meetings. How they miss the central point of why the Saviour came and what we need to be saved from (Mt.1:21)!


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