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Having considered the topic of praying without ceasing, we now move ahead with Jesus as He leads us into the importance of asking, seeking and knocking as being central to your prayer life.
Jesus intensifies his instruction on how to pray as He demonstrates the value of asking, seeking and knocking. These five verses are a rich morsel of Jesus' teaching on prayer. As we consider these verses, I have expanded each verse with highlights from the Greek.
[Note: The Greek word for ask as we shall see in a moment, may also be translated as demand. Seek has the further meaning of pursue and strive for. In each of these verbs, the Greek has the deeper meaning of asking, seeking, and knocking continually. This aspect of continual or repeated effort is in keeping with our previous lesson on praying without ceasing.]
[Note: Again there is a stress placed on our continual or repeated asking, seeking and knocking. The traditional translation also tends to indicate that the answer will come to you at some time in the future, whereas in the Greek the answer to your prayers is a present reality. Yes, you may not as yet have seen that reality. However, by faith we receive it as being present now.]
[Note: Jesus understands that you may be concerned that there just might be some danger in your asking, that you may have a fear that you will get the wrong thing, or that Satan just might slip something over on you. Jesus understands these fears, and so it is that He addresses them head on by giving to us two examples showing you that you have nothing to fear from your asking.]
[Note also: Jesus gives us two examples which are strictly down to earth. He speaks about a common ordinary human father, and points out that such a father will not cheat or deceive his children by supplying them with serpents or scorpions. Serpents and scorpions are, of course, used by Jesus on various occasions to denote demons and evil spirits.
In fact, this illustration is so strong, I need to direct your attention to Luke 10:19, which declares, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you." Not only do we have the assurance that our asking will not deceive us with demons and evil spirits, but far more important is the very extraordinary declaration that you and I have power and authority over them.]
[Note: Jesus reaffirms that your Abba Father is quite able to do far more abundantly for you than any human father. If a human father is able to provide good gifts for his children, how much more will your Heavenly Father provide for those who ask? In fact, it is not just those who ask, but for those who continually ask and demand, as the Greek makes clear.]
In the above notes to this passage, I have tried to give you some food for thought. Through the Greek, we can see that there is a persistence in these verses that we continually ask, continually seek, and continually knock. The very fact that Jesus uses three words, ask, seek, and knock, and not just one word, ask, stresses the concept that we are to press on. We are not to stop with simply asking once, but we are to ask, then we are to seek, and finally we are to knock - and to do so persistently. We are to keep on knocking, as the neighbor continued to demand bread at midnight, even to the point of importunity.
At the same time, as you may have noted, we began to see that the Greek word for ask is also the Greek word for demand. I want to go into this concept with you much further as we continue our study.
One of the key components of prayer in the New Testament is asking. It occurs well over 100 times in just the New Testament alone. To better understand the meaning of this word we need to turn to a study of the Greek. In the Greek New Testament, three words are used to express various forms of asking. They are: aiteo, eperotao, and erotao(a tay' oh, eh per tay' oh, er oh tay' oh). Each of these has its own special meaning and thereby gives a slightly different slant to the way in which they are being used in various verses. English tends to lack that insight and translators have very often neglected it, so that different Greek words are often times translated by the same English word, ask.
The sad thing is that none of us are able to know for certain just which of these three words underlies the verse we may be reading. You may even ask, "Who cares?" At one time I pondered that myself. Then, I felt that the Lord was speaking to me and saying, "I do!" The Lord then showed me that the Holy Spirit could have used the same Greek word throughout the New Testament. That would have been simple enough. However, the Holy Spirit inspired different words to give different meanings to each verse. He wanted us to have a deep, full, rich meaning, not just a watered down interpretation. His concern is that you have the fullness of his Word. Attempts to simplify the Word do not do justice to the Word, and very often empty it of its meaning. Our society demands quick easy answers with a fast food mentality.
The Lord is raising up an army in these days of men and women who can handle his Word with skill and confidence based upon an in depth study of that Word. The goal here is to help you to enrich your prayer life so that it will be very pleasing to the Lord and very satisfying to you. "Who cares?" "God cares!" Now, you too must learn to care. If the Lord took the time to pick just the right word, then you need to take the time to learn the meaning of those words.
I firmly believe also your ability to pray for others will be enhanced as you increase your comprehension of each of these words. Your ability to intercede will take on deeper power with greater authority and your prayers on behalf of others will have richer meaning. As Paul declares, you are to fight the good fight of faith. And your fight is in knowing the power and the authority which is yours through the words you speak in the name of Jesus.
This study will challenge your thinking to enhance your understanding of prayer as we consider each of these three Greek words in turn. To understand these words more fully, we shall consider their use in Scripture. The first Greek word for ask is aiteo.
I first became aware of this word when I heard Dr. Kenneth Hagin define it as having several meanings, which I have since studied more fully on my own. He pointed out that one of those meanings was to make a demand, and/or to command something. Due to my traditional denominational training I had a very difficult time accepting what he was saying. It really went against my grain very strongly. I even became somewhat upset over his teaching - you might even say that I became angry. I had always understood prayer as being a form of begging or pleading with God to do something. It was totally incomprehensible for me to even consider the possibility of putting a demand upon God or for that matter upon anything else for which I might be praying. As for commanding - I could not handle that at all.
To be honest, I could not even get the words to come out of my mouth. Nevertheless, because of my respect for Dr. Hagin, I knew that I would have to study it for myself. Either I would prove him wrong, or I would prove him right. This determination would start me on a study of the New Testament that has absolutely transformed my life as well as my ability to pray with power and authority and confidence. Even though this initial experience happened over twenty years ago, Holly and I are continuing to gain deeper, richer insights to God's Word and the overall concept of prayer.
Thankfully, aiteo is not a complex Greek word with many shades of meaning. Aiteo may be translated by three English verbs, to ask, to request or to demand. Since asking and requesting are of the same nature, we will simply focus our study on the two English verbs, to ask and to demand.
Since demanding is also a form of commanding, we will use these two words interchangeably. Webster's tells us, "to command is to demand one's due." In regard to demanding, Webster's tells us, "A demand is a request that is to be regarded as a command." It also indicates that a "demand is to ask for one's due" or "to ask for legally as a rightful owner." As we can see in these English definitions, asking, demanding, and commanding all flow together. Each of these words contains the essence of each of the other words. It is all a matter of degree as to whether or not we use one or the other. For the sake of this study, I will tend to use the word demand or command rather than ask or request.
All too often, folks do not see asking as being a form of demanding, but rather as a form of begging. Rather than asking God, they end up begging God. As for demanding - forget it! Before we follow this more closely, let us look at the second Greek word for asking, the word, "eperotao."
This Greek word eperotao means to ask, or more precisely to ask a question. More specifically it means to consult. But even more notable is the fact that it never has the meaning to demand or to command. Demanding seems to be exclusively reserved for aiteo.
It is this fact that sets these two Greek words aiteo and eperotao apart. Aiteo has the connotation of demanding, whereas eperotao has a narrower meaning of simply asking a question and/or consulting.
I do not believe that this comes about by accident. It is very clear that the Holy Spirit wanted us to define these words very precisely, and not in the usual haphazard way of the Bible translators who have translated both words with the same English word, to ask. By doing so, most translations have lost all the emphasis and intensity of what the Holy Spirit originally intended.
If the Holy Spirit wanted eperotao to be used in place of aiteo, he would have inspired the New Testament writers to use eperotao. As it is, eperotao is used with the overall connotation of asking a question or consultation, such as Pilate consulting with Jesus, or Jesus asking a question of his disciples. As Pilate changes his feelings for Jesus it is interesting to see that the verb also changes to erotao. With this verb change Pilate is no longer shown as one simply consulting with Jesus, but rather he is shown as one interrogating him. Just with this one example, we can see the difference in the meaning of two distinctive words. In the Greek, Pilate consults then interrogates. Your English version shows Pilate merely asking at each point in their conversation.
It is also very interesting to see that never once is eperotao used by Jesus in teaching us to ask anything from God. Aiteo is used exclusively and very consistently.
Whether we like it or not, aiteo very strongly suggests that we are not pleading with God, but rather we are to have the boldness to demand of God that He provide the very things which He has promised us in his Word. As we saw with the widow and the judge, Jesus tells us that we too must learn to pray in this fashion.
As hard as that is to swallow, it is a valid concept which we cannot deny. At this point our sensitivities might be injured, but I assure you that God's pride is not hurt in the least.
The third Greek word meaning to ask is erotao.
The word erotao is a root word for eperotao. Both words mean to ask and have the same basic connotation, to ask a question. It has the deeper meaning to interrogate. It may also mean to beg. However, it does not have the meaning of demand. In other words, only one of these three words, aiteo, has the meaning of demand. Again the Holy Spirit could have used this word, erotao, to replace aiteo. But he didn't! The Holy Spirit chose a particular word to express a particular concept. It is my firm conviction that Bible translators should have translated each of these words in their own distinctive fashion. My suggestion is that aiteo should have been translated as ask or demand, with an emphasis on demanding. Eperotao should be given the meaning of consulting, and erotao should be shown as asking as in an interrogation. But we do not have these options, so we must make do with the single word, to ask.
Nevertheless I need to do my best to help you to grasp these differences. We will pay particular attention to those passages in which the word ask reflects our understanding of prayer. To that end, in every case of which I am aware, aiteo is always used in relation to prayer. Eperotao and erotao, as far as I know, are never used in relation to prayer. As I have strongly suggested, there is a reason for this, that the Holy Spirit selected this word on purpose. If the Holy Spirit wanted us to "consult" with God, he would have given us eperotao. If it were simply the need to ask a question, the Holy Spirit would have inspired the use of the word erotao. But he did not select either of these words in relation to prayer.
The Holy Spirit must have wanted us to ask in prayer with an emphasis on demanding. If he did not want this emphasis, then one of the other two words would have been preferred. Remember, all three words may be translated "to ask," while at the same time they each have their own particular emphasis.
As we progress in this study and the subsequent following studies, I will stress the demanding side of the word aiteo. I cannot and I do not want to make any effort to force you to use this translation if it makes you feel uncomfortable. You may feel more at ease staying with the concept of simply asking, which is just fine. However, I would strongly encourage you not to fall back into the notion of begging or making supplication.
Of course, the instructions of Jesus to continually ask in a demanding fashion reflect back on what He has taught us in the Lord's Prayer with its strong emphasis on commanding our various needs to be met.
There are times in prayer for begging and for supplication. They are a part of the New Testament emphasis on prayer. In a following study we will look more carefully into begging and/or making supplication. At the same time, you will see an increasing number of passages which hinge on the idea of demanding and in some cases of commanding.
This lesson is longer at this point than I had intended. Consequently, I want to encourage you to begin reading passages with the word ask as being demand. For a while, this may seem very strange to you. You may even find it hard to do so. You may even feel that you cannot do so. And that is OK. Still, give it a try.
The challenge here is for you to increase your understanding of what prayer is all about. This lesson may challenge you even more deeply than any of the previous lessons.