Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 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! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7–12)
This has proved, in my experience, to be one of the most motivating passages in all the Bible to pray with the confidence of being answered.
It’s an argument. Even bad dads give good things to their children when they ask. God is not a bad dad. He’s the best. Therefore, much more will he give good things to his children when we ask. I love that argument. Jesus really did want us to feel hopeful when we pray. He is trying to overcome our skepticism about prayer.
There’s another reason why this is so encouraging for our prayers. He says that a good dad gives “good things” to his children when they ask for what they want. He does not say that he always gives these little children precisely what they ask for. What father ever does? Or ever would? We love our children too much for that.
One time when my son Ben was three or four, he asked for a cracker for snack time. I opened the box and found that they were moldy. I said, “I’m sorry, you can’t eat these. They are covered with fuzz.” He said, “I’ll eat the fuzz.” But I said no. He was not happy, but I loved him and would not give him a fuzzy cracker, no matter how much he pleaded.
So when Jesus says he will give good things, he means that. Only good things. And only he knows ultimately what is good for us. And notice, when he says dads don’t give stones when asked for bread, he does not say dads always give bread. Just no stones. And when he says, dads don’t give snakes for fish, he does not say dads always give fish. Just no snakes.
The point is this: God ignores no prayers from his children. And he gives us what we ask for, or something better (not necessarily easier), if we trust him.
One more point: The word “so” at the beginning of verse 12 means that verse 12 is an inference from this teaching on prayer. “So” — since God always gives you what you need when you ask — “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” In other words, because God loves and cares for you so much, you will be able to care about others the same way you care about yourself. Which means that confidence in prayer is one of the keys to love.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.