Gospel of Matthew 7: 7-11 (NIV)
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
In what we refer to as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he addressed his disciples, surrounded by the crowds which had gathered to hear him teach with such authority.
‘Ask and it will be given to you’ could be the guiding principle for anybody involved in fundraising, from a non-government organisation to a political candidate running for office. ‘Knock, the door will be opened’ could have anticipated Jesus’ advice to his disciples as he sent them out, two by two, to preach the message of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 10: 11).
But neither of these explanations for Jesus’ message was on his mind. In this part of his ‘Sermon’ he was teaching the disciples about prayer – about prayers of supplication. He wanted them to understand how to communicate with their Father in heaven (v. 11).
Neither here nor in chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel did Jesus say that prayers need to be audible to reach our Heavenly Father. Prayers may be spoken aloud; this enables other Christian people to join in with the ‘Amen’ or to add to the prayers. Prayers may be spoken in the heart (or in the mind) and may be just as effective. Recall the servant of Abraham’s explanation to Rebekah’s brother, Laban: ‘Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out …’ (Genesis 24: 45). Jesus knows what is in the heart; he is able to perceive the sincerity with which prayers of the heart are offered (John 2: 24-25).
There is a benefit in forming prayers into words and sentences: it ensures the person praying is intentional and specific regarding the nature of the request or supplication. In times of crisis, however, such deliberate effort may not be practicable nor is it necessary. What our Heavenly Father desires is that we remain in continual communication with him, listening to and responding to him, whether on behalf of others or for ourselves.
As twelve Senators are about to depart Federal Parliament (30 June 2014) and twelve are about to be sworn in as Senators (7 July 2014) we pray for these in particular: may those departing find comfort in the Lord in the inevitable turmoil of transition and may new Senators resolve always to speak truth and to act justly as elected representatives of the people of Australia.
‘Lord, teach us to pray …’ (Luke 11: 1).