Saturday, April 18, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 53: Knocking

"So I say to you, 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. (Luke 11:9-10 NASB)

When I read "knock and it will be opened to you", for some reason, it makes me think of that song from my growing up years. "If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening, all over this land." The idea of hammering so enthusiastically is exactly the idea behind the knocking of Luke 11. The word translated as knock is not a polite little tapping at the door. This is "knocking with a heavy blow". It is pounding that leaves no doubt, inside or out, that you mean for the door to be opened.

We have it from the very mouth of Christ ("so I say to you") that we are to be so importunate in the things for which Christ has instructed us to ask, that we "must never hold our peace day or night, we must not keep silence, nor give God any rest." (Matthew Henry) We are to be pounding on the doors of heaven. What things has He instructed us to ask? That his name be sanctified, that his kingdom come, His will be done.

When I present my concerns to God in prayer, it behooves me to judge those concerns by the standard Christ has given us. Does my request sanctify His name, does it advance His kingdom, is it His will? I have to admit that I have besieged heaven, hammering on the door night and day to have something that was neither God's will nor likely to advance His kingdom. I thank God He did not grant my request. How miserable I would have been if He had given me that for which I foolishly asked! I praise God for those "no" answers that I desperately needed, but did not want, to the prayers for that which I desperately wanted, but did not need.

It is when I am willing to pray for God's will, and for events in my life to unfold in a way that glorifies Him and not myself, that I begin to pray in a way that pleases God. It is when I pray in this way that my hammering on the door of heaven has an amazing effect. The door of heaven is opened to me and I am ushered into the presence of God. Oh, if there were words to convey the joy that comes with this kind of prayer! 

Prayer, conversation with God, is an important part of having a relationship with Him, and, sometimes, importunate prayer, hammering away without stopping, is what it takes to gain our desire. That continued hammering is important, at least in part, because the persevering demonstrates our commitment to the need for which we ask. 

In the persistent knocking, however, we also gain an unexpected benefit. Change. There are times when I pray persistently over months, and even over years, for something. My prayer toward the end of that journey of persistence is often quite different from the one at the beginning, because God has changed my heart along the way. He has allowed me to see the need from a different perspective, to recognize what He has been doing in me as I waited. The desire I was so desperate to obtain at the beginning has been molded and changed by God in the interim. If we are to obtain the perfect will of God in our asking, this process of molding is critical, and (at least with my stubborn heart) it takes time. 

Let us take our needs, our desires, our hopes and dreams to the One who loves us most, and let us do it with persistence, hammering away at the door of heaven. In our hammering, though, let us not forget that the waiting, as we hammer and pray, is an important part of the process, for it is in the waiting that God fine-tunes us and our prayers to become exactly what He intended. It is only then that our prayers can be the kind of requests that line up with the will of God so that answers, glorious will-of-God answers, can come.

Pray without ceasing and wait with expectation to see the mighty Hand of God in response to your prayers.