It is difficult to ask for what we want or what we think we need. Asking makes us uncomfortable, sometimes makes us feel guilty or ashamed. Asking is one of most vulnerable things we can do. Yet, we see throughout the gospels that Jesus asked all the time. Particularly, he asked questions to challenge his hearers or cause them to think more deeply about issues. Jesus often used questions as teaching moments, and those questions were strategically placed to address a spiritual condition, soul cry, or even a physical need in the public square.
Because Jesus used the model of questioning as a tool of discipleship, his disciples also learned how to ask important questions. In Luke 11, they asked him to teach them how to pray. The implication here is either they didn’t know how to pray or they wanted to better understand how to pray rightly. Jesus responds by sharing what we now refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” The point was not that they would recite it as empty repetition. As a matter of fact, he spoke specifically against that type of behavior (Matt 6:7). On the contrary, he was using this prayer as a teaching model. When you go before the Lord to pray: First, honor and praise him. Then, align your will with that of his kingdom. Ask for grace and provision for this day, for each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt 6:34). Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. Ask God to reveal if there is anyone you need to forgive. Ask God to deliver you from the temptation of the evil one. These are all good things to ask God for, and Jesus taught his disciples to ask with expectation that God would hear and respond to a prayer like this one. Not only that, Jesus encouraged persistence in their asking.
Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.” Then the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything. I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Luke 6:5-8 NIV
The last sentence in some translations read, “because of the man’s persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” The idea of boldness and persistence go hand-in-hand here. It is a bold act to be persistent when making a request. This is a good thing. Just a few chapters later, Jesus draws this same conclusion with his teaching: The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8). In that teaching, he links the persistent ask to someone receiving justice or a righteous judgement, and it is also a measure of a person’s faith.
Going back to the original teaching, Jesus draws the conclusion, “So I say to you: 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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Of if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:9-13)!”
Jesus says that the reason we must learn to ask God is because God is our good Father and he desires to give good gifts to his children. Remember: this conclusion assumes that the disciples understood the earlier points of the “Lord’s Prayer” teaching model. Their “ask” must honor God, be in alignment with his will, and come from a pure and repentant heart. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote that we often don’t get what we ask for because our motives are not right (James 4:1-3). We must check our motives at the door before we knock!
This passage reveals the Father’s desire to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. We need the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is our comforter, present help in times of trouble, and our counselor, guide or conscience to provide a way of escape when we are tempted by the devil. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do the Lord’s work, and live in harmony with others. The Holy Spirit is our teacher who reminds us of God’s truth and the instructions and way of Christ. The Holy Spirit is a necessary mark of a child of God (Romans 8).
When we understand these teachings of Jesus and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are free “to ask” for what we need or want without apology, fear, or shame. I am a proponent of the “You have not because you ask not philosophy.” If the Lord has opened a door, created an opportunity or possibility, or charted a path, I am not afraid to walk in it and make important “asks” if necessary. If people say “no” to my “ask,” I understand that response says nothing about my identity, is not something to take personal, and is certainly not the end of my road. That negative response leaves me in the same condition where I started, no worse or better. It just gives me an opportunity to seek and knock on another door.
Why do you think it is so difficult to ask for what you want or need? In what ways have you been challenged or seek growth in this area?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2016