Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. – Jesus (Mt 7:7 NRSV)
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 are very familiar to me. Mostly I know them as part of a chorus we used to play and sing at church camp. When sung in parts and with the descant, that simple little chorus could transform a campfire experience into something special.
It’s funny how such familiar words can be found fresh again. At least that was my experience early this week, when in the course of reading Matthew 7 I stopped to consider the words anew. I no longer hear them as a teenager or young adult camp counselor. I hear them as a middle-aged pastor, husband, father, and recently new granddad, who has been wrestling with God in prayer for the past several months.
I do not hear them as some glib “name it and claim it” promise of Scripture, or in association with a prayer of desperation. No, I hear these words as a promise of the One who keeps promises over time. I hear them from our God who is faithful, and who asks us to return such faithfulness. I hear them as an invitation. Do you?
“Keep asking. Continuously search for my will and my presence. Be persistent in knocking on the doors of opportunity that are presented you.” This is something of what I hear. It is a call to persistence. It is a call to a faith walk that is a “long obedience in the same direction” with God, who is more than able to both know and respond to our every need and concern.
I’ll confess that for much of my life I have been too impatient, and in too big of a hurry, to hear this calm invitation of reassurance from the Lord. I’ve had a head and heart filled with my own plans, my own desires, hopes and predetermined outcomes. I doubt that I am alone, or even unique, in this respect. There is a tendency even in our Christ following faith to plan and prepare before we pray. I will always be one who plans, and I like to be prepared, but I’m learning the sequence needs reversing. We would do well to begin with prayer. To continue with prayer. To stay with prayer. To ask, to search, to knock.
Today is my birthday which is not particularly significant other than it does give one pause to consider that another year has passed. But my birthday was surpassed in significance this year by another birthday – one that took place about a month ago, making my wife and I grandparents. Our grandson Oliver’s birth has given me new perspective. Seeing him, watching him, holding him – observing him with his parents – is so much more fulfilling than many of the things I have labored at over the years. I’ve experienced something of a reset in terms of priorities, and the urgency for production.
It’s as though time has somehow both slowed down and sped up. It’s slow when we are together, as we live in those moments, grateful for this new life and its blessings. But it’s fast in that when we see him next he will have changed again.
I’ve heard it said that we are all God’s grandchildren. That God carries a picture of us on God’s phone, ready to pull it out and share it in a moment’s notice. That God relishes our visits in prayer and worship, and sits with us in those moments of uninterrupted attention. But, if the metaphor holds true, so too would it be that between our times together, God notes what’s changed in and about us. God sees that which is weighing on us, feels that which is stirring us up.
It’s a playful metaphor. One that perhaps fits with this verse from Matthew 7. God, our grandparent, longs for us to visit. Waits for us to ask, to search, to knock. God, our grandparent provider, knows that not all that is good in life happens in a hurry. God, our patient and loving grandparent, will give what is needed in due time, waits for us to ask – longs for us to search – and listens for us to knock.