Jesus teaches us to ask, promising that we will receive. He tells us to seek, saying that we will find, and to knock, confidently assuring us that it will be opened unto us. These promises are found throughout the scriptures.
Matthew 7:12,13 IV (KJV) Say unto them, Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
To help illustrate His message and to present us with a logical explanation as to why these sayings are true principles honored by God, Jesus points us to the willingness of parents to give good gifts to their children. He then contrasts our lack of goodness with the infinite goodness of our heavenly Father, saying, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Matthew 7: 17-20 (KJV) What man among you, having a son, and he shall be standing out, and shall say, Father, open thy house that I may come in and sup with thee, will not say, Come in, my son; for mine is thine, and thine is mine? Or what man is there among you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
It is important to note, however, that our Lord gives some rather important qualifications to these principles. For example, Jesus explains that those who receive His words will continue to receive more until they grow fully in the abundance of His words. On the other hand, those who fail or even refuse to hunger and thirst for His words will receive the lesser portion of the word, until they know nothing concerning his mysteries.
Matthew 13:8 IV (KJV) Then the disciples came and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; But whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables; because they, seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias concerning them, which saith, For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. And blessed are you because these things are come unto you, that you might understand them.
Note how Jesus quotes here from the prophet Esaias (or Isaiah) when giving an explanation as to why the blessings of His words are not received by all peoples. He says there are those who draw near to Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Although they appear to love the Lord, their focus is on the teachings and precepts of men. They will not call upon God, let alone hear Him when He speaks to them. Because they have itching ears for the precepts of men, in the words of Paul, they will heap to themselves teachers, and turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. The great commandment, to love the Lord our God with our whole being, is of little or no concern to them, and so they will not seek the Lord and His kingdom.
Isaiah 29:26 (KJV) And again it shall come to pass, that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him, Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men, therefore I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people; yea, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.
Remember also how it is written:
Psalm 66:18-20 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me; [cf. Jeremiah 5:25] But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.
Isaiah 1:13-20 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hand are full of blood. Wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
(see also Proverbs 28:13 with Isaiah 59:1,2)
Therefore, James admonishes us that if we lack wisdom (and the proud never think they lack wisdom) to ask of God, and he assures us that the Lord will hear us, that is, if we ask in faith, nothing wavering.
James 1:5-6 IV (KJV) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
What then is needed to ask in faith, nothing wavering? John explains that to have a heart that does not condemn us (one that does not waver) we must love God and our fellow man in deed and in truth (not as those who love in word or tongue only).
I John 3:18-22 (KJV) My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
Remember, as Isaiah has testified, the Lord has a plan for those individuals who do not receive His words.
Isaiah 66:4 (KJV) I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear; but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
Paul also tells us that God sends strong delusion upon them so they might believe a lie. Why? It is because they received not the love of the truth; instead they believed not the truth and, therefore, would not hearken to His voice.
II Thessalonians 2:7-12 (KJV) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work, and he it is who now worketh, and Christ suffereth him to work, until the time in fulfilled that he shall be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Yea, the Lord, even Jesus, whose coming is not until after there cometh a falling away, by the working of Satan with all power, and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Why is it God who chooses their delusion? As Paul explains, it is God who sets the bounds of our habitation. Therefore, those individuals or groups who are unwilling to abide in the truth (see John 15), the only place left for them to dwell in outside of the truth in delusion.
John 3:19-22 (KJV) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. For every one who doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he who loveth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest. And he who obeyeth the truth, the works which he doeth they are of God.
There are many reasons why certain individuals and groups of people receive not the love of the truth. Many are wise in their own eyes because of their learning and riches. And so, as it is written, God resists the proud, but He gives more grace to the humble. Therefore, unless people humble themselves before the Lord, the Lord will not open to them, even if they ask, knock, or seek.
II Nephi 6:79 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteousness. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel: and he employeth no servant there: And there is none other way, save it be by the gate, for he can not be deceived; for the Lord God is his name. And whoso knocketh, to him, will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches; yea, they are they, whom he despiseth; And save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. But the things of the wise and the prudent, shall be hid from them for ever; yea, that happiness which is prepared for the saints.
This is true not only of those who resist and reject God, but it is true of followers of the Lord who presume or assume things without asking, seeking, or knocking. The follow example demonstrates how even the Lord’s disciples were shut out from knowledge because they supposed something and thus failed to ask Him for understanding. In this example, Jesus is telling the peoples in the Americas that when speaking to their brethren back in Jerusalem, He referred to them as part of the lost sheep which He was sent to gather into one fold (see Ezekiel 34 with Matthew 15:23). However, His disciples in the old world supposed that He was speaking of the gentiles. And because they supposed and did not ask, Jesus said that His Father in heaven commanded Him not to tell them anymore about these lost sheep in the Americas and elsewhere.
III Nephi 7:14-22 And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you. And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem; neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment, that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land. This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them, that other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And now because of stiff-neckedness and unbelief, they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them. But, verily, I say unto you, that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity, that they know not of you. And verily, I say unto you again, that the other tribes hath the Father separated from them; and it is because of their iniquity, that they know not of them. And verily, I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said, Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching; And they understood me not that I said they shall hear my voice; and they understood me not that the Gentiles should not at any time hear my voice; that I should not manifest myself unto them, save it were by the Holy Ghost.
The lesson is clear (at least to those who ask), and we should take Jesus’ at His word, that those He called to preach to the Gentiles were among those who were shutout from the knowledge of the identity of the lost sheep; and it was plainly because they supposed instead of asked. It is imperative then that we seek the Lord and His wisdom in all matters. Only then shall we receive continually from the refreshing spring of the living waters which Jesus Christ alone provides to those who follow after Him, asking, seeking, and knocking, i.e. hungering and thirsting.
Isaiah 55:6-13 (KJV) Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Therefore, ask, and it shall be given unto you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. And as you do, remember also these words which were spoken of by our Lord as well:
Luke 6:27-38 (KJV) But I say unto you who hear my words, Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you. Bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. And unto him who smiteth thee on the cheek, offer also the other; or, in other words, it is better to offer the other, than to revile again. And him who taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. For it is better that thou suffer thine enemy to take these things, than to contend with him. Verily I say unto you, Your heavenly Father who seeth in secret, shall bring that wicked one into judgment. Therefore give to every man who asketh of thee; and of him who taketh away thy goods, ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them only who love you, what reward have you? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what reward have you? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great; and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.
For this He requires of us:
Micah 6:8,9 (KJV) He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name; hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.
And so may we therefore and thereby walk humbly with our God through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.