Six of these encouragements are explicit in this text and two are implicit. It seems clear to me that Jesus’ main purpose in these verses is to encourage us and motivate us to pray. He wants us to pray. How does he encourage us?
1. He Invites Us to Pray
Three times he invites us to pray—or, you could say, if you will hear it lovingly, three times he commands us to pray—to ask him for what we need. It’s the number of times that he invites us that gets our attention. Verses 7-8: “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.” The repetition is meant to say, “I mean this.” I want you to do this. Ask your Father for what you need. Seek your Father for the
help you need. Knock on the door of your Father’s house so he will open and give you what you need. Ask, seek, knock. I invite you three times because I really want you to enjoy your Father’s help.
2. He Makes Promises to Us if We Pray
Even better and more amazing than the three invitations are the seven promises. Verses 7-8: “Ask, and [#1] it will be given to you; seek, and [#2] you will find; knock, and [#3] it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks [#4] receives, and the one who seeks [#5] finds, and to the one who knocks [#6] it will be opened.” Then at the end of verse 11b (#7): “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Seven promises. It will be given you. You will find. It will be opened to you. The asker receives. The seeker finds. The knocker gets an open door. Your Father will give you good things. Surely the point of this lavish array of promises is to say to us: Be encouraged to come. Pray to him. It is not in vain that you pray. God is not toying with you. He answers. He gives good things when you pray. Be encouraged. Pray often, pray regularly, pray confidently
3. God Makes Himself Available at Different Levels
Jesus encourages us not only by the number of invitations and promises, but by the threefold variety of invitations. In other words, God stands ready to respond positively when you find him at different levels of accessibility. Ask. Seek. Knock. If a child’s father is present, he asks him for what he needs. If a child’s father is somewhere in the house but not seen, he seeks his father for what he needs. If the child seeks and finds the father behind the closed door of his study, he knocks to get what he needs. The point seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you find God immediately close at hand, almost touchable with his nearness, or hard to see and even with barriers between, he will hear, and he will give good things to you because you looked to him and not another.
4. Everyone Who Asks Receives
Jesus encourages us to pray by making it explicit that everyone who asks receives, not just some. Verse 8: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” When he adds the word everyone in verse 8, he wants to overcome our timidity and hesitancy that somehow it will work for others but not for us. Of course, he is talking about the children of God here, not all human beings. If we will not have Jesus as our Savior and God as our Father, then these promises don’t apply to us.
John 1:12 says, “To all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” To become the child of God, we must receive the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gives us the authority of adoption. That is who these promises are for.
For those who receive Jesus, everyone of them who asks receives good things from his Father. The point is that none of his children is excluded. All are welcome and urged to come. Martin Luther saw the way Jesus is motivating here:
He knows that we are timid and shy, that we feel unworthy and unfit to present our needs to God. .
. . We think that God is so great and we are so tiny that we do not dare to pray. . . . That is why Christ wants to lure us away from such timid thoughts, to remove our doubts, and to have us go ahead confidently and boldly.” (The Sermon on the Mount, translated by Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works, [Concordia, 1956], p.234.)