Receive, Find, Be Opened

This week in Sunday School, our teacher, Adam Whitten, made a statement that caught my attention. He said, “Not every prayer is an ‘ask and ye shall receive’ prayer. Some are ‘seek and ye shall find’ prayers, and some are ‘knock and it shall be opened’ prayers.”

A fundamental teaching of the Savior is that God answers our prayers. Comparing our Father in Heaven with a loving parent (Matthew 7:9-11, Luke 11:11-13, 3 Nephi 14:9-11), a kind neighbor (Luke 11:5-8), and even a reluctant judge (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus repeatedly urges us to pray for the things we need with confidence that God will hear and respond. In the Sermon on the Mount, He gives three parallel admonitions:

  1. “Ask, and it shall be given you;”
  2. “Seek, and ye shall find;”
  3. “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”

…followed by the corresponding promises:

  1. “For everyone that asketh receiveth;”
  2. “and he [or she] that seeketh findeth;”
  3. “and to him [or her] that knocketh it shall be opened.”

(Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9-10, 3 Nephi 14:7-8; see also 3 Nephi 27:29)

I’ve always thought of that passage as saying the same thing three times using different words, but our teacher’s comment has made me think about the variety of ways that God answers my prayers.

  • Sometimes, the answer is simply provided, and all we have to do is accept it. It is worth noting, however, that the Greek word lambanó (λαμβάνω), which is translated “receive” in this passage, implies active acceptance on the part of the receiver. Blessings come, but we must intentionally reach out and take hold of them.
  • Sometimes, God guides us to the answer we are looking for. The Greek word heuriskó (εὑρίσκω), translated as “find,” implies colliding with or bumping into something by chance. It may seem like we just happened to encounter our answer, when in fact God led us to it.
  • Other times, an opportunity becomes available. Doors are opened: anoigó (ἀνοίγω) means open or unfold. It can also mean to get into the open sea, away from land. (See Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon.) The new opportunity may require some courage on our part. It may seem risky. It may require us to change. But it may well be the answer to our prayer.

Today, I will be grateful for the many ways that God answers my prayers. As I ask, seek, and knock, I will strive to be receptive to His answers, in whatever form they may come. I will actively accept those answers, even if they require something from me.

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