Matthew 7:7-11Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Hugh Price Hughes (9 February 1847 – 17 November 1902), a Welsh Christian theologian wrote this short story called The City of Everywhere which leaves us with a thought-provoking question, “Why don’t we?”
This is a tale of a man who might have been me, for I dreamed one time of journeying to the City Of Everywhere. I arrived early one morning. It was cold; there were flurries of snow on the ground. As I stepped from the train to the platform I noticed that the baggage man and the red cap [Porter] were warmly attired in heavy coats and gloves, but oddly enough, they wore no shoes.
My initial impulse was to ask the reason for this odd practice, but repressing it I passed into station and inquired the way to the hotel. My curiosity, however, was immediately enhanced by the discovery that no one in the station wore any shoes. Boarding the streetcar, I saw that my fellow travelers were likewise barefoot, and upon arriving at the hotel I found the bellhop, the clerk and the inhabitants of the place were all devoid of shoes.
Unable to restrain myself longer, I asked the ingratiating manager what the practice meant. “What practice?” said he. “Why,” I said, pointing to his bare feet, “Why don’t you wear any shoes in this town?” “Ah,” said he, “That is just it. Why don’t we?”
“But what is the matter? Don’t you believe in shoes?” “Believe in shoes, my friend! I should say we do. That is the first article of our creed — shoes. They are indispensable to the well-being of humanity. Such chilblains, cuts, sores, suffering, as shoes prevent! It is wonderful!” “Well, then, why don’t you wear them?” I asked, bewildered. “Ah, said he, “That is just it. Why don’t we?”
Though considerably nonplussed, I checked in, secured my room and went directly to the coffee shop and deliberately sat down by an amiable-looking gentleman who likewise conformed to the conventions of his fellow citizens. He wore no shoes. Friendly enough, he suggested after we had eaten that we look about the city. The first thing we noticed upon emerging from the hotel was a huge brick structure of impressive proportions. To this he pointed with pride. “You see that?” said he. “That is one of our outstanding shoe manufacturing establishments.” “A what?” I asked in amazement. “You mean you make shoes there?” “Well, not exactly, said he a bit abashed, “we talk about making shoes there, and believe me, we have one of the most brilliant young fellows you ever heard. He talks most thrillingly and convincingly every week on this great subject of shoes. He has a most persuasive and appealing way. Just yesterday he moved the people profoundly with his exposition on the necessity of shoe-wearing. Many broke down and wept. It was wonderful.”
“But why don’t they wear them?” said I, insistently. “Ah,” said he, putting his hand upon my arm and looking wistfully into my eyes, “that is just it. Why don’t we?”
Just then, as we turned down a side street, I saw through a cellar window a cobbler actually making a pair of shoes. Excusing myself from my friend, I burst into the little shop and asked the shoemaker how it happened that his shop was not overrun with customers. Said he, “Nobody wants my shoes. They just talk about them.” “Give me what pairs you have already,” said I eagerly, and paid him three times the amount he modestly asked. Hurriedly, I returned to my friend and proffered them to him, saying, “Here my friend, some one of these pairs will surely fit you. Take them, put them on. They will save you untold suffering.” But he looked embarrassed; in fact, he was well-nigh overcome with chagrin. “Ah, thank you,” he said politely, “but you don’t understand. It just isn’t being done.” “But why don’t you wear them?” said I, dumbfounded. “Ah,” said he, smiling, with his accustomed ingratiating touch of practical wisdom. “That is just it. Why don’t we?”
And coming out of the “City of Everywhere” into “Here,” over and over and over that query rang in my ears: “Why don’t we? Why don’t we? Why don’t we?”
A most fascinating story that brings us to our subject, WHY DON’T WE PRAY? In tonight’s message, I propose to answer this question. Not perfectly or completely, as I am not capable but to give you some things to ponder.
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…because we have a spirit of disobedience. This may not be the number one reason that we do not pray but if not it is very close to the top. We are not committed to obeying Christ. Jesus commanded us to ask. Matthew 7:7 is an imperative…Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Looking at each of the verbs here we see that ask, seek, and knock are each in the present active imperative. We will talk more about the verb tense as we go but for now, I want you to note that this is a command issued in the imperative voice.The point I wish to make here is that Jesus is giving a command in the imperative voice. He is not saying, “I wish you guys would consider asking Me for things.” He is not making a suggestion: He is issuing a command. Jesus said in John 14, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…because we do not believe it is effective. We lack faith to put prayer to the test. Jesus said in Mark 11, And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” I know that we must discuss time because many of us get so busy that we do not take time to pray but a greater problem lies in our faith, we believe that prayer is a waste of time or else we would make time. This leads me to the next point…
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we do not understand that prayer is a spiritual law. Jesus gave us a command to pray and a promise if we do pray: thus Jesus make prayer a law and the law of prayer is to ASK. Do you believe in the law of gravity? I know you do and so do I. The law of prayer is as real as the law of gravity. The law of gravity says that any weight of matter released with proceed earthward, or down. If I jump from the Empire State Building I will go down. Ninety-nine people could follow me and 100% would go down: no one would go up. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive”. Do you see the law? Jump and you go down–ask and you receive. The law of prayer is just as real and viable as the law of gravity. I made some plans for this past Labor Day. I got up, did my devotions, took my shower, dressed and was about to go out the door. My wife said, “Where are you going?” I said, “Lowes.” “Well” she snorted, “I guess I will get dressed and go see what I can move.” Our daughter was moving but she had not ask me to help. We had lunch together on Sunday and she did not say a word. All she had to do was say, “Daddy, we are moving tomorrow and we need your help.” She has a lot of pride and she will not ask so I was going to work in the yard. I scoffed at the idea of my wife moving anything and started for the door but before I could get to the truck, she chased me down and handed me the house phone, “somebody wants to talk to you,” she said. I took the phone and it was Lexi our granddaughter, she said in a sweet kind voice, “Granddaddy, we really need your help.” I said, “I will be there as soon as I get the trailer hooked up.” This call came at a little after 9:00 am and I got done that LABOR DAY night at 10:00 pm. I don’t want you to think that I am comparing myself to the Heavenly Father but the principle is the same, “You ask and you receive…You don’t ask and you don’t receive.” The problem is–we don’t understand that prayer is a law. There are no wasted prayers; not if they are prayed in Jesus name. In Lloyd Douglas’ novel, The Big Fisherman, a Roman officer prays for Peter’s life. Peter is about to be executed and the sentence is being carried out in spite of the Officer’s prayer. The Officer apologetically says to Peter, “I prayed for you but it has done no good.” Peter replies, “Sure it has for I am not afraid.” Whenever we ask in Jesus name, there is going to be receiving of some sort, it is a law.
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we are too easily satisfied. We ask not because we want not. Does your soul hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do your spirit long for and languish for lack of revival. Are you burdened for lost souls? Are there goals in life that you yearn to accomplish? Most Baptist I know would answer all these questions with a NO! They are satisfied to draw a breath and a pay check or retirement check. Most folks are like the Israelites in the wilderness, they stopped living when they stopped believing. More or less, they are just waiting to die. Don’t stop living before you stop breathing. If you are not asking God for anything it is because you don’t have any God sized goals. What are some things you want that only God can give? Ask Him for those things!
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we are afraid that God will require us to do something in relationship to our request. Like the man who prayed for gold and the Lord said, “OK, start digging.” We will not pray for the lost because we fear God may want us to go witness to them. We don’t pray for Missions because we fear that God might expect us to go or give. Understand, I am talking about real prayer. I’m not talking about passive ritual where pray is a part of an act. I am not talking about hypocritical praying; where we seek to be heard by men: that kind of praying does not get past the ceiling. I have no confidence in the halo-wearing, conference-going, super-spiritual crowd. When you ask them to do something, they always come back with “I will pray about it.” Let me tell you what that means, “They are not going to do what you ask.” Prayer is their spiritual cop-out.
- WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because prayer is hard work. Prayer is not easy; if it were, more folks would do it. Prayer is a spiritual challenge and it takes great persistence. As we mentioned above, as you look at the verbs ask, seek, and knock: they are each in the present active imperative. Understand that the present active implies forming a habit of continual asking, seeking and knocking–In other words: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. One day Jesus told His disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” [Luke 18:1-5] Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy. She was born into a very wealthy English aristocratic family. The family was living in Italy for business reasons and moved back to England soon after Florence was born. She lived in a mansion and had everything that money could buy. In spite of her mother’s opposition, she took a great interest in helping others and was especially interested in medicine. To pacify her mother, she remained at home until age 30. She reached a point where despite the family’s opposition to someone of their class stooping to help others, she volunteered as a nurse in the Crimean War. During the war she earned the nick name as the Lady with the Lamp. She made rounds during the night. You know the rest of the story. The woman is not the patron saint of nursing. She is honored at every graduation of student nurses. She did not try once and give up. She refused to give up. In spite of the constant discouragement that came from her family, she pursued her dream and became the most famous of all the Nightingales. Prayer is not something you try once. We ask and keep on asking. Our success is determined by our persistence.
In verse 7, the verbs ask, seek and knock have a point of progression. Each succeeding verb demands more energy. Here is a little formula that may help you understand more clearly.
[Ask=Faith] + [Seeking=Effort] + [Knocking = Persistence]
or simply Faith plus effort and persistence equals success