Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you 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 11:10-13)
- Here’s the context: the disciples have asked Jesus to teach them to pray, so he taught them the Lord’s prayer. Jesus followed up with a parable about a man knocking on a friend’s door in the middle of the night. Jesus has said that God is not too comfortable to answer or bothered about when we choose to pray.
- This saying above is almost identical to the one in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, but it has a different context.
- One way to translate the first sentence more literally is, “Each who asks receives: the seeker finds, the knocker has the door opened.” We can see this as three separate actions, or we can see that both seeking and knocking are forms of asking. I think part of the emphasis is that people ask and receive in different ways.
- How would you treat your own children? I’m often amazed that people ascribe actions or attitudes to God that are beneath our own. Would you condemn your own children to an eternity to torment? Would you strike them with hurricanes, plagues, or natural disasters? Would you ignore you own children asking for bread? If not, why would we ascribe such hateful things to God? Jesus is talking about prayer, but I think we can extend it to other things. God wants to give you God’s own breath (pneuma, spirit).
- Luke is all about the Holy Spirit. In fact, the HS becomes a character in the sequel to Luke’s gospel. Where Matthew says the Father will give “good things” to those who pray, Luke says God will give the Holy Spirit.
- Unless you are in a Pentecostal tradition, you probably haven’t been taught that you even could pray for the Holy Spirit. “Is that something I’m supposed to pray for?” Luke seems to believe that it is obvious. While I don’t think the primary expression of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues or faith healing, I do think we can—and should—pray for the very Breath of God to fill us up.
- A woman once cautioned me to “be careful what you pray for.” She related a story about a friend who had prayed for something, received it, and regretted it. But if someone gave you something you asked for, knowing it would hurt you, they would be more like the devil than like God. (In fact, Ray Bradbury wrote a creepy story about this very concept. Stories about djinns (or genies) also fit this paradigm). She was expressing a popular idea from folklore, not the Bible, about wishes. This is the passage that contradicts that superstitious reasoning. God is like a loving parent who wants to give God’s very breath to us, or a friend who delights in helping friends.
God, I am your child. Give me your breath.