What else do we need in our churches that we are not receiving? Do we lack suitable candidates for church office? Or those for missions? Do we lack Sunday school teachers or church workers? If so, it is because we are not asking. Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).
Moreover, isn’t it significant that these great remarks about prayer occur toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount after the long list of things that should characterize our lives as Christians? We read of purity of heart, and we lack it. We read of meekness, and we lack that. We lack integrity, love, trust in God, humility, discrimination, and all of the other things Christ mentions. Isn’t it true that Jesus mentions prayer again precisely at this point just so that we may be encouraged to ask our gracious God for them? Prayer has not changed. God has not changed. His ear is as quick to hear and His arm as strong to save as they ever were. Then let us ask. Torrey writes, “Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent. No one can stand against the man who knows how to pray and who meets all the conditions of prevailing prayer and who really prays.” Then he adds that this is true because “the Lord God Omnipotent works for him and works through him.”2
This brings us to our next point. For Christ did not only say that we were to ask for God’s blessings. He also said that we were to go on asking.
In the Greek language, which lies behind our New Testament, there are two basic kinds of imperatives. There is the aorist imperative, which is a command to one particular thing at one specific point in time. And there is a present imperative, which is a command not only to do that thing once, but to go on doing it indefinitely. For example, if we were to say to a person driving a car, “Stop at that light,” then the word “stop” would be an aorist imperative; for it would refer to only one action. However, if one were then to say, “And don’t forget, always stop for red lights,” then “stop” would in that case be a present imperative; for it would refer to something to be done repeatedly. The imperatives in this section of Christ’s Sermon—“ask,” “seek,” and “knock”—are present imperatives. Hence, they are a command to persist in prayer. They are a command not to become discouraged.
2Reuben A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1955), 17.