The Divine Invitation
Persistence in Prayer
“Ask, and it will be given to you.”
It is easy to pray, but it is difficult to persist. It is easy to pray with persistence but hard to pray with absolute confidence in God’s response. In verse 7, we discover the divine invitation. The God of the universe, the one who created all things merely by a spoken word and sustained the universe with his infinite providential power, invites us to pray. However, the offer is not simply an invitation; it is an imperative in which the verse has the idea of “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.” This divine invitation is a call to live in persistent and complete reliance upon our heavenly Father, who provides for all our needs. We are not just to pray; we are to live with the recognition that our whole life is grounded in the providential care of God. Too often, we see prayer as an act to perform in times of desperation when confronted with circumstances beyond our ability to handle it. But Jesus calls us to a life of complete dependency. It requires us to recognize that the totality of life’s events and challenges are beyond our ability. The opposite of faith is not unbelief; it is self-reliance, trusting in our abilities to deal with circumstances. It is to live life without seeing the need for prayer. Living by faith is living with the constant awareness of our complete dependency upon God.
When we pray, God assures us that he will answer. However, an important principle is hidden in the text's grammar. While the invitation is a present imperative (keep praying), the response is in the future tense. He will act, but he will act according to his timing and purpose. There are times when there is a delay between the request and the answer. This delay is not because of any inattentiveness on God’s part but due to his infinite wisdom and timing. God does not answer the prayer in our timing, but in the right time (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11). While the timing may be uncertain (from our perspective), the answer to prayer is not. God will answer.
In verses 9-11, we find the reason why we can have confidence in prayer. God is our heavenly father who cares deeply and infinitely for his children. While we see a glimpse of this in the love and provision an earthly father has for his children, even that is a poor reflection (vs. 11). Our human father may fail. Sometimes they are too busy to respond to a request of a child. Sometimes they lack the ability and means to answer the request. Sometimes, they are not loving parents. However, this is never the case with God. God is constantly and continually loving us, so he will never fail. He is infinite in his resources, so he never lacks the ability to respond appropriately. He is unlimited in his wisdom, so he always knows “what is good.” His response is always perfect. We can trust his answer because he is a loving and faithful Father.
The last point we need to recognize is that there is no condition upon God’s response. The only thing required of us is that we ask. We often approach God in prayer with the idea that we must earn his favor. If God does not answer, then it is because we have not been good enough. We need to earn his blessing. However, there is no condition between the request and the assurance of the answer. The only requirement is that we ask. In other words, we only need to recognize our need and trust in his provision. The power of prayer is discovered by recognizing our continual need for his care.