We often without thinking approach the Bible as a collection of anecdotes, as if we are only reading stories about people from ancient cultures, far removed from our modern times. While it is true that the men and women of scripture lived on earth thousands of years ago, it is not true that God’s Word is not relevant for us today. In fact, the very same Jesus and Holy Spirit that we read about in the scriptures are with us right now and are willing and longing to participate in our daily lives.
God never had any intention of making himself difficult to find. On the contrary, Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Our part is not to struggle to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before God takes notice of us. Our part is simply to Ask, Seek, Knock - because Jesus said everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks, God will open the way.
You may still be wondering how this works because you may have prayed and felt like God did not hear you. Or you may be wondering how to tell whether the voice you hear in response to your prayers is coming from the Holy Spirit, from your own mind, or from some outside influence. Take heart, Beloved Friends! God hears our every thought, knows all the desires of our hearts, and plans only the best for us. He wants to be in relationship with us, and he even went so far as to send his Holy Spirit to abide in our hearts to make certain that he is always only a thought or a whisper away.
Hearing from God is not complicated, and Jesus himself gives us plenty of reassurance on the matter. For example, in Matthew 11:25-30 he declared “…I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding (the Pharisees) and revealed them to little children (that’s us!); yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Then Jesus went on to instruct us on how this happens: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (again, that’s us, the Body of Christ). Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Why does God hide himself from “the wise and understanding”? Because they are so wise in their own eyes and understand so much in their own minds that they refuse to come to Jesus like trusting, expectant children and ask him to teach them about the Father. Jesus did not say that we should figure it all out for ourselves. He said that we should simply come to him, and he would teach us and give us rest for our souls. And in this context, our souls represent our thinking, acting, willful selves. The Pharisees’ souls were so full of pride that no matter what Jesus said or did, they rejected him. But Jesus promised that we can come to him and exchange our heavy burdens for the light of his continual presence.
He said that it would be easy – not difficult or impossible – so let’s line it out in three simple steps.
First, Jesus said, “Come to me.” He means this literally. Jesus offered to exchange our heavy burdens and our enslavement to sin and suffering for his light and easy yoke. He was using the picture of a beast of burden, heavy laden under a cruel master, as a metaphor for the condition of humanity in this fallen world. He offered to exchange our slavery under sin for his freedom through salvation. Jesus broke the yoke of sin at the cross and replaced it with the light of his presence in our souls, hearts, and minds.
So, Step Number One is to come to Jesus and exchange our sin for his salvation.
If you have never prayed the Prayer of Salvation, or if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to rededicate your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please repeat this prayer, and exchange the burden of your sin for the grace of God:
Dear God, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins. I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.
Congratulations! If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you have been forgiven of all your sins, past, present, and future. You are now a member of the Body of Christ, and all of God’s blessings and promises belong to you: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
Now that we have come to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the right as sons and daughters of God to ask him for help in every situation, no matter how big or how small.
Therefore, Step Two is to A.S.K.: Ask, Seek, Knock.
The Greek word for “ask” in these verses from Matthew is aiteo, which means “to ask, beg, crave, require.” Notice that these are different types of asking, that we might use under various circumstances. We may ask God for help in passing a test at school. Or we may beg for his help if we receive a frightening diagnosis from the doctor. We may require his help when we need strength to get through a long day or face a difficult challenge. God offers his guidance, in every situation.
The Greek word for “seek” is zeteo, and it means “to seek in order to find; to meditate on or ponder; to crave or require, demand, or strive after.” This is not about half-heartedly looking around and hoping to find what we need – this is setting out to seek something from God with the assurance that we will find it because he promised to provide for us.
The Greek for “knock” is krouo, meaning, simply, to knock at a door. We do not need a magical phrase or password to enter God’s presence. Jesus promised that all we need do is knock, and he will open. As Paul instructed in his epistle to the Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Step Three is to receive what God has for us in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking. This is where we let go and let God. And that, my Friends, is often much easier said than done. Why? Because we would really, really, really like for God to fulfill our requests according to our human understanding of time and necessity, instead of waiting for the results of “God’s perfect plan in God’s perfect timing.”
God is aware of our dilemma, and he makes sure to remind us in his Word of the times that he has come through at what seemed like the very last moment to rescue his people from their own folly. Psalm 136 begins like this: “…Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever…” The sweet psalmist is reminding us that God’s love is not fickle or changeable – it lasts forever; and that God is the almighty and all-powerful Creator. Nothing is impossible for him. The psalmist goes on in the next seventeen verses to declare God’s steadfast love and proclaim the miracles he wrought on behalf of his people. It is God Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth, who answers our prayers. When we cry out, “Abba! Father!” we can depend on his love, provision, and power in all circumstances.
Jesus illustrates God’s willingness to give to his children in Luke 11:10-13. Here is a paraphrase of his parable from The Message translation: “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” Of course, the point Jesus was making is that if we mere humans love our children enough to give them good things, how much more will Almighty God provide for us! We can trust God as our good and perfect Father to fulfill all his promises.
In Part One of this series, we have focused on why we can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers. In Part Two we will explore how the Holy Spirit has been sent by God as our Teacher, Comforter, and Guide. It is the Holy Spirit who brings with him the wisdom to discern what God’s will is for us, and how and why God answers prayers and gives us instructions in the ways that he does – but not always in ways that we might prefer or expect!
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15).
In Part One of “How to Hear from God” we explored Steps One through Three: Come, A.S.K., and Receive. In Part Two we will discuss Steps Four and Five: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.
God bless and stay tuned!
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.