Knocking or Nagging?
Before long most spiritually nourished Christians become familiar with Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
The phrase is repeated in Luke 11:9-10 along with the illustration of the persistence of the man seeking loaves at midnight to feed a hungry houseguest. He tells a similar story in Luke 18 regarding a widow woman seeking justice against an adversary. His purpose in the parable is stated at the outset, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1).
“Ask… seek… knock…” All three verbs are gerunds denoting ongoing activity. Yet there are other passages which point to times when one must simply stop.
In one of Paul’s epistles to the Corinthian church he writes of an an undefined “thorn” which beset him, “a messenger of Satan, to harass me,” he says, only later learning its purpose. He recounts “Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
Three times Paul prayed, only three, and then he stopped! What made the difference? Surely he agreed with our Lord’s teaching on persistence. “Pray without ceasing,” he urged the Thessalonians. (1 Thess. 5:17). Yet, here, three times, and he stops.
We must be very humble when we pray, cognizant that we are approaching the Almighty for His answer. We are knocking for there is something we do not know, and want Him to tell or to show us. We must not confuse flesh with Spirit. We must come to Him as Christ also came to the Father — also only thrice — ever willing to say to Him, “Not my will, but Your’s be done.” (Matt. 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, John 6:38).
When His answer is clear, we are done.
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