At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 3:5)
We all know how Solomon responded to this. Even if you have never read any of the Bible you will have heard of the wisdom of that God gave to Solomon because it is what he asked for, and you will have heard of the great wealth and power that God also gave him because he didn’t ask for them. I sometimes used to wish that God would appear to me like that, and I would think about what my answer would be if He did, and all the amazing things He would give me that I hadn’t asked for. Have you?
The point is: God has said the same thing to us. Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened… 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 good things to those who ask Him” (Matt 7:7-8, 11)
Luke renders this slightly differently. He says (Luke 11:13)”… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”
Paul writes (Romans 8:32) “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
This is not God appearing to us in a dream in a specific time and place; these are words that are written in Heaven for every child of God for all time, for us to appropriate by faith and make our own. The only question is: what is God exhorting us to ask for? Is it “good things,” “all things,” or “the Holy Spirit?” We need to know what to ask for.
I understand it like this. “Good things” have to be God’s things. Since Jesus said that only God is good (Luke 18:19), this has to mean that Jesus would not call anything “good” that does not come from Heaven, where God dwells. Everything that is good exists in the realm of the Spirit. As James 1:17 tells us: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” Whatever we receive from the Father of lights comes to us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, so when the Bible says that God will “Give the Holy Spirit” to those who come to the Father with requests, I think it simply means something like: “the entire storehouse of Heaven is available through Him; what exactly are you looking for?”
Scripture shows that there is no doubt that Jesus wants us to ask for “good gifts” from the Father:
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. (Matt 18:19)
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt 21:22)
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
“and whatever we ask we receive from him, becausewe keep his commandmentsand do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:22)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5: 14-15)
There are clearly some conditions; nevertheless that is a lot of encouragement to ask! God is emphatic about it. When we pray in the name of Jesus and our prayers are answered, “the Father is glorified in the Son.” Jesus tells us that it is “The Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Our call as disciples is to carry on the work of the Master and see His kingdom come. We can’t build the Kingdom of God for Jesus: He has to do it Himself, by His Spirit; and He won’t do it unless we ask Him. He appointed us to bear fruit by asking the Father to give us the Kingdom. In the Spirit it is all ours already, as we are seated in heavenly places with Jesus the King. But on Earth we need to pray it into being: every time a prayer is answered we bear lasting fruit, the Father and the Son are glorified, and that is another bit of the Kingdom that has come on Earth as it is in Heaven.
So what are the conditions? Really, they can be summed up in two statements: we have to ask in faith, actually believing that we have received what we have asked for; and we have to be walking in His will. If there is sin or disobedience in our lives the heavens will be brass. If God has told you to do something, do it. You’ll just be walking through cobwebs in your spiritual life until you do. James also gives us a useful clue: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4: 3) If our motivation is worldly or carnal, we are wasting our time. Such things do not come into the domain of “good gifts,” however good we may think they are.
What if we feel that we have fulfilled the conditions, we are praying in the Spirit and not in the flesh, we are seeking God’s kingdom and not the fulfilment of our own desires, and we are still not seeing answers? There may be reasons, often to do with the timing of other situations in the bigger picture, that only God knows about; but there is one common one that we can do something about ourselves, and it’s this: we are giving up too easily, and are not being fervent enough. We have to remember that we are in a battle. There is opposition. Daniel waited 21 days for the answers he was seeking while a battle with the demon prince of Persia was being played out in the spirit realm. Maybe we need to fast. Maybe we’re just not on our knees for long enough. Maybe we should actually try getting onto our knees instead of praying on the sofa. Maybe we just need to ask God what the problem is. But as Smith Wigglesworth put it, the fact is that God wants to answer far more that we want to ask.
When Jesus posed the unsettling question “Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when He returns?” (Luke 18:8) it is preceded by the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. It would seem that faith, in this context, is knowing that God will eventually answer if we just keep banging on the door. The tense of the verbs in the “Ask, seek and knock” verse is the present continuous: ask and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; knock and keep on knocking. . When Bible teacher Andrew Wommack held prayer meetings at the start of his ministry they used to keep praying, sometimes through the night and often doing battle with the enemy, until they saw breakthrough; because they believed that God had the “good and perfect gift” for them. It’s the fervent effective prayer of a righteous man that avails much. (James 5:16).
A final point. David just asked for one thing:
One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)
I think Jesus may have been alluding to this when He said (Luke 10:42) “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus made it clear throughout His teachings that if we seek first the Kingdom of God, “all these things” – the things that “the pagans” ask for, from the world and the flesh – will be given to us. If we give to others, God will give to us. Whatever we “forsake” on earth for the Kingdom’s sake will be given back to us, multiplied a hundredfold. (With persecutions!) This is not to say that God doesn’t care about our material needs. He does, and we can remind Him of His promise that “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. …” (Phil 4:19). In fact we are explicitly taught to ask for our daily bread, and not just to assume it will be on the table. By asking for it, we are recognising that everything we have comes from Him: it’s an acknowledgement of His provision, and as such can even be considered part of our worship.
To put all this together, I suggest the following:
1) Like David, we hunger above all for God’s presence. Apart from anything else, this is the only place where real faith is stirred.
2) We recognise that God is our provider, we trust Him to supply our needs and we remind Him of His promises over our lives. I put this before the next point because it means what we can take our personal “stuff” to the cross and leave it there, while we get on with the business of number 3 below.
3) We get on our knees, physically or metaphorically, and realise that God is saying the same to us as He said to Solomon all those years ago.
So what are we asking for? Is it a good and perfect gift that will increase the Kingdom of God on the earth? Do we really believe it is there for us? Are we in a right place with God, or does something need dealing with so that we ourselves are walking in His Kingdom ways? Is our priority, above all else, to know the presence of God? If the answer to all of these is yes, then we keep asking until it “comes down from the Father of lights.” And if it’s taking its time, that may simply be because we are in a battle, and we need to “endure to the end.”
God is saying to us all, “Ask! What shall I give you?” And we aren’t dreaming.