June 8, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. "Ask. When you do, it will be given to you. Search. When you do, you will find it. Knock on the door. When you do, it will be opened," (verse seven). This is the message from Jesus given to us today.
2. Jesus said, "Ask." This has the meaning of "Make your petitions. Make your requests." To whom [do you make your requests]? Of course, Jesus isn't talking about somebody from this passing world. When you make your requests, it is to God, the heavenly father. Therefore, this means "Pray." "Prayer" is, first off, "making your requests." Just as a child asks from a parent, we are to ask for what we need from the heavenly father. He just says here in this text, "Ask. Make your requests," he does not speak about "what one asks for." Therefore, in a certain sense you should ask for just about anything. If you want to know what "prayer" is, you are to become as a small child first of all. We are not to say "I ultimately only depend on myself" and [I'm in this thing] alone, but are to make our living always thinking about the heavenly father and to make our requests regarding all things to the father in heaven. In the Epistle to the Disciples at Philippi which was read for the second reading for today, Paul, too, had written the following. "Whatever the situation, quit worrying. In everything, lift up your requests and prayers with thanksgiving, speak frankly with God for that which you are asking," (Philippians 4:6).
3. In addition, I would like for us to think about what we should ask for first, what is the most important thing. We're told to "Ask," but it seems like there is so much we should ask about. Yet, there is an order to everything I suppose, and everything has a priority to it. What should we ask for first of all? Actually at the end of chapter six Jesus had already spoken as follows. "Above all else, ask for the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. When you do, all of these things will be added and given to you," (Matthew 6:33).
4. The first thing we should ask for is the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. Even though we should seek and ask in regard to everything, we must not forget about [God's kingdom and righteousness]. "Ask for the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God." We could change the words of "the kingdom of God" to "the rule of God." We could probably swap the words "the righteousness of God" to "the salvation of God." [Our] gracious God has come, is ruling and is saving. Jesus said first ask for the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God.
5. As a matter of fact, in the prayer that Jesus taught, [his] prayer has a bit of that. The Lord taught us that we are to pray, "Grant that thy kingdom might come (May your kingdom come)." We don't pray "May we be let into heaven." We pray and ask that "The kingdom comes;" that the rule of God comes. Put another way, [we pray] that "Thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven." We pray and ask that God will rule and the will of God will be done on earth.
6. Just as Jesus says, the will [of God] does get done in heaven. But, on earth, because of humanity's sin, that which is contrary to the will [of God] does happen. We certainly see that truth on a daily basis. God clearly does not desire this figure in which humanity turns its back on God, and is bound by the power of sin, and suffers in the slime of sin. God clearly does not desire it, this world where, because of sin, husbands and wives hate each other, parents and children kill each other, and homes one after another are falling apart. Jesus called the devil "the ruler of this world"; isn't it just like that? Foul spirits do rule over every single region in this world, and under them the grief and the cries of human beings are incessant. God clearly does not desire this. What is contrary to the will [of God] does happen on this earth, and because of that so do wretched things.
7. With regard to this wretched reality [of ours in this world], Jesus does not say, since it's your responsibility, do whatever is in your power to do. He says, "Ask!" He says we should pray, "May thy kingdom come." Thus, we certainly should ask. We ought to ask in prayer that "[Your] kingdom might come" in our lives. We ought to ask in prayer that as the kingdom of God comes, that he might set us free from sin, that he might change our day to day lives, that he might transform our lives to be filled with the light of God's love. We ought to ask in prayer that "[Your] kingdom might come" in our homes. We ought to ask in prayer as the kingdom of God comes, that we might worship you together, love you, and also be homes where we love each other. We ought to pray for our homes to be saved. Of course, we ought to request, even in our churches, "May [your] kingdom come." Even the church must change. It must be a place where the rule of God is manifested and the will of God is fulfilled. Likewise, we ought to pray "May [your] kingdom come" in [our] regional communities, in our nation, and in this world [of ours]. And we ought to pray ultimately that the rule of God be established in the world, along with the second coming of Christ, and that God's salvation be completed to perfection.
8. Yes, indeed, we ought to make our requests to God. We ought to ask of him because the Lord says, "Ask. By doing so it will be given to you." The problem, to begin with, lies in not asking. When it comes to various problems in society, we just debate this and the other, or we just blame the other guy, [but the problem] lies in the fact that we ourselves completely refuse to ask God the Father in earnest. The real problem does not lie in our lack of power and strength. Nor is it in the fact that we don't put forth enough effort. We're not willing to pray in faith. Ask. There is where our true problem is.
9. To say a bit more on this, the command "Ask!" which Jesus gives is a word with the meaning of "Keep asking!" We are to keep praying and not give up. We are to keep praying and not lose hope or tire out. Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples the importance of keeping in prayer and not losing hope. Why [did he]? Because at times it seemed like the work of God was not moving forward one bit. And because often times it seemed like it was going backwards. Jesus does not expound on this. He just taught them to keep praying and trusting in the father.
10. The Lord said, "Who from among you will give a stone to your child when [he or she] wants bread? [Who] will give a snake even though [your child] wants a fish? In this way then, you know that even though you are sinners, you will give good things to your child. How much more then must your heavenly father give good things to those who ask!," (verses nine through eleven). The thing [we] need in order to keep praying and not give up is to know God as the good father who "gives us good things."
11. In fact, when we keep praying and don't give up, in that process of continual prayer, we already begin to receive "good things" from the heavenly father. We will frequently experience this. What is the greatest one thing? When we keep in prayer, when we keep turned to God, it means that we, while praying, are being transformed. When a church begins to fervently pray, the church itself is transformed. One person said, "Prayer does not change God, but it changes the one praying." This good thing is given first.
12. As an example, the Lord said, "Seek. If you do, then you will find," and so while in continuous prayer like that, we turn into "seekers." The word "seek" could be changed to another word, "ask someone." Whom do you ask? -- It is God himself. Today's first reading was read from the book of Jeremiah, and in it we heard the following words. "At that time, while you are calling on me and seeking me in prayer, I will hear. If you ask me, you will find [me], and if you seek me with all your heart, you will meet me, says the Lord," (Jeremiah 29:12-14). At the beginning we may only be interested in "What happens after we pray." But, as we keep in prayer, we will come to seek for God himself with all our hearts. And, we will meet with God in a true sense.
13. In addition, Jesus also said, "Knock on the door. If you do, then it will be opened." Thus, as we keep in prayer, we will also become "door knockers." When a person meets with God, knows God as the true father, and knows that this father is the one who opens the doors of the real world, the person will become "a door knocking person" by one's own hand. That is, behaviors are produced from it. That person will be transformed into a person who courageously steps forward taking small but specific steps. Even if it might cause just the same behaviors, it will clearly be different from the behavior of a person trying to wrench open a door by one's own hand. When one knocks on a door, included with that action is anticipation and joy, and not annoyance and irritation because the person knocking on the door knows that the one who can open the door is God and not ourselves.
14. Thus, as we keep in prayer, we will be transformed. We have already begun to receive good things. And before long we will rejoice as we anticipate that all the good things, which are being done in heaven, will completely be fulfilled on earth, too.
15. And finally, we must turn our eyes on a very important truth. That is, the fact that Jesus, who had said "Ask!," had himself asked his father, and after steadily asking for the will [of God] to be done on earth as it is in heaven, he offered himself up for that purpose and headed to the cross. Jesus said, "How much more then must your heavenly father give good things to those who ask!" This is a truly amazing statement. Why is God our "heavenly father?" Why can we call him "heavenly father?" On this earth we slight God and live in defiance of God's will, so how can we call God "heavenly father" so carelessly? By all rights there would be nothing we could ever do if God had ever said, "You will surely receive the fair punishment for your sins," and it had never been said, "He will surely give you good things." If we can call God "heavenly father" with peace in our hearts, it is because Christ has wholeheartedly made atonement for our sins.
16. Jesus had offered up his own life, and in sort of a way, he had done it so that we could pray, "Oh heavenly father!" "Ask. When you do, it will be given to you. Search. When you do, you will find it. Knock on the door. When you do, it will be opened." The life of Christ counted on the importance of these words. We have been given these words. What should we do with them? We ought to ask from the father. We ought to live asking and seeking for the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. We ought to live steadfastly asking and seeking for the will [of God] to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Even though Christ was even crucified, should we simply give up? Should we grow weary in praying? No, we shouldn't. Let's keep asking! Let's keep seeking! Let's keep knocking on the door!