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This is the third of three posts exploring Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11. 

The first of these posts began with the disciple’s request: “Lord, teach us to pray …” —a courageous request that led to Jesus giving us an excellent template for praying.

The second post answered the question: “Will God answer our prayers?” 

This third post answers another question: “How will God answer our prayers?” 

What if I ask for the wrong thing or ask in the wrong way—will God answer according to my ignorance, my mistakes, or even my wrong motives? Will he answer in a way that will cause harm? 

If that’s the case, maybe I shouldn’t ask at all.

What Jesus says

Here’s how Jesus speaks to that kind of question on prayer in Luke 11:9-13,

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?

 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In these words, Jesus is teaching us at least three basic things about prayer.

1. Ask

Jesus encourages us to ask, to seek, and to knock. Note that the first letters of these three actions spell A.S.K. Each of these requests comes with an expectation of a divine response—a promise, if you like: 

  • It will be given to you,
  • You will find, and
  • The door will be opened to you.

Ask yourself whether Jesus would encourage you to ask, seek, and knock if there was a possibility of an evil or destructive response. 

2. The heart of a good father     

By posing a rhetorical question, the Lord Jesus gives us insight into the heart of the best of fathers.

He asks fathers how they would respond to one of their children if they asked for food. More specifically,

  • If your child asks for a fish—would you give your child a snake that would harm his child? Of course not!

Apparently, in some cases, a snake could get caught in the net when fishing. The father would not be so undiscerning as to pick something out of the net without looking at it before giving it to his child. The father’s discerning heart would ensure there was no possibility of giving his child a snake. 

  • If your child asks for an egg—would you give your child a scorpion with its poisonous sting? Of course not!

Apparently, scorpions can roll themselves in a protective ball that may look like a small egg. Again, a father would carefully ensure that the food for his child was not harmful but wholesome.

So, Jesus concludes that God—as your heavenly Father, who is superior to the best of human fathers—will give the best gifts to his children. Therefore, every answer to our prayers will be wholesome—with our best interests at heart.

3. The Father gives Himself

In Luke 11:13, Jesus states, 

“you … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 

In a parallel passage, Matthew writes (Matthew 7:11),

“how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” 

Note that Luke substitutes “the Holy Spirit” for Matthew’s “good gifts.” What can we take away from this difference? 

Luke writes much about the Holy Spirit in his two volumes (Luke-Acts). Luke later writes of the fulfillment of this parable’s promise in Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; and elsewhere. 

On a basic level, the giving of the Holy Spirit is God giving Himself to His followers, His children—this is the intimate, indwelling presence of God the Spirit. Is there any relationship that could be fuller, closer, or richer? Is there anything that could be better than this? 

So, be assured that He will answer with what is best for those who come to him in prayer!

As for you:

  • keep on Asking, and you will receive God’s best;
  • keep on Seeking, and you will find God’s best;
  • keep on Knocking, and the door will be opened to God’s best for you.

Be encouraged—as, in prayer, you are keeping company with God.

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FORWARD TO the next post in this series

BACK TO “Do we have to beg God to be generous?”

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