"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you"
Shockingly my four year old son is a picky eater. A few days ago he LOVED fish sticks. He asked for them again today and so I gladly made them. When he sat down at the table he suddenly remembers that he hates fish sticks and doesn't want them. Pleasing his pallet is a full time and exhausting job. But you know what I don't do, no matter how difficult he can be? Feed him candy for every meal.
One of the regular fights we have is he will refuse to eat what we made him and an hour later be starving for a snack(which usually is gummy's or graham crackers). Our response is, "Your dinner is in the fridge, we can heat it up for you if you are really hungry." He doesn't always like that response. But we love our son and will give him what is good for him, not just what he wants. It isn't always easy, but good parenting requires giving your kids what they NEED not what they WANT. And the thing is, he is asking a legitimate question; "Can I have something to eat?" The problem is he wants to define it in such a way that isn't always what's actually good for him.
Context matters in interpretation. The heart of and intention of who is speaking matters also. This verse about asking and receiving comes within the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount which is one long teaching moment by Jesus. This passage does not exist alone.
In chapter 6 we have Jesus teaching on prayer(Lord's Prayer). The only part of it that is about asking for "stuff" is praying for "daily bread". What is daily bread? What we need to continue on and be healthy. It is sourced in God's provision, and is exactly what you need for that moment and that day.
People love to take this verse in chapter 7 and think they just need to be faithful enough in asking and they will get more "stuff".
Do you know how much smarter and more knowledgeable I am than my son? My 4 year old son. Who is convinced that he is capable of protecting himself from "bad guys" because he can hit really hard. When it comes to what he actually needs I am still the one who knows best. There will come a day, when he is 40, when he can make his own decisions. But I love him too much to let him eat gummy's and candy for his daily sustenance.
Do you know how much smarter and more knowledgeable God is than you? He loves you more than you can imagine. And when you say, "I need stuff" He is able to see beyond the shallowness of the specific words of our request and respond to what we are really desperate for.
And here is the great thing. He is a loving father. He won't withhold what you need, He will give you exactly what it is you need. At the exact time you need it.
Are you asking?
We make two mistakes when we read this passage. And they are the same mistake on opposite ends of the spectrum. We either take this to mean we can pray a Ferrari into existence for ourselves, or, we ignore it because He clearly isn't indicating we can pray for a Ferrari and get it.
We need to reject both false choices. The right choice is openly, humbly, prayerfully, going to God and laying your heart bare before Him. Even if you don't fully understand what it is you actually need, say what you do know.
My son doesn't understand his hunger and what he needs. But when he says he wants a snack, I know his body is actually saying, "I need nutrition". So I give him the best nutrition I can. We don't understand our hungers and needs either. So say what you can, and trust that He is the God He promises He is.
Don't be afraid to ask anything at all!