A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, January 19, 1873, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *11/1/2011
And I say to you, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” (Lu 11:9,10)
1. To seek aid in time of distress from a supernatural being is an instinct of human nature. We do not say that unrenewed human nature ever offers truly spiritual prayer, or ever exercises saving faith in the living God; but still, like a child crying in the dark, with painful longing for help from somewhere or other, it scarcely knows where, the soul in deep sorrow almost invariably cries to some supernatural being for help. No one has been more ready to pray in time of trouble than those who have ridiculed prayer in their prosperity; and probably no prayers have been more true to the feelings of the hour than those which atheists have offered under the pressure of the fear of death. In one of his papers in the Tattler, Addison describes a man, who, on board ship, loudly boasted about his atheism. A brisk gale springing up, he fell upon his knees and confessed to the chaplain that he had been an atheist. The common seamen who had never heard the word before, thought it had been some strange fish, but were more surprised when they saw it was a man, and learned from his own mouth “that he never believed until that day that there was a God.” One of the old tars whispered to the boatswain, that it would be a good deed to heave him overboard, but this was a cruel suggestion, for the poor creature was already in enough misery — his atheism had evaporated, and he in mortal terror cried to God to have mercy upon him. Similar incidents have occurred, not once nor twice. Indeed, so frequently does boastful scepticism come down with a crash at the last that we always expect it to do so. Take away unnatural restraint from the mind, and it may be said of all men that, like the comrades of Jonah, every man cries to his God in their trouble. As birds to their nests, hinds to their coverts, so men in agony flee to a superior being for help in the hour of need. God has given to all the creatures he has made some particular form of strength — one has such swiftness of foot that at the baying of a hound it escapes from danger by outstripping the wind; another, with outspread wing, is lifted beyond the fowler; a third with horns pushes down its enemy, and a fourth with tooth and claw tears in pieces its adversary. To man he gave very little strength compared with the animals among which he was placed in Eden, and yet he was king over all, because the Lord was his strength. As long as he knew where to look for the source of his power, man remained the unchallenged monarch of all around him. That image of God in which he shone resplendent sustained his sovereignty over the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea. By instinct man turned to his God in Paradise; and now, though he is to a sad degree a dethroned monarch, there lingers in his memory shadows of what he was, and memories of where his strength must still be found. Therefore, no matter where you find a man, you meet one who in his distress will ask for supernatural help. I believe in the truthfulness of this instinct, and that man prays because there is something in prayer. Just as when the Creator gives his creature the power of thirst, it is because water exists to meet its thirst; and just as when he creates hunger there is food to correspond to the appetite; so when he inclines men to pray it is because prayer has a corresponding blessing connected with it.
2. We find a powerful reason for expecting prayer to be effective in the fact that it is an institution of God. In God’s word we are over and over again commanded to pray. God’s institutions are not folly. Can I believe that the infinitely wise God has ordained for me an exercise which is ineffective, and is no more than child’s play? Does he ask me to pray, and yet has prayer no more result than if I whistled to the wind, or sang to a grove of trees? If there is no answer to prayer, prayer is a monstrous absurdity and God is its author; which it is blasphemy to assert. Only a fool will continue to pray when you have once proven to him that prayer has no effect on God, and never receives an answer. Prayer is a work for idiots and madmen, and not for sane people, if it is, indeed, true, that its results end with the man who prays!
3. I shall not this morning enter into any arguments upon the matter; rather, I am coming to my text, which to me, at least, and to you who are followers of Christ, is the end of all controversy. Our Saviour knew very well that many difficulties would arise in connection with prayer which might tend to stagger his disciples, and therefore he has balanced every opposition by an overwhelming assurance. Read those words, “I say to you,” I — your Teacher, your Master, your Lord, your Saviour, your God: “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’ ”
4. In the text our Lord meets all difficulties first by giving us the weight of his own authority, “I say to you”; next by presenting us with a promise, “Ask, and it shall be given to you,” and so on; and then by reminding us of an indisputable fact, “everyone who asks receives.” Here are three mortal wounds for a Christian’s doubts concerning prayer.
5. I. First, then, OUR SAVIOUR GIVES TO US THE WEIGHT OF HIS OWN AUTHORITY, “I say to you.”
6. The first sign of a follower of Christ is, that he believes his Lord. We do not follow the Lord at all if we raise any questions about points whereupon he speaks positively. Though a doctrine should be surrounded with ten thousand difficulties, the ipse dixit of the Lord Jesus sweeps them all away, as far as true Christians are concerned. Our Master’s declaration is all the argument we need, “I say to you,” is our logic. Reason! we see you at your best in Jesus, for he is made wisdom to us by God. He cannot err, he cannot lie, and if he says, “I say to you,” there is an end of all debate.
7. But, brethren, there are certain reasons which should lead us all the more confidently to rest in our Master’s word upon this point. There is power in every word of the Lord Jesus, but there is special force in the utterance before us. It has been objected to prayer that it is not possible that it should be answered, because the laws of nature are unalterable, and they must and will go on whether men pray or not. Not a drop of water will change its position in a single wave, or a particle of infectious matter be turned from its course, though all the saints in the universe should plead against tempest and plague. Now, concerning that matter, we are in no hurry to reply; our adversaries have more to prove than we have, and among the rest they have to prove an absolute negative. To us it does not seem necessary to prove that the laws of nature are disturbed. God can work miracles, and he may work them yet again as he has done in days of yore, but it is no part of the Christian faith that God must work miracles in order to answer the prayers of his servants. When a man in order to fulfil a promise has to disarrange all his affairs, and, so to speak, to stop all his machinery, it proves that he is only a man, and that his wisdom and power are limited; but he is God indeed who, without reversing the engine, or removing a single cog from a wheel, fulfils the desires of his people as they come up before him. The Lord is so omnipotent that he can work results tantamount to miracles without in the slightest degree suspending any one of his laws. He did, as it were, in the olden times, stop the machinery of the universe to answer prayer, but now, with equally godlike glory, he orders events so as to answer believing prayers, and yet suspends no natural law.
8. But this is far from being our only or our main comfort; that lies in the fact that we hear the voice of one who is competent to speak upon the matter, and he says, “I say to you, ‘Ask and it shall be given to you.’ ” Whether the laws of nature are reversible or irreversible, “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find.” Now, who is he who speaks like this? It is he who made all things, without whom was not anything made that was made. Can he not address this point? Oh you eternal Word, you who were in the beginning with God, balancing the clouds and fastening the foundations of the earth, you know what the laws and the unalterable constitutions of nature may be, and if you say, “Ask and it shall be given to you,” then assuredly it will be so, no matter what the laws of nature are. Besides, our Lord is by us adored as the sustainer of all things; and, seeing that all the laws of nature are only operative through his power, and are sustained in their motion by his might, he must be cognizant of the motion of all the forces in the world; and if he says, “Ask and it shall be given to you,” he does not speak in ignorance, but knows what he affirms. We may be assured that there are no forces which can prevent the fulfilment of the Lord’s own word. From the Creator and the Sustainer, the word “I say to you,” settles all controversy for ever.
9. But another objection has been raised which is very ancient indeed, and has a great appearance of force. It is raised not so much by sceptics, as by those who hold a part of the truth; it is this — that prayer can certainly produce no result, because the decrees of God have settled everything, and those decrees are immutable. Now we have no desire to deny the assertion that the decrees of God have settled all events. It is our full belief that God has foreknown and predestinated everything that happens in heaven above or in the earth beneath, and that the foreknown position of a reed by the river is as fixed as the status of a king, and “the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.” Predestination embraces the great and the little, and reaches to all things; the question is, why should we pray? Might it not as logically be asked why should we breathe, eat, move, or do anything? We have an answer which satisfies us, namely, that our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has as much ordained his people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny decrees that I should pray — I pray; destiny decrees that I shall be answered, and the answer comes to me. Moreover, in other matters we never regulate our actions by the unknown decrees of God; as for example, a man never questions whether he shall eat or drink, because it may or may not be decreed that he shall eat or drink, a man never enquires whether he shall work or not on the basis that it is decreed how much he shall do or how little; just as it is inconsistent with common sense to make the secret decrees of God a guide to us in our general conduct, so we feel it would be in reference to prayer, and therefore we still pray. But we have a better answer than all this. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes forward, and he says to us this morning, “My dear children, the decrees of God need not trouble you, there is nothing in them inconsistent with your prayers being heard. I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you.’ ” Now, who is he who says this? Why it is he who has been with the Father from the beginning — “the same was in the beginning with God” — and he knows what the purposes of the Father are and what the heart of God is, for he has told us in another place, “the Father himself loves you.” Now since he knows the decrees of the Father, and the heart of the Father, he can tell us with the absolute certainty of an eyewitness that there is nothing in the eternal purposes in conflict with this truth, that he who asks receives, and he who seeks finds. He has read the decrees from beginning to end: has he not taken the book, and unloosed its seven seals, and declared the ordinances of heaven? He tells you there is nothing there inconsistent with your bended knee and streaming eye, and with the Father’s opening the windows of heaven to shower upon you the blessings which you seek. Moreover, he is himself God: the purposes of heaven are his own purposes, and he who ordained the purpose here gives the assurance that there is nothing in it to prevent the efficacy of prayer. “I say to you.” Oh you who believe in him, your doubts are scattered to the winds, you know that he hears prayer.
10. But sometimes there arises in our mind a third difficulty, which is associated with our own judgment of ourselves and our estimate of God. We feel that God is very great, and we tremble in the presence of his majesty. We feel that we are very little, and that, in addition, we are also vile; and it does seem an incredible thing that such guilty nothings should have power to move the arm which moves the world. I do not wonder if that fear should often hamper us in prayer. But Jesus answers it so sweetly: he says — “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you.’ ” And I ask again, who is it who says, “I say to you?” Why, it is he who knows both the greatness of God and the weakness of man. He is God, and out of the excellent Majesty I think I hear him say, “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you.’ ” But he is also a man like ourselves, and he says, “Do not dread your littleness, for I, bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, assure you that God hears man’s prayer.” The words come to us with the harmony of blended notes; the God, the man, both speak to us — “Do not dread my majesty, your prayer is heard. Do not fear your own weakness; I as a man have been heard by God.”
11. And yet, again, if the dread of sin should haunt us, and our own sorrow should depress us, I would remind you that Jesus Christ, when he says, “I say to you,” gives us the authority, not only of his person, but of his experience. Jesus was accustomed to pray. No one ever prayed as he did. He spent nights in prayer, and whole days in earnest intercession; and he says to us, “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you.’ ” I think I see him coming fresh from the heather of the hills, among which he had knelt all night to pray, and he says, “My disciples, ask, and it shall be given to you, for I have prayed, and it has been given to me.” I think I hear him say it, with his face all bloody red and his garments as if he had trodden the winepress, as he rises from Gethsemane, with his soul exceedingly sorrowful even to death. He was heard in that he feared, and therefore he says to us, “I say to you, ‘Knock and it shall be opened to you.’ ” Indeed, and I think I hear him speak like this from the cross, with his face bright with the first beam of sunlight after he had borne our sins in his own body on the tree, and had suffered all our griefs to the last pang. He had cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” and now, having received an answer, he cries in triumph, “It is finished,” and, in so doing, invites us also to “ask, and it shall be given to us.” Jesus has proven the power of prayer. “Oh but,” one says, “he has not proven what it is to pray in trouble like mine.” How grossly you err, the Saviour’s trouble was far worse than yours. There are no depths so deep that he has not plunged to the bottom of them. Christ has prayed from the lowest dungeon and from the most horrible pit. “Indeed, but he has not cried under the burden of sin.” How can you speak so thoughtlessly! “Was ever such a burden of sin borne by any man as was laid on him?” True, the sins were not his own, but they were sins, and sins with all their crushing weight in them too; yet he was heard, and he was helped to the end. Christ gives you, in his own experience, the most divine proof that the asking shall be followed by the receiving, even when sin lies at the door.
12. This much is certain, if you, who are believers, cannot believe in the efficacy of prayer on the very word of Christ, it has come to a strange impasse; for, oh beloved, you are leaning all your soul’s weight on Jesus. If he is not true, then you are trusting on a false Saviour. If he does not speak verities, then you are deceived. If you can trust him with your soul, you must by necessity trust him with your prayers.
13. Remember, too, that if Jesus our Lord could speak so positively here, there is an even greater reason for believing him now, for he has gone within the veil, he sits at the right hand of God, even the Father, and the voice does not come to us from the man of poverty, wearing a garment without a seam, but from the enthroned priest with the golden belt around his waist, for it is he who now says, from the right hand of God: “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you.’ ” Do you not believe in his name? How then can a prayer that is sincerely offered in that name fall to the ground? When you present your petition in the name of Jesus, a part of his authority clothes your prayers. If your prayer is rejected, Christ is dishonoured: you cannot believe that. You have trusted him, then believe that prayer offered through him must and shall win the day.
14. We cannot spend longer on this point, but we trust the Holy Spirit will impress it upon all our hearts.
15. II. We will now remember that OUR LORD PRESENTS US WITH A PROMISE.
16. Notice that the promise is given to several varieties of prayer. “I say to you, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.’ ” The text clearly asserts that all forms of true prayer shall be heard, provided they are presented through Jesus Christ, and are for promised blessings. Some are vocal prayers, men ask; never should we fail to offer up every day and continually the prayer which is uttered by the tongue, for the promise is that the asker shall be heard. But there are others who, not neglecting vocal prayer, are far more abundant in active prayer, for by humble and diligent use of the means they seek for the blessings which they need. Their heart speaks to God by its longings, strivings, emotions, and labours. May they never stop seeking, for they shall surely find. There are others who, in their earnestness, combine the most eager forms, both acting and speaking, for knocking is a loud kind of asking, and a vehement form of seeking. If our prayer is vocal speech with God, or if it is the practical use of means ordained, which is real prayer, or if it should, best of all, be the continued use of both, or if it is expressed only by a tear or a sigh, or even if it remains quite unexpressed in a trembling desire, it shall be heard. All varieties of true prayer shall have responses from heaven.
17. Now observe that these varieties of prayer are placed on an ascending scale. It is said first that we ask: I suppose that refers to the prayer which is a mere statement of our needs, in which we tell the Lord that we need this and that, and ask him to grant it to us. But as we learn the art of prayer we go on further to seek: which means that we marshal our arguments, and plead reasons for the granting of our desires, and we begin to wrestle with God for the needed mercies. And if the blessing does not come, we then rise to the third degree, which is knocking: we become persistent, we are not content with asking and giving reasons, but we throw the whole earnestness of our being into our requests, and practise the text which says “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” So the prayers grow from asking — which is the statement, to seeking — which is the pleading; and to knocking — which is persistent; to each of these decrees of prayer there is a distinct promise. He who asks shall have, what more could he ask for? but he going further who seeks shall find, shall enjoy, shall grasp, shall know that he has obtained; and he who knocks shall go further still, for he shall understand, and to him shall the precious thing be opened — he shall not merely have the blessing and enjoy it, but he will comprehend it, shall “understand with all saints, what are the heights and depths.” however, I want you to notice this fact, which covers all — whatever form your prayer may assume it shall succeed. If you only ask you shall receive, if you seek you shall find, if you knock it shall be opened, but in each case according to your faith it shall be given to you. The clauses of the promise before us are not put as we say in law, jointly: he who asks and seeks and knocks shall receive, but they are expressed individually — he who asks shall have, he who seeks shall find, he who knocks shall have it opened. It is not when we combine the whole three that we get the blessing, though doubtless if we did combine them, we should get the combined reply; but if we exercise only one of these three forms of prayer, we shall still get what our souls seek for.
18. These three methods of prayer exercise a variety of our graces. It is a comment by the church fathers upon this passage that faith asks, hope seeks, and love knocks, and the comment is worth repeating. Faith asks because she believes God will give; hope having asked expects, and therefore seeks for the blessing; love comes still nearer, and will not take a denial from God, but desires to enter into his house, and to dine with him, and, therefore, knocks at his door until he opens it. But, again, let us come back to the old point; it does not matter which grace is exercised; a blessing comes for each one, if faith asks it shall receive; if hope seeks it shall find; and if love knocks it shall be opened to her.
19. These three modes of prayer suit us in different degrees of distress. There I am, a poor beggar at mercy’s door, I ask, and I shall receive: but I lose my way, so that I cannot find him of whom I once asked so successfully; well then I may seek with the certainty that I shall find: and if I am in the last stage of all, not merely poor and bewildered, but so defiled as to feel shut out from God, like a leper shut out of the camp, then I may knock and the door will open to me.
20. Each of these different descriptions of prayer is exceedingly simple. If anyone said “I cannot ask,” our reply would be, “You do not understand the word.” Surely everyone can ask. A little child can ask. Long before an infant can speak he can ask — he need not use words in order to ask for what he wants, and there is not one among us who is incapacitated from asking. Prayers need not be elegant. I believe God abhors elegant prayers. If a person asks for charity from you in elegant sentences he is not likely to get it. Finery in dress or language is out of place in beggars. I heard a man in the street one day begging aloud by means of a magnificent oration. He used grand language in very pompous style, and I dare say he thought he was sure of getting piles of coppers by his borrowed speech, but I, for one, gave him nothing, but felt more inclined to laugh at his bombastic style. Is it not likely that many great prayers are about as useless? Many prayers at prayer meetings are a great deal too elegant. Keep your figures and metaphors and parabolical expressions for your fellow creatures, use them on those who need to be instructed, but do not parade them before God. When we pray, the simpler our prayers are the better; the plainest, humblest language which expresses our meaning is the best.
21. The next word is seek, and surely there is no difficulty about seeking! In finding there might be, but in seeking there is none. When the woman in the parable lost her money, she lit a candle and looked for it. I do not suppose she had ever been to the university, or qualified as a lady physician, or that she could have sat on the School Board as a woman of superior sense — but she could seek. Anyone who desires to do so can seek, whether they are a man, woman, or child; and for their encouragement the promise is not given to some particular philosophical form of seeking, but “he who seeks finds.”
22. Then there is knocking: well, that is a thing of no great difficulty. We used to do it when we were boys, sometimes — too much for the neighbours’ comfort; and at home, if the knocker was a little too high, we had ways and means of knocking at the door even then; a stone would do it, or the heel of a boot, anything would make a knocking: it was not beyond our capacity by any means. Therefore, it is expressed in this way by Christ himself, as much as to tell us, “You need to have no scholarship, no training, no talent, and no wit for prayer; ask, seek, knock, that is all, and the promise is for everyone of these ways of praying.”
23. Will you believe the promise? It is Christ who gives it. No lie ever fell from his lips. Oh do not doubt him. Pray on if you have prayed, and if you have never prayed before, may God help you to begin today!
24. III. Our third point is that JESUS TESTIFIES TO THE FACT THAT PRAYER IS HEARD. Having given a promise he then adds, in effect — “You may be quite sure that this promise will be fulfilled, not only because I say it, but because it is and always has been so.”
25. When a man says the sun will rise tomorrow morning, we believe it because it always has risen. Our Lord tells us that, as a matter of indisputable fact, all along the ages true asking has been followed by receiving. Remember that he who stated this fact knew it. If you state a fact you may reply, “Yes, as far as your observation goes, it is true,” but the observation of Christ was unbounded. There was never a true prayer offered unknown to him. Prayers acceptable with the Most High come up to him by the way of the wounds of Christ. Hence the Lord Jesus Christ can speak by personal knowledge, and his declaration is that prayer has succeeded: “Everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds.”
26. Now here we must, of course, suppose the limitations which would be made by ordinary common sense, and which are made by Scripture. It is not everyone who frivolously or wickedly asks or pretends to ask from God who gets what he asks for. It is not every silly, idle, unconsidered request of unregenerate hearts that God will answer. By no means — common sense limits the statement so far. Besides, Scripture limits it again, “You do not have because you do not ask, or because you ask amiss” — there is an asking amiss which will never obtain. If we ask so that we may consume the good things upon our lust we shall not have them, or if we ask for what would not be for our good we shall be heard by receiving no such answer as we desired. But those things being remembered, the statement of our Lord has no other qualification — “Everyone who asks receives.”
27. Let it be remembered that frequently even when the ungodly and the wicked have asked for something from God they have received. Very often in the time of their distress they have called upon God, and he has answered them. “Do you say so?” one says. Indeed, I not only say so, but Scripture says so! Ahab’s prayer was answered, and the Lord said, “Do you see how Ahab humbles himself before me? because he humbles himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” So, also, the Lord heard the prayer of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, who did evil in the sight of the Lord. (2Ki 13:1-4) The Israelites also, when for their sins they were given over to their foes, cried to God for deliverance, and they were answered, yet the Lord himself testified concerning them that they only flattered with their mouth. Does this stagger you; does he not hear the young ravens when they cry? Do you think he will not hear man, who is formed in his own image? Do you doubt it? Remember Nineveh. The prayers offered at Nineveh, were they spiritual prayers? Did you ever hear of a church of God in Nineveh? I have not, neither do I believe the Ninevites were ever visited by converting grace; but they were by the preaching of Jonah convinced that they were in danger from the great Jehovah, and they proclaimed a fast, and humbled themselves, and God heard their prayer, and Nineveh for a while was preserved. Many a time in the hour of sickness, and in the time of woe, God has heard the prayers of the unthankful and the evil. Do you think God gives nothing except to the good? Have you resided at the foot of Sinai and learned to judge according to the law of merit? What were you when you began to pray? Were you good and righteous? Has not God commanded you to do good to the wicked? Will he command you to do what he will not do himself? Has he not said that he “sends rain upon the just and upon the unjust,” and is it not so? Is he not daily blessing those who curse him, and doing good for those who despitefully use him? This is one of the glories of God’s grace; and when there is nothing else good in the man, yet if there is a cry lifted up from his heart the Lord condescends very often to send relief from trouble. Now, if God has heard the prayers even of men who have not sought him in the highest manner, and has given them temporary deliverances in answer to their cries, will he not much more hear you when you are humbling yourself in his sight, and desiring to be reconciled to him? Surely there is an argument here.
28. But to come more fully to the point with regard to real and spiritual prayers, everyone who asks receives without any limit whatever. There has never been an example of a man really seeking spiritual blessings from God without his receiving them. The tax collector stood afar off, and so broken was his heart that he dared not look up to heaven, yet God looked down on him. Manasseh lay in the low dungeon, he had been a cruel persecutor of the saints; there was nothing in him that could commend him to God; but God heard him out of the dungeon, and brought him out into liberty of soul. Jonah had by his own sin brought himself into the great fish’s belly, and he was a petulant servant of God at the best, but out of the belly of hell he cried and God heard him. “Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” Everyone. If I needed evidence I should be able to find it in this tabernacle. I would ask anyone here who has found Christ, to bear witness that God heard his prayer. I do not believe that among the damned in hell there is one who dares say “I sought the Lord and he rejected me.” There shall not be found at the last day of account, one single soul that can say. “I knocked at mercy’s door, but God refused to open it.” There shall not stand before the great white throne, a single soul that can plead, “Oh Christ, I would have been saved by you, but you would not save me. I gave myself up into your hands, but you rejected me. I penitently asked for mercy from you, but I did not receive it.” Everyone who asks receives. It has been so until today — it will be so until Christ himself shall come. If you doubt it try it, and if you have tried it, try it again. Are you in rags? — that does not matter, everyone who asks receives. Are you foul with sin? — that does not matter, “everyone who seeks finds.” Do you feel yourself as if you were shut out from God altogether? — that does not matter either, “knock, and it shall be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives.” “Is there no election there?” Indeed, indeed, doubtless there is, but that does not alter this truth which has no limit to it whatever, — “everyone.” What a rich text it is! “Everyone who asks receives.”
29. When our Lord spoke like this, he could have pointed to his own life as evidence; at any rate, we can refer to it now and show that no one asked from Christ who did not receive. The Syrophenician woman was at first repulsed when the Lord called her a dog, but when she had the courage to say, “yet the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table,” she soon discovered that everyone who asks receives. She, also, who came behind him in the crowd and touched the hem of his garment, she was no asker, but she was a seeker, and she found.
30. I think I hear, in answer to all this, the lamentable wail of one who says, “I have been crying to God for a long while for salvation; I have asked, I have sought, and I have knocked, but it has not come yet.” Well, dear friend, if I am asked which is true, God or you, I know who I shall stand by, and I would advise you to believe God before you believe yourself. God will hear prayer, but do you know there is one thing before prayer? What is it? Why, the gospel is not — he who prays shall be saved, that is not the gospel; I believe he will be saved, but that is not the gospel I am told to preach to you. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he” — what? — “he who believes and is baptised shall be saved.” Now, you have been asking God to save you, — do you expect him to save you without your believing and being baptised? Surely you have not had the impudence to ask God to make void his own word! Might he not say to you, “Do as I ask you, believe my Son: he who believes on him has everlasting life.” Let me ask you; do you believe Jesus Christ? Will you trust him? “Oh, I trust him,” one says, “I trust him entirely.” Soul, do not ask for salvation any more — you have it already — you are saved. If you trust Jesus with all your soul, your sins are forgiven you, and you are saved; and the next time you approach the Lord, go with praise as well as with prayer, and sing and bless his name. “But how am I to know that I am saved?” one says. God says, “He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved.” Have you believed, have you been baptised? If so, you are saved. How do I know that? On the best evidence in all the world: God says you are — do you need any evidence besides that? “I want to feel this.” Feel! Are your feelings better than God’s witness? Will you make God a liar by asking for more signs and tokens than his sure word of testimony? I have no evidence today, that I dare trust in, concerning my salvation except this, that I rest on Christ alone with all my heart, and soul, and strength. “I have no other refuge,” and if you have that evidence it is all the evidence that you need to seek for today. Other witnesses of grace in your heart shall come by and by, and cluster around you, and adorn the doctrine you profess, but now your first business is to believe in Jesus.
31. “I have asked for faith,” one says, “well, what do you mean by that?” To believe in Jesus Christ is the gift of God, but it must be your own act as well. Do you think God will believe for you, or that the Holy Spirit believes instead of us? What does the Holy Spirit have to believe? You must believe for yourself, or be lost. He cannot lie, will you not believe in him? He deserves to be believed, trust in him, and you are saved, and your prayer is answered.
I think I hear another say, “I trust I am already saved; but I have
been looking for the salvation of others in answer to my prayers”;
Dear friend, you will get it. “He who asks receives; and he who seeks
finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” “But I have sought
the conversion of such a one for years with many prayers.” You shall
have it, or you shall know one day why you do not have it, and shall
be made content not to have it. Pray on in hope. Many a one has had
his prayer for others answered after he has been dead. I think I have
reminded you before of the father who had prayed for many years for
his sons and daughters, and yet they were not converted, but all
became exceedingly worldly. His time came to die. He gathered his
children around his bed, hoping to bear such a witness for Christ at
the last that it might be blessed to their conversion; but unhappily
for him he was in deep distress of soul, he had doubts about his own
interest in Christ. He was one of God’s children who are put to bed
in the dark; this being above all the worst fear of his mind, that
he feared his dear children would see his distress and be prejudiced
against religion. The good man was buried and his sons came to the
funeral, and God heard the man’s prayer that very day, for as they
went away from the grave one of them said to the other, “Brother, our
father died a most unhappy death.” “He did, brother; I was very much
astonished by it, for I never knew a better man than our father.”
“Ah,” said the first brother, “if a holy man such as our father found
it a hard thing to die, it will be a dreadful thing for us who have
no faith when our time comes.” That same thought had struck them all,
and drove them to the cross, and so the good man’s prayer was heard
in a mysterious manner. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but while
God lives, prayer must be heard. While God remains true to his word,
supplication is not in vain. May the Lord give you grace to exercise
it continually. Amen.
[Portions of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Lu 11:1-13 Ps 107:1-31]
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "Feathers For Arrows")