God is not your slot machine-Thursday of the first week in Lent – Esther 4:17/ Matthew 7:7-12
When you read this text, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you” it seems like one has just accessed a code to a secret Christian wish list site. Now that you have logged in, leave your wish list and sit back. Your wishes are going to tumble into your lap like a Las Vegas slot machine.
As ridiculous as this may seem it ironically is read by Christians the way they want. This verse apparently, seems for many Christians, the blank cheque they long for. Yet there has been a lot of desperate asking that was not met. So how do we approach this text?
Firstly, this text is part of a larger teaching. Jesus is on the Mount of Beatitudes teaching what has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount. The teaching of Jesus focuses largely on prayer. He has told us that we must pray (6:7) and has told us that we should not pray like the Gentiles who heap up many words (6:8). He then gives us an important piece of information which many of us have failed to see; he says, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” He then gave us a prayer and allowed us to God Abba. He taught us how to structure prayer into praise and then petition (6:9-14). He clearly instructed us not to worry about our lives or what we are to eat and drink (6:25) and reiterated it in 6:31 and again in 6:34. (Just in case you were still not paying attention)
It is in this context that he now tells us to ask, seek and knock. Interestingly, he places three components; ask, seek and knock and not just the one that we conveniently read. This is what the prosperity gospel preachers do. This is not what Christ said.
Asking is not a wish list you type into your phone and hit send. It is a life of prayer, a life of conversation with God. Asking leads us to seek the will of God; His will, His kingdom. Seeking here is not a treasure hunt, as if God has left clues in the Bible. (Sadly, many do this) Seeking is a patient looking and not some frantic 911 call to God on speed dial when I need him (Many of us don’t want him usually.) We are not called to seek him for what we want, rather we seek him to understand if our asking is in line with his will. Finally, we are called to knock and this calls for humility. You have to go to him; to God. YOU have to do it. You have to ask to be admitted into his presence so that your petition may be placed before him. Others could do it for you (intercessory prayer) but then again you are not paralyzed like the man let down from the roof.
The scripture text of today tells us that the heavenly father gives good things to those who ask. God WILL NOT give us what is bad for us. He knows our needs (Matthew 6:8) yet he does not care for our greed.
In the first reading, Queen Esther, now the wife of the King of Persia is petitioned by her uncle to plead to the king against an unjustly motivated edict that will see all the Jews put to death. Esther is afraid for her life. To go into the presence of the King without being summoned would be certain death. Yet Esther knows that the lives of her people hang in the balance. We are told Esther prayed and fasted for three days and then went to the King who welcomed her, listened to her, accepted her petition and gave victory to Esther and the Jews.
The next time you want to ask so that you may receive, first seek and knock and for good measure try fasting and praying for three days like Queen Esther.