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“Ask And It Will Be Given You”

  • International
  • March 1, 2012
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This passage is found in the Sermon on the Mount and is one of Jesus’s first teachings on prayer.

The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’s sayings, but not necessarily given at one time. These sayings were probably repeated frequently by Jesus, and so came to be associated with his style of preaching. The teachings on prayer particularly bear a marked difference to the way the Jews of that time were expected to pray. Jesus urges his disciples to ‘come to the point’, and not to be long-winded. State what you desire, says Jesus. After all, your Father in heaven knows you much better than you know yourself. Further, he asks them to shun ostentation in prayer, but to pray ‘from the heart’ and in secret.

Most of all, Jesus reminds his disciples that prayer is not a transaction, but a relationship, as of a dear child to its loving parent. This means that it’s the whole person who must be involved in the asking, for prayer is not just the self-centred clamouring for something desired at the moment.

A child who knows that it is loved, relates to a father or mother with confidence, not with fear. This is the basis of the threefold petition and its answer: “ask-receive, seek-find, knock-be opened”. Prayer therefore should be uttered in a spirit of freedom from worry and undue anxiety, and with the assurance that it will be heard and answered.

This assurance is illustrated by homely examples from family life: a wise father knows what the child needs, and will certainly not give them something harmful in answer to their requests - a stone instead of bread, a scorpion instead of an egg. Reflecting on these words of the Lord, we can see that there is really no unanswered prayer. If God takes his time to give us what we ask, it is so that the waiting may

change us the better to receive his gifts. If prayer is a relationship, then in some way, our lives of prayer reveal God to us, and reveal ourselves to us as well.

This passage ends with an enunciation of the Golden Rule: “Always treat others as you’d like them to treat you.” It’s an ideal of human behaviour which pre-dates Christianity, and is found in almost all the religious traditions of the world.
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