Prayer is mentioned a couple of times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). But in the final segments of the sermon, Jesus mentioned prayer in a slightly different way. He talked about our connection with the Father. Yes, Matthew 7:7-11 is about asking God what we need. But more importantly, the text is about is about realizing God gives us good, and not harmful things. Here’s the text:
“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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV)
If we are continually amazed by God’s goodness, we’ll quickly see that God gives us everything.
“I’m still blown away by God’s presence,” I tweeted not too long ago. It’s not that I’m surprised by how amazing God is, or that I’m shocked that His presence can be overwhelming. I’m simply blown away by how God’s goodness amazes me more today than yesterday and how I’ll say that again tomorrow.
With so many issues and problems in our lives, we often miss our opportunity to simply commune with God. Isn’t that what God is inviting us to do? Prayer is not a formula for God to obey us; rather, an invitation for us to obey God. And it’s in that obedience that we realize God gives us every good thing.
Lyle Dorsett described A.W. Tozer’s prayer life in this way:
“[Tozer] learned much about his Lord and his God in…prayer…with his Bible and hymnals as his only companions…on this ancient office couch…would drift into another realm… In time, he would abandon the couch, get on his knees, and eventually lie face down on the floor, singing praises to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”1
So in this world of chaos, we need to do one simple thing every single day: focus on God’s goodness. I offer three ways we can do this:
1. Focus on Our Relationship with God.
When Jesus said, “Ask…seek…knock,” he wasn’t describing a formula for a “guaranteed answered prayer.” Prayer isn’t a persistence to receive, but a persistence to submit. We have to remember the first beatitude: “blessed are those who are poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). Having a complete dependence on God forces us to focus on His goodness.
2. Focus on God’s Promise to Believers.
It may seem discouraging at times, but good things happen to bad people. In fact, you don’t even have to pray to experience “blessings.” Eternal grace and supernatural peace, however, are only extended to those who look to God for help (Romans 10:13; Philippians 4:7). Don’t focus on the blessings of others, focus on the goodness of God’s eternal promise.
3. Focus on God’s Promise to Help Us.
Sometimes we may be guilty of thinking if God says, “no,” there must be something even better, around the corner. This really isn’t the promise. In fact, the promise is even greater. God doesn’t promise so much a better gift; rather, a perfect gift and not a harmful one. The more we focus on how good God is, the more his responses make sense.
God doesn’t answer all our prayers the way we thought He would. I don’t have an answer for that, and I’m not even sure there’s a good one known to man.2 As Alec Motyer pointed out:
“If…whatever we ask, God was pledged to give, then I for one would never pray again, because I would not have sufficient confidence in my own wisdom to ask God for anything…how could we bear the burden?”3
Our prayers can’t be answered by our wisdom, but by God’s alone. We won’t fully understand, either, until we see Him face to face.
The only thing I know for sure is that God is good, and He gives us everything we need.
[reminder]Are you amazed enough by God’s goodness to commune with him?[/reminder]
|⇑1||Lyle Dorsett, A Passion for God: the Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 121; as citied by McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 245.|
|⇑2||Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 245.|
|⇑3||Alec Motyer, Studies in the Epistle of James (New Midlmay Press, 1968), 88; as citied by Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 188.|