Passage: Matthew 7:7-11
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Jesus wants us to be bold and expectant in coming before our Father in prayer, and yet prayer is difficult for so many of us. In this section in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges us to pray with more expectancy and encourages us in why we can do so.
First, Jesus commands us to come before God “asking”, “seeking”, and “knocking” in prayer (vs. 7). When we come before our Father in this way, we should expect our prayers to be effective—“for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (vs. 8). Throughout the gospels, Jesus is consistently optimistic about the fruitfulness of prayer. While it’s always possible to pray with wrong motives, Jesus seems much more concerned with our lack of asking than anything else. Therefore, we should heed Jesus’ call to pray, and put it into practice.
But Jesus also gives us a reason for asking with such expectancy. We ask, because we have a good Father who loves to give good gifts to his children (vs. 11). Even “evil” human parents love to give good gifts to their kids—how much more, then, can we expect our Father to give us good gifts when we ask! Of course, like any good parent, our Father will not give us what we ask for if he knows it would not be good for us. And yet, God invites us into asking because he wants to nurture a relationship with us, and involve us in his plan to expand his kingdom on earth. Prayer is simply “talking to God about the things we’re doing together” (Dallas Willard).
Jesus himself was the ultimate picture of working together with God, and he did nothing other than what he saw his Father doing. Jesus died so that we might experience the loving inclusion of God in what he is doing on earth and participate with him in it. What better way to beginning experiencing that partnership than through prayer!
- The Challenge of Asking (7:7-8)
- The Reason for Asking (7:9-11)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Matthew 7:7-11
The Challenge of Asking (7:7-8)
INTRO: How would you characterize your experience with prayer? Does it come naturally to you, or is it a challenge? Why? How have you grown in prayer over the years, or how would you like to grow?
1) Re-read Matthew 7:7-8 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
- What attitude is the threefold command to “ask”, “seek”, and “knock” meant to develop in us?
- What is Jesus promising here? What language does he use to communicate his promise?
2) In Matthew 7:8, Jesus says, “Everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened.” What was your initial reaction to Jesus’ promise here? Surely, we’ve all had experiences of asking but not receiving. How, then, can Jesus give such a blanket promise in these verses?
3) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby gave some common reasons why we don’t pray with the consistency and expectancy that Jesus is commanding us to. In your own life, what are some of main obstacles to praying with consistent expectancy? How, if at all, did this week’s sermon speak to these obstacles?
4) How does a lack of expectant prayer impact our witness for Christ? What does a lack of asking communicate to others about…our belief in God’s character?…our view of prayer?
5) Can you think of an example of another Christian you know who is a model of consistent, expectant asking? What is their prayer life like? How would you describe their relationship with God? What can you emulate in them?
The Reason for Asking (7:9-11)
6) Re-read Matthew 7:9-11 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
- What relational/familial imagery does Jesus use here, and what truths is such language meant to communicate?
- What is the imagery of “bread/stones” and “fish/serpent” meant to communicate?
7) What might be different about the way we pray if we more fully recognized that God is our good Father? In particular, what might change about…how frequently we pray? What language we use to pray? What we ask for, and how we ask?
8) When have you experienced a disappointing lack of answer to pray? How might thinking of prayer in the context of a fatherly, parent-child relationship change the way you view unanswered prayer?
9) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that God invites us to pray because he wants to nurture a relationship with us and involve us in his work. Have you ever thought about prayer in this way before? How does this understanding of prayer add richness to our prayer lives?
10) What is one concrete step you can take to put this sermon into practice?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.