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 (Manna 36: Prayer)
Ask, Seek, Knock
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A few years ago, I was engaged in a project at work where every team member was under a lot of pressure. As everyone worked hard to finish their work, people became impatient with each other and started to make rude comments to each other. The entire work atmosphere became very unpleasant. This situation occurred because the team members did not keep up good communication with each other.

Like human relationships, our relationship with God also requires good communication. As Christians, we often communicate with Jesus through prayer, telling Him our needs and asking for help. Jesus encourages us in 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."

Sometimes, though, it may seem like our communication with Him is "one-way"—that is, we do all the asking, seeking, and knocking, but there isn’t much of a response from Him. But in reality, God does communicate with us—we just need to understand how He communicates. And whether we like it or not, Satan also communicates with us. We need to be aware of how he communicates, so that we can avert his temptations and not fall into his trap.

Our Communication with God

Our Asking

When we need help, we obviously go to someone who can help us, not to someone who is incapable. In the same way, we can only ask God for help if we recognize that He is greater than us and that He is able to help us. God wants us to recognize that we are nothing and that we need Him. Through our asking, we practice humility and acknowledge God’s greatness.

So what should we ask for? Basically, anything. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." There is no request too small.

In September 1999, my company sent me on a long-term out-of-town assignment. It was corporate policy to assign housing in pairs, but I really wanted to live alone because I was dealing with some personal issues at the time and needed a place to pray. When I approached my supervisor with this request, he refused because it was against company policy. I put this matter in prayer, and when it came time to assign my housing, the human resources department offered me a single apartment without my asking. God knew the desire of my heart and granted my request.

Our Seeking

Imagine what would happen if God gave us everything we asked for. Perhaps we’re angry with a friend and say, "I wish he were dead"—and the friend falls over and dies. Or we’re frustrated at work and say, "I wish I didn’t have to work"—and we lose our job. It would be pretty frightening if God answered every one of our requests.

For this reason, it’s important to seek God’s will when we pray. We should not only ask for what we want, but also seek His will—His kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus set the best example in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked God to remove the bitter cup. But Jesus prayed, "Not as I will, but as You will."

In seeking God’s will, His answer will be "yes" or "no" and sometimes "wait."

Our Knocking

Luke 11 describes a man who, in the middle of the night, goes knocking on his neighbor’s door because he needs bread for a guest. Initially, the neighbor does not open the door because he’s already in bed. But because the man keeps knocking and knocking, his neighbor gets up and gives him "as many as he needs."

This story teaches us the importance of persistence. When we pray to God about something, we need to keep knocking on God’s door. If we pray earnestly with persistence, God will open the door and give us "as many as we need."

But persistence aloneis not enough. There’s one more condition for God to open the door, and that is we must be holy. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."

If we are home alone and a well-dressed man vs. a man with a shotgun came knocking on our door, for whom would we more likely open the door? Probably not the man with a shotgun. In the same way, we need to first we put away our anger, hatred, and filth when we come knocking on God’s door. We need to make sure we are holy because without holiness, we will not see God (Heb 12:14).

God's Communication with Us

God's Asking

There is a children’s hymn that goes, "Jesus is a gentleman, he never forces his way in." Even though our Lord Jesus has all the power in the world, He never forces His way into our lives. Though He knows what is best for us, He does not force His will upon us. Instead, Jesus shows us His will by "asking" us nicely through His Word, the Bible. If we want to hear God’s voice, we have to read His book!

God also speaks to us through the sermons at church. If we humble ourselves and listen carefully, we can hear God’s voice through the voices of pastors and other speakers. God may also speak to us through church literature, like magazines, articles, booklets, and study guides.

God's Seeking

Sometimes we may have wandered so far from God that we don’t read the Bible anymore, and our hearts may be darkened so that we can no longer hear His voice through sermons or literature. During these times, God will come looking for us.

Luke 15: 4-10 describes a shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to look for the one lost sheep. When he finds it, he lays it on his shoulder and carries it home. He invites his friends to rejoice with him because this one sheep was lost but now is found. This shepherd really loved this sheep. God loves us as one of His precious sheep, and when we stray from His fold, He will come looking for us. He will travel a great distance to look for us, to forgive us, and to bring us back home.

God is spirit, so He probably won’t physically go looking for us. However, God may come looking for us through some important people in our life. Probably no one else loves us more than our parents. No matter what we might have done, our parents will always accept us and welcome us home. Besides our parents, God can also come looking for us through spiritual friends, like church ministers, or our brothers and sisters in Christ. These people genuinely care about our spiritual well-being, and will come looking for us and will welcome us back to God’s fold.

God's Knocking

God wants to live in our heart and be the king of our lives. But instead of forcing His way into our life, He will stand at the door of our heart and knock until we open it. Revelation 3:20 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."

How does God knock on our door? The Holy Spirit knocks on the door of our heart; and if we open it, God’s Spirit will come in and live in our heart. The Holy Spirit will give us direction and strength to complete the journey of salvation. It will also remind us of God’s great love and kindle the fire within us to work for Him.

But before the Holy Spirit comes into our heart, we must first clean it up. No one likes to stay at a filthy, dirty, and smelly house. Similarly, God’s Holy Spirit will only come in and stay if we first clean up our heart.

Satan's Communication with Us

Satan's Asking

No one likes to be forced into doing anything; we all want to be asked nicely. We want to feel like we are making decisions for ourselves. Satan is not stupid; he is actually very crafty. He will subtly draw us away from God by asking us nicely. He "asks" through the various temptations around us.

Satan did not say to Eve, "Eat that fruit or I’ll kill you." Had he threatened Eve this way, she probably would have run the other way. Instead he asked her nicely, telling her how beneficial it would be to break God’s rules. He made her think it was her own decision, but it was really part of his plan.

Satan will "ask" us in the same nice and subtle way. He will use different temptations to make us think how beneficial it might be to break the rules, that it is okay to break God’s rules. He will make us think we’re making our own decisions, but it’s all really a part of his plan.

The devil plants so many temptations in our world: television, movies, music, literature, and the Internet. Satan tempts us in any way he can because he wants us to depart from God, to lose our eternal glory, and to suffer eternally with him. Knowing his plan, we ought to be more watchful and ask for God’s help to stand strong in God’s word.

Satan’s Seeking

As Christians, we may be able to resist the temptations of this world and stay out of Satan’s trap. But Satan does not give up there; he often comes seeking us. Satan especially looks for us when we are most vulnerable. This may be late at night when we are alone, when we are looking for something new to enjoy, or when we are lonely. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Since God and Satan are two opposing forces, any time we are far from God, Satan will be seeking us. Just as God does not physically come looking for us but seeks us through the people around us, Satan often seeks us through the people we associate with. People often say to us, "Try this—it’s really good," or "Go see that—I think you’ll like it," or "Let’s go do this or that."

Sometimes Satan invitation will come seeking us through people close to us—even family members, friends, or church members. It is the invitation of our family and friends that is the most difficult to say ‘no?to. But no matter who is looking for us or inviting us—stranger, friend, family member, or even church member, we need to distinguish whose invitation it’s really from: God or Satan.

Satan’s Knocking

Just as God wants to rule our heart, Satan wants to live in our heart and be the king of our lives as well. In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus says, "An unclean spirit goes out of a man, looking for a place to live but found none. So it decides to return to the house from which he came. When he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. So he goes and takes with him seven other spirit more wicked than himself and they entered and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

It’s good that we clean our heart, but we need to actively fill our heart with God’s Spirit, otherwise Satan will come in again even worse than before. One or the other will be the king of our heart and ruler of our life—God or Satan.

The last thing Satan wants is for us to draw closer to God. The closer we are to God, the more Satan wants to attack. Sometimes Satan will try to knock us down and make us lose our faith in God by giving us tribulations and hardship. Other times he will interfere with our spiritual growth, especially when we are preparing ourselves to serve God.

There was a young brother who, after attending a church seminar, resolved to live a holy life. He decided to devote one hour a day to prayer and personal Bible study. After he had done this for about one week, as he was about to fall asleep one night he heard a noise in the living room. Then he immediately saw a dark shadow move into his bedroom, and the shadow pressed down on him so he couldn’t breathe. He had a hard time saying, "hallelujah," but when he finally did so, the shadow went away. This brother knew in his heart that Satan was trying to discourage him from leading a spiritual life.

A Two-way Street

We aren’t the only ones asking, seeking, and knocking; God is also asking, seeking, and knocking, and so is Satan. The communication is a two-way street.

Asking. It’s easy to receive something from someone if they want the same thing for you. For example, a teenager probably wouldn’t receive a motorcycle from his parents, but he probably would receive a car, because safety is what his parents would want for him. Today if we ask for worldly pleasures, we will probably get it because that’s what Satan wants for us. On the other hand, if we ask God for strength and wisdom in our spiritual journey, we will receive these blessings because that’s what God wants for us. The secret to receiving what we ask for is to ask for the things God wants us to have--His kingdom, His righteousness, and His glory.

Seeking. Whenever we feel lost and are looking for something, that something is probably looking for us too. If we are seeking the pleasure of sin, it will probably find us very quickly—and once it finds us, it will not easily let go. However, if we earnestly seek God when we feel lost, God will also be seeking for us, and will find us and bring us home. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8)

Knocking. When we really want something, we might knock on different doors to find it. But before we raise our hand to knock, we should ask ourselves, "Whose door is this that I’m going to knock on? Jesus?or Satan’s?" Sometimes the only thing between us and God, or us and Satan, is a door. We need to be careful which door we decide to knock on.

No matter how far we may drift from God, He is always asking us to come back to Him, seeking the one sheep that has wandered away and knocking on our door so that we will open our heart to Him. But Jesus will never force His way into our lives. We also have to be willing to ask, to seek, and to knock as well. If the lost sheep doesn’t want to be brought home, the shepherd will not drag it home. If the prodigal son decides that he likes living with the pigs and doesn’t leave his filthy lifestyle, he will never be able to live in His father’s blessings again.

Jesus is there for you; He has been there before, and He will be there again. The question is, are you willing to ask, to seek, and to knock?

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Publisher: True Jesus Church