“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt.7:7).
This provocative scripture from the Bible seems almost too good to be true, and indeed, to some people the idea can be downright disconcerting. Ask—and it shall be given you? What does that mean? How can it possibly work that all we have to do is ask?
The concept is not as easy as it sounds, of course, because first we have to know what to ask for. Most of the time, unless we’re in distress, we tend to hold back in our prayers. We don’t bare our souls to God, thinking either that God doesn’t have time for our trivial requests, or more typically, that we don’t have the time and patience to really feel, with our heart, what it is we want.
God already knows what we need and want. The problem is, we don’t always know, and unless we can articulate our needs to ourselves, we will not be able to follow God’s directions to achieve our aims. Very seldom are things just handed to us—although sometimes they are! More often we must seek (the second part of this scripture) to find what it is we need—with God’s help, of course.
This scripture from Matthew actually has to do with seeking the kingdom of heaven, but it can be applied to any of our needs if we’re sincere and our motive is good. And it is when we find ourselves in dire circumstances that we can expect the most help from God in our asking. But, again, we have to be willing to take God’s advice and follow the directions he gives us. We have to knock on the right door. Here’s an example, relevant to today’s uncertain economic times.
I had been working as a real estate broker in the 1990s, well before a seller’s market turned real estate into dreamland. Frankly, though I tried hard, I wasn’t terribly good at real estate. In the spring of 1998, a hotel sale that I had been working on for over a year fell through for the third and final time. I’d been counting on the sale to pull my finances together, and I was devastated. Returning the earnest money deposit to my buyer, I kept a smile on my face, but inside I was in a panic. What was I going to do? I’d banked everything on this sale—in fact, all my other listings had expired.
After saying farewell to the buyer I sat down at my desk and began to pray. The immediate thought that came to mind was the scripture from Matthew, admonishing me to ask. But ask for what? The hotel deal was dead and there was no reviving it—right now I didn’t even want to. So what should I be asking for?
Fervently I prayed for direction. I asked to be shown what to do. And the answer came to me: quit real estate—now. At first I thought it was just wishful thinking because what would I do if I didn’t list and sell properties? But then I remembered that in addition to a Broker’s license, I also possessed a real estate Instructor’s license. Not only that, there was a real estate instructor’s job available—at $10 an hour.
I discounted the possibility immediately. Ten dollars an hour for a 63-hour course would net me a grand total of $63, minus taxes. Hardly inviting, after I’d been looking forward to a $20,000 commission on the hotel.
However, the next day I visited the Division of Real Estate in Orlando. I wanted to make sure my Instructor’s license, which I’d received two years earlier, was still valid. It was—all I had to do was attend a Continuing Education seminar to keep my credentials up to date. Still, I was not at all sure I wanted to teach real estate. The class being offered would be held in the back room of a time-share office, certainly not something I wanted to tell my friends about. And besides…how many bills could I pay with $63?
Surely, I thought, there must be something else available. In the lobby of the Division of Real Estate I made frantic phone calls: a listing I thought I’d get didn’t happen; a buyer canceled on a showing of a condo scheduled for the following day. I had nothing going and I was desperate. Praying with every fiber of my being I again asked God what to do. I was led to call the time share office and inquire about the instructor’s job.
In five minutes I had the job; I would start the following week. And it worked out well—I enjoyed teaching much more than I ever thought I would. By that fall I’d secured a spot teaching Business Communications as an adjunct at the local Community College; two years later, I was offered a full-time teaching job. For the next 10 years I taught Business Communications, speech, journalism and English at colleges and universities in Florida and New York. And I loved every minute of it. I was happier in my new field than I’d ever been in real estate.
God has better plans for us than we can imagine for ourselves. All we need to do is—ask.
The Holy Bible, King James Version, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.