Asking, Seeking and Knocking Like Jesus

There is progression of intimacy in the ask, seek and knock passage that is missed if we don’t consider the whole context of the passage.

depositphotos Image ID: 30835131 Copyright: kevron2002
depositphotos Image ID: 30835131 Copyright: kevron2002

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend[1] will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence[2] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent[3]; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

Reading through Luke recently this passage impressed me in a way that hadn’t occurred to me previously. We often remember things out of context, but context is important and provides insight, and sometimes even changes what we think we know of the verse, standing alone.

It seems that the ask, seek and knock passage is often remembered for the proposition that God, our heavenly Father, will give us the good things for which we ask, seek and knock[4] because a natural father doesn’t withhold good things for his children. But that isn’t the central point of the passage.

This passage is beautifully laid out in a progression of intimacy that I had not seen before.

Before looking more closely at it, however, let’s step back for an even larger perspective and get a running start. The passage actually begins with Jesus praying, and the disciples asking Jesus how to pray. That Jesus was praying is important context.

Jesus was always praying! One source I found on the Internet counts 25 different descriptions of Jesus praying in the Gospels.[5] Jesus was always going off on his own, sometimes with the disciples, and sometimes by himself, to pray. When Jesus spoke these words in Luke 11, the disciples were with Jesus as he was praying.[6]

Further, Jesus had just finished describing to his disciples how to pray, reciting what we now call the “Our Father” prayer.[7] It begins, of course, with the statement, “Or Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” Implicit in this statement is the recognition of God’s righteousness, power, glory and holiness and our own humble position in relation to God. This is where the progression begins.

In the next segment of the passage, Jesus gives an example of a person knocking on the door of friend at midnight who won’t go away, asking for bread. Because of the persistence of the friend, and not out of any sense of affection, the friend gets out of bed to respond.

The obvious connection of this little story following the prayer Jesus taught us to pray to the Father is that God, the Father, though He is holy, all-powerful, glorious and righteous, is approachable. He won’t be put off by our persistence. In fact, we should be persistent like the impudent friend who won’t go away, even at midnight when his friend is already in bed for the night.

God wants us to be persistent! He wants us to ask and keep on asking. He wants us to seek and keep on seeking. He wants us to knock and keep on knocking. He doesn’t want us to settle for anything less than the goodness God has to offer us – which is the offer of God’s Holy Spirit living within us! He doesn’t want us to be content with what we have; He wants us to desire and to pursue God.

But, we can’t just stop there. We often go no further with this verse, but Jesus doesn’t stop there. There is another level of intimacy that Jesus wants us to pursue.

Jesus switches from friends to the familial relationship of Father to children. God the Father isn’t just someone who has affection for us; He is our Father who loves us as His children. He doesn’t just respond because we are pests who won’t go away. He responds because of His love for us! He wants us to have the things we need.

Again, however, many of us stop there, happy and content in knowing that God wants to meet our needs and desires.

Oh, wait a minute, does this passage really say that God wants to gives us what we desire? That might be a stretch. The requests in the example are for food, sustenance, things that we need. It could mean things that we want, but that might be reading into the passage more than what Jesus meant to say.

More certainly, if we ask for something that is good for us (like fish or an egg), God isn’t going to give us something that could hurt us (like a snake or a scorpion).

But all of this is really just ancillary to the central point, and it is the final point of this passage. The entire passage builds up to this final and overarching point which is this:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The ultimate point of this passage is not that God wants to give us what we need or what we want, but He wants to give us something even better: He wants to give us Himself, in the most intimate way possible. He wants to give us His Holy Spirit. He wants intimate fellowship with us, and He wants us to desire intimate fellowship with Him.

Not that God wants to withhold good things from us. He takes care of the birds of the field. He knows our needs and can meet them. But, the best “thing” of all is God Himself, which He gives to us in the form of His Holy Spirit, living within us!

Going back to Jesus, He was continuously sneaking away for intimate times of prayer with God with the Father. When the disciples asked him teach them how to pray, their question really missed the point. Jesus did teach them how. He taught them some words to say, but the real answer has little to do with how.

There is nothing mechanical about praying the way Jesus prayed to the Father. Jesus had relationship with the Father, and he was trying to teach the disciples to ask, seek and knock on the door to have an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father, and to keep on asking, seeking and knocking until that intimacy is found!

Further, we can only have this intimacy by way of the Holy Spirit. The most important thing Jesus did for us, other than dying on the cross for our sins, was to leave us the Holy Spirit. In leaving us the Holy Spirit, God gave us Himself to help us, to comfort us, to teach us, and to counsel us.[8] This intimacy and relationship with God the Father is the main point of this passage. This is what we should desire and be seeking above all things.


[1] The Hebrew word is phílos (5384), meaning a friend, dearly loved (prized) in an intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in the close bond of personal affection.

[2] The Hebrew word is anaídeia (335) (from a (1) “without” and aidōs, (127) “shame”), meaning, literally, “shameless persistence” (Souter).  Anaídeia is used only in Lk 11:8 and literally means “shamelessness.” It is translated “impudence” in the ESV. M. Vincent says anaídeia conveys the idea of “tenacity due to being shamelessly convinced something is necessary”. It is a “shamelessness” that shows deep conviction which refuses to be “put off.

[3] Some passages say, “What father among you, if his son asks for beard, will instead of bread give him a stone.”

[4] The verb tense in the original text conveys: “Keep on doing this!,” i.e. what must happen habitually, continuously, progressively as a lifestyle (modus operandi) – as indicated from the context. Thus, it might translated, ask, and keep on asking, seek, and keep on seeking, and knock, and keep on knocking.

[5] See Q#204 How Many Times Did Jesus Pray in the Bible? by Steve Shirley in Jesus Alive.

[6] Luke 11:1 (Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”)

[7] Luke 11:2-4 (“And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’”)

[8] “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [or Advocate or Counselor], to be with you forever,…. (John 14:16); “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26); “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26)


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