Ask. Seek. Knock.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7, 8 (ESV)
Let us, then, first of all examine the threefold exhortation; next the promise that accompanies the exhortation and that shows that our obedience to the command will not be in vain. The simplest form of the command is:
Note the rising scale of intensity, which may be presented thus: “Ask, seek, KNOCK.” Asking implies humility and a consciousness of need. The verb is used with respect to a petition which by an inferior is addressed to a superior. The Pharisee of the parable (Luk_18:10-13) asks nothing. He tells the Lord how good he is. The publican asks, that is, pleads, “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” Asking also presupposes belief in a personal God with whom man can have fellowship. When one asks, he expects an answer. Hence, this implies faith in a God who can, does, and will answer, that is, faith in God the Father. Having such a faith makes the prayer warm and personal. Such a supplicant would not be able to say, “O God, if there be a God, save my soul if I have a soul.”
Seeking is asking plus acting. It implies earnest petitioning, but that alone is not sufficient. A person must be active in endeavoring to obtain the fulfilment of his needs. For example, one should not only pray for a deep knowledge of the Bible but should also diligently search and examine the Scriptures (Joh_5:39; Act_17:11), attend the services (Heb_10:25), above all strive to live in harmony with God’s will (see this very section: Mat_7:21, Mat_7:24-25; cf. Joh_7:17).
Knocking is asking plus acting plus persevering. One knocks again and again until the door is opened. In reality, however, perseverance is probably already implied in all three imperatives, since all are in the present tense; hence, a possible rendering would be “continue to ask, to seek, to knock.” This all the more in view of Luk_18:1, Luk_18:7; cf. Rom_12:12; Eph_5:20; Eph_6:18; Col_4:2; 1Th_5:17. But what is probable for all three is a certainty with respect to the last, the very idea of biblical knocking already implying perseverance. One continues to knock at the door of the kingdom-palace until the King, who is at the same time the Father, opens the door and supplies whatever is needed (Luk_11:5-8).
As to the promise that is fulfilled when the command is obeyed, in each instance the correspondence between command and promise is exact: hence, ask is followed by given; seek by find; and knock by opened. Note that in verses Mat_7:6 and Mat_7:7 this promise, in one form or another, occurs no less than six times. The first three promises, those of verse Mat_7:7, are virtually repeated in verse Mat_7:8, and even strengthened by the introductory word whoever, the inclusiveness of which is re-emphasized by the one who and to him that, as if to say, of those who obey the command not a single one will be disappointed. An answer to the kind of prayer that is accompanied by seeking and knocking is promised to every sincere follower of the Lord.
- William Hendriksen