Matthew 5 is about true righteousness. Matthew 6 is about true worship. Matthew 7 is about true judgment. But what seems so strange is why did our Lord say these words about prayer at this particular point (Matthew 7:7-11)? Why do these words come at this particular place in the Sermon on the Mount? What does prayer have to do with true judgment?
All of these are good questions to which we must find the right answers to be sure that we have the right interpretation of this passage. We must avoid the terrible danger of twisting the Scriptures to our own destruction. The only way to guard against the danger of twisting the Scriptures is to keep them in their context.
There is a theme running right through the chapter and it is the theme of judgment. Therefore this section will also deal with judgment just like the rest of the chapter. But what doesn’t seem to be clear at first becomes clearer and clearer the more we look into the Scriptures seeking their true meaning. The Lord has already given us two opposite statements in Matthew 7:1-6 to which we must be obedient to if we are to live an effective Christian life. He said, “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and “Do not give what is holy to dogs...” (Matthew 7:6). And then again, "Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).
On the one hand we are not to judge and on the other hand we are to judge. On the one hand we are not to have a critical, condemning, contemptuous spirit and on the other hand we are to have a discriminating, detecting, and discerning spirit. I don’t know about you but I know that I am not adequate or sufficient for these things. How can I possibly know who is true and who is false? How can I know if I am being judgmental or if I am being discerning? I need help and grace! I need knowledge and wisdom that I do not have. Where can I get it?
Here is the answer: “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). It is here that I find God’s provision for my dilemma.
In these verses, Matthew 7:7-11, the Lord was speaking of prayer and Bible-study and persistence in it as God's provision for making a righteous judgment. He has not left us as orphans and we can know who is and who isn't a false prophet or false teacher. Matthew 7:7 is Proverbs 2:1-22 condensed or concentrated into a powerful and succinct statement regarding how to have discernment and discretion.
In Proverbs 2:1-22 the principles of asking, seeking, and knocking in order to have discernment are elucidated. First and foremost the principles of asking and seeking - prayer and Bible-study - are set forth:
"My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding" - there must be a reception and love for the Word of God (Proverbs 2:1-2).
Prayer - "Ask, and it shall be given to you" (Matthew 7:7a) - "For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding" (Proverbs 2:3).
Bible-study - "Seek, and you shall find" (Matthew 7:7b) - "If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and he preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course" (Proverbs 2:4-9).
Then the principle of persistence is set forth:
Persistence - "Knock, and it shall be opened to you (Matthew 7:7c) - "For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul" (Proverbs 2:10).
Then: "Discernment will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways" (Proverbs 2:11-15).
Proverbs 2:16-22 deals with the strange woman, the adulteress who flatters with her words - false and apostate religion - and how you will be delivered from her!