Ask, Seek, Knock: If God Knows Everything, Why Does He Want Us to Ask?
“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 he who seeks finds, and to him 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; 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 11:9-13
What reassuring words from Jesus we find here – “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Jesus speaks of God’s desire to fulfill our needs and give us “good gifts” as His children. Jesus promises that we will not come away from God empty-handed. When we ask, seek, and knock, Someone is listening and waiting to be found. And yet, this beautiful passage from Luke also hints at a mystery worth pondering: If God knows everything, why does He want us to ask?
It is true that God already knows our deepest desires. In Psalm 139, we are told that God “understands our thoughts from afar” and “even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it all.” We are intimately known by our Creator, who is aware of our every thought, word, and action. How wonderful! Again, it begs the question – if He knows all this about us, if nothing is hidden from Him, why do we need to voice it? If He is always with us, why do we need to seek Him?
This passage reminds me of another place in Scripture where someone is knocking. The Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). God knows us, but has given us free will to choose to be open to Him – or not. God will not force Himself upon us; He waits to be invited in.
There are many places in Scripture where Jesus, in His divinity already knowing full well what a person needs, waits to be asked for healing. He wants them to voice the need. To name the desire. To ask Him. To reach out for Him.
In Luke’s Gospel, it says that “all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all” (Luke 6:19). The woman with the hemorrhage “touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased” (Luke 8:44). The act of reaching out to Jesus is an act of faith, and a participation in one’s own healing, as Jesus tells the woman with the hemorrhage: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Luke 8:48). To the blind man on the side of the road, who springs up and throws off his cloak to approach the Lord, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Naming the need is an act of faith, and it is this faith, this trust and participation in grace, that Jesus names as the reason for healing.
I think this is because God knows what we need, but sometimes we do not. In prayer, in having to name it, we come to realize our deepest desires, which God uses to direct our path. Ultimately, our desires point us in the direction God wants to lead us. St. Therese of Lisieux said,
“God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized…. He makes us desire, then grants our desire.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola encourages people making a retreat to
“ask God our Lord for what I want and desire.”
Our deepest longings of the heart reveal the specific ways God is calling us into deeper relationship with Him and service of His people.
Clarifying and presenting our desires to the Lord is an act of trust. God wants to be in dialogue with us. He invites our participation, and in fact waits for it. His ultimate desire is for relationship with us. What kind of intimacy can there be in a relationship in which longings of the heart are not named and shared? Think of it this way: if you’re married, chances are you can read your spouse pretty well. You might know what he is thinking and even know what he will say before he says it. But you want him to say it anyway, because in sharing it aloud, he is trusting you with a part of himself and inviting you into it – to carry a burden with him, share in a dream, offer encouragement or advice, etc. If he doesn’t say it and just assumes you know it anyway, you miss the opportunity to explore it together. So too with God. If we do not go to Him for what we need and want, we haven’t opened the door to the grace He wants to pour into us.