So I was looking on Pinterest last night for the C.S Lewis quote about friendship (“friendship begins in that moment when one person says to another: ‘What, you too? I thought I was the only one!'”) and came across a tonne of CS Lewis quotes that I instantly liked/agreed with/could relate to. Then I saw this one, which reminded me of something that was going through my head a couple of weeks ago that I almost wrote about then forgot about/never got around to.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 NLT
Which instantly made me think of the (really very cheesy) Salvation Army Chorus:
Ask! Ask! Ask! and it shall be given; Seek! Seek! Seek! and you’re sure to find; Knock! Knock! Knock! and the door will open; For God! God! God! is so good and kind!
When I initially read it I found it really encouraging. And then I properly thought about it. (Thinking is always the downfall!!) So my thought process was; is that really how it works? If we ask for something, we’ll get it? If we search for something hard enough, we’ll find it? If we try (the door), we’ll get there (get in)? Because to me, that contradicts a whole load of other bible stuff and what we’ve always been taught.
So based on that, I really don’t know how to interpret that verse properly. It all comes back to the topic of prayer again. Now, surely that’s not supposed to be like a shopping list? You’re not meant to go to God and ask for all of these things you want, and he won’t just grant you them either. If I pray and ask for £1 million, I won’t suddenly get it. If I pray and ask for a relative to be healed, that won’t necessarily happen either. He’s not a genie with a magic lamp. But that bible verse seems to suggest so? It seems to say that if you ask for something, you’ll get it. (The next verse goes on to say that God is good and therefore will give us good things) On the other hand though, surely if I’m praying that I’ll become closer to God, or that I’ll experience him, out of a place of pure desire to follow him or whatever the phrasing should be, surely if he’s good and gives us good thing, he’d want to ‘grant me that’? Maybe I’m reading it out of context, but I’ve read round about it and it doesn’t seem to clear anything up for me!
So my big question really is, how does prayer actually work? The thank you and the sorry bits I get. But the asking bit, I don’t understand. The praying for specific people, I don’t understand. (If God has a plan/a will for us all blah blah blah…then surely me asking for something will make no difference to that outcome?) Are we just supposed to be super vague and ask for ‘help’ or ‘support’ or ‘guidance’, then trust that he’ll do those things (even if we don’t realise it)? Ask and it shall be given seems pretty literal, and although many people don’t take a huge amount of the bible literally, I don’t see how else you could interpret that verse?
I’d love to be able to agree with and believe in what this quote is saying. I would love to think that because I’m actively seeking God, and seeking joy, that I would find it. But I just don’t understand how the theory and theology behind it actually works or makes sense.
So, answers on a postcard please. (Well actually, fb comment or message would be more practical…) I’ve had similar conversations to this with people before, but I’m interested to hear what others might think.