Judging a brother in the right manner is not easy. Natural man is not able to do it. Only the believer who lives close to his God is able to judge in the manner commanded by Christ. Through prayer he will receive grace to do it properly.
What is prayer? Jesus tells us that prayer is an asking, a seeking, and a knocking. All three of these terms refer to prayer. Prayer must be continuous—without ceasing, Prayer is a command. Man cannot live without it. This is the framework in which our Lord will teach concerning prayer in this section.
Asking presupposes a lack. The believer is counseled to know his own insufficiency and then to come to God with his request. No one is able to ask intelligently if he does not know what he lacks. Soul-searching precedes prayer. Prayer is not a recounting to God of the things we have done. So the Pharisee ‘prays.’ Prayer . is, first of all, an asking by those who have not.
Prayer is also a seeking. Seeking presupposes that something is lost. This is the second step but closely allied to the first. Sin has robbed us of the things we need. Man no longer has unbroken fellowship with his God. He is now counseled to seek God. We may ask merely because we have been commanded to do so. When prayer becomes a seeking the soul is active. It reveals prayer as genuine.
Prayer is also a seeking. This third step is also closely allied to the former, but is more insistent. It presupposes a door which is closed. This prayer comes to the door of the throne of grace and keeps knocking until the door is opened.
The true prayer of the believer will be answered. Jesus leaves no room for doubt on this score. Those who ask, receive; those who seek, find; and to those who knock it shall be opened. Are there also unanswered prayers? James speaks of those who ask and receive not (4:3). However, these ask amiss. Those who pray sincerely as Christ has taught them, will receive an answer.
Jesus now uses an illustration to emphasize the fact that our prayers are not in vain. Can you find a man anywhere who will mock the hunger of his son by giving him a stone, shaped like a loaf of bread, when he asks for bread? Or, if his son should ask for a fish, will he give him a snake which looks like an eel? No man would do this! A father loves his child too much to do such things. Do you then wonder whether or not your heavenly Father will give you the things you have asked for? Despite the fact that a human father loves his child and will give him the things he needs, he is still e viI. Though he is evil, he does not mock his child’s hunger! He gives him good gifts. Your Father is perfect! He loves his children. Do you, then, for one minute believe that he will withhold from you the things you need? Certainly, that is impossible.
Jesus does not say that God will always give the same things for which his people have asked. Your Father will give good things to them that ask him. Some believers consider their prayers unanswered if they do not receive the very things for which they asked. But this is not true. Children ask for many things which a parent will not give because they would not be good for the child. He heard the request, but his answer was better than the request. So God deals with his people. He hears their prayers. He answers their prayers according to his wisdom.
Only the proper relationship to God will produce the proper relationship to one’s fellow-man. To the teaching concerning prayer Jesus now adds the golden rule.
Much has been written and said about the golden rule as enunciated by Jesus. These words are quoted more often than perhaps any other words of Scripture. Believers and unbelievers, conservatives and liberals—all quote these words of Jesus with approval. The modernist believes this to be the summary of all the ethical teachings of our Lord. He holds that if men would only follow the principle stated in the golden rule, this world would be a wonderful place. No one has ever stated the ideal as well as Jesus. Leaders of other religions have come close to it, but at best they stated this same principle negatively (which makes virtually no difference!). Modernists stumble at the cross, but the golden rule is very dear to them. They minimize Christ’s salvation but love this teaching.
Has Jesus here laid down a rule which can be followed by all men? Is this a universal ethical principle? Can these words be divorced from all that which precedes and follows and be applied to all?
The wording of the golden rule is very simple and easy to be understood. You desire that men should do good to you. You desire them to be interested in your welfare. Their rejoicing in your prosperity makes you happy. Their sympathy in your sorrow touches your heart. Now, the application is very clear – “Even so do ye also unto them.” So you are to live with your fellow-man. You must not only refrain from doing those things which you would not desire to be done to you but, positively, you are to do those things which you would like to have done to you.
Why should we live thus? Unbelief answers: That is the only way in which you can expect others to treat you the way you desire. If you treat your neighbor according to the golden rule, there is a probability that he will treat you likewise. Hence it pays to observe the golden rule. That is not the answer which Jesus gives…From his earlier teaching it has become clear that you cannot confidently expect to be treated according to the golden rule even though you treat others that way (Conf. Matthew 5:38–42). Why should this manner of life characterize the people of God? Because this is the law and the prophets! You are to love your neighbor as yourself, That is the summary of the second table of the law. Earlier Jesus spoke of one’s love to God. We should not have our treasure here on earth as a god. We must trust our Father completely so that there is no place for anxiety. We must realize that we may come to our God in prayer and that it will not be in vain. Not only w hen he dealt with various commandments in a previous chapter, but also when he deals with the everyday life of man, Jesus gives an explication of the law of God. The prophets have taught the same things. You are to live according to the golden rule for then only will you do the will of him who has revealed himself in the law and the prophets.
The golden rule is not to be observed for profit, but because it is the divine demand. Only those who love God above all else will even begin to love their neighbors as themselves. The golden rule rests squarely on the salvation wrought by Christ.
Questions For Discussion
1 Do many prayers advance beyond the step of asking?
2. What is meant by “the patience of unanswered prayer”?
3. Does God ever wait in answering prayer? If he does, how long may we pray for something before we conclude that it is not his will?
4. What is necessary for the Christian that his prayers may become more of a seeking and knocking?
5. Why is there no essential difference in meaning between the negative and positive formulation of the golden rule?
6. We often complain that we don’t know the Bible well enough. Do such people necessarily know the Bible better who are able to quote many texts?