If a young man wants to ask his father for something, he will pattern his request on the nature and the temperament of his father. If the father is ill-tempered and stingy, the young man will ask for little. He will take care to present his need in the most winsome and unobjectionable manner. If the father is good-natured and is generous, the child will present his need openly and with great confidence.
It is the same spiritually. If a man prays, he will pray in harmony with his view of the God to whom he is praying. If the gods are capricious, as the Greeks believed, then the man will come carefully and will be on his guard. If the god is vengeful, the man will be fearful. If God is gracious, as Jesus Christ declared the true God to be, then the one who believes in Him can come boldly. He will not fear to ask for good gifts of the One who is declared to be his Father.
It is this that gives the full measure of importance to the verses that form the next section of the Sermon on the Mount. For the verses contain the Lord’s declaration that God is indeed gracious to those who are His spiritual children. He declared, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (Matt. 7:7-11). According to these words, God is not harsh, revengeful, or stingy. On the contrary, He is loving, gracious, and merciful; and He is anxious to give the very best gifts to His children.
This passage may be summarized by a few simple propositions. The first is clearly that it applies only to those who are really God’s children.
This means, of course, that these verses (as well as all others in the Bible that refer to prayer) do not include everybody. They say, “Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Who are the “you’s” in this text? The answer is in the full context, for it is clear that they are only those who have God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, for their Father. The promises do not concern Buddhists. They do not concern Mohammedans. They do not concern nominal Protestants or nominal Roman Catholics. They are promises only for those in whose hearts God has performed the miracle of the new birth, so that while at one time they were without Christ, were aliens to Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, they are now seen to be fellow citizens and members of God’s spiritual household (Eph. 2:12, 19).