Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
What could Jesus have meant when, speaking as one having authority, He made such a sweeping, and to the poor human mind almost incomprehensible, statement as that quoted at the head of this chapter?
We pray, we ask, believing that we are going to receive, but we receive not. Again and again this happens until we grow sick and our courage fails because of our unanswered prayers, and we begin to say: "God does not answer. I
have not sufficient faith or the right kind of faith." Because of repeated failures we are benumbed, and though we still pray we seldom really expect an answer. Is not this so?
Where is the trouble?
Many Christians mistake hope for faith. Hope expects an answer sometime in the future; faith takes it as having already been given. Hope looks forward; faith declares that she has received even before there is the slightest visible evidence. Man's way is to declare something done after it has become obvious to the senses; God's way is to declare it done before there is anything whatever in sight. "God ... calleth the things that are not, as though they were." This declaring, "It is finished," when there is still no visible evidence has power to bring the desired object into visibility. "The worlds have been framed by the word of God [God's declaring that it was done], so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear"; that is, things that are seen were not made of visible but of invisible substance by the spoken word of God. If we expect anything from God we must conform to His way of working.
Listen to Paul's definition of faith: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In other words, faith takes right hold of the invisible substance of the things desired and brings into the world of evidence or visibility the things that before were not seen. There is but one substance from which the real of all things is made. This substance is ever present but invisible. It is all around us and fills the universe as the atmosphere we breathe covers the earth. In it we live and move and have our being, for it is the divine presence or substance. It is the unseen but real and eternal that always "stands under" and "within" the seen but temporal.
Faith upon which depends all answer to prayer is not, as many earnest sincere people suppose, a sort of will-o'-the-wisp mental condition that it is difficult to catch and hold. If this were so, the child of God might well despair. But there is a faith that might be called understanding faith that is based upon principles as unerring as those of mathematics. It was of this faith that the man of Galilee spoke when He said, "All things are possible to him that believeth."
Jesus invariably spoke as one having authority. He had proved that whereof He spoke, and He knew positively. He knew that all God's dealings with man were based upon an immutable law, a law that if complied with is bound from its very nature to work out certain results, no matter who or what manner of man it is that complies with that law. He never went into details as to how or why God's laws work; but positively, in a few concise words, He spoke the law and left the working of it to be proved by "whosoever will."
What is this understanding faith upon which the literal fulfillment of all God's promises rests?
"There are some things which God has so indissolubly joined together that it is impossible for even Him to put them asunder. They are bound together by fixed, immutable laws; if we have one of them, we must have the other."
This may be illustrated by the laws of geometry. For instance, the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. No matter how large or small the triangle, no
matter where we find it, or who finds it, if we are asked the sum of its angles we can unhesitatingly answer that it is just two right angles. This is absolutely certain. It is certain, even before the triangle is drawn by visible lines; we can know it beforehand, because it is based on unchangeable laws, on the truth or reality of the thing. It was true just as much before anyone recognized it as it is today. Our knowing it or not knowing it does not change the fact. Only in proportion as we come to know it as an eternally true fact, can we be benefited by it.
"It is a simple fact that one plus one equals two; it is an eternal truth. You cannot put one and one together without two resulting. You may believe it or not; that does not alter the fact. But unless you do put the one and one together you do not produce the two, for each is eternally dependent on the other."
The world of spiritual things is governed by law just as unalterable and unfailing as is the law governing the natural world. The so-called supernatural is not beyond law by virtue of being above natural law. It is simply the working of a higher law than any we, with our limited
understanding, have heretofore known; and it is because it operates in a higher realm that we have not understood. When we come into harmony with this higher law we instantly have all the power of God Himself working with us for the very thing we pray for, and we get it. Sometimes a soul comes into this harmony by childlike intuition, and he receives answer to prayer. But we can know the law and so put ourselves consciously into harmony with it.
The promises of God are certain, eternal, unchangeable truths that always have been and always must be true, whether in this age or another, whether on the mountaintop or under the sea. A promise, according to Webster, is a something sent before to indicate that something unseen is at hand. It is a declaration that gives to the person to whom it is made the right to expect, to claim, the performance of whatever is promised. God has bound Himself to His children by promises innumerable, and He has magnified His word above all His name. See the 138th Psalm, the 2d verse.
"For when God made promise to Abraham, since he could swear by none greater, he sware
by himself . . . For men swear by the greater: and in every dispute of theirs the oath is final for confirmation. Wherein God, being minded to show more abundantly unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, interposed with an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement" (Psalms 138:2).
God is our all-sufficiency in all things. He is the infinite supply, "above all that we ask or think," of all that the finite creature can possibly need or desire. The promises are already given. The supply, though unseen by mortal eyes, is at hand. "Before they call, I will answer."
"My God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory." But "he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder [and the reward as well] of them that seek after him."
Here are the two fundamental principles on which rests the whole secret of understanding faith:
First, the supply forever awaits the demand. Second, the demand must be made before the supply can come forth to fill it.
To recognize these two statements as Truth and affirm them persistently is to comply with the law of God's giving. Faith has nothing to do with visible circumstances. The moment one considers circumstances, that moment one lets go of faith.
When Jesus recognized the unchangeable fact that the supply of every want awaits us just at hand, though unseen, and said, "Every one that asketh receiveth," He was simply stating a truth as unalterable as that of cause and effect. He knew that there need be no coaxing or pleading, for God has answered before we ask.
"All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." "Believe that ye receive them" — present tense! Ah, there is the hard part. Believe that ye will (future) receive them. Yes, that were easier. But to say a thing is done when there is no sign of it anywhere — can we do this? Yes, we can, and we must if we would obtain an answer to our prayer. This is the faith on which all receiving depends: "calling that which is not as though it were," simply because God has said so, and holding to it unwaveringly by positive
and continued affirmation that it is done. This is our part of the contract. This is complying with God's law of supply. God said "I am," not "I will be," when He gave His name to Moses. He says "I am" to each one of us today, and then He leaves us to fill in whatsoever we pray and ask for. I AM health, I am strength, I am supply, success, anything we dare take Him for.
How are we to take that which we desire?
This taking is purely a mental process. When Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus to perform the mighty miracle, He did not begin to plead for help, but He lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. And I knew that thou hearest me always." So remembering God's law of supply and demand, we begin to thank Him that He has made Himself our abundant supply and that before we have called He has provided that for which we are about to ask. We continue to thank Him that we do have (not shall have) the petition desired of Him; and in confidence, but silently and positively, we affirm over and over again that we have it in possession. We must be persistent and unyielding about this. God said to
Joshua, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it." And He says it to us in every act of prayer. "Every place that you stand firmly and determinedly upon in affirmation, that have I given you. Dare to claim it; put your foot firmly upon your claim, and you shall have it." Have faith in what you are doing, because you are working with God's own unfailing, unchangeable law and cannot fail.
Even in the very midst of illness calmly and confidently affirm, "God is in me, my full abundant health now, in spite of this appearance"; for has He not said "I am"? Jesus said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous [right] judgment." In lack of whatever kind ask and believe that you receive; that is, ask and begin immediately to affirm, even in the absence of any visible evidence, "God is [not will be} my supply right here and now." Be determined about it; He will surely manifest Himself according to His promise.
"Whatsoever ye pray and ask for" is the only stipulation governing the relations between us and His "I AM." Expecting that anything will
be given tends to keep it forever a little in the future, just ahead of the now. Hard though it may be mentally to do it, we must step right over the dividing line and say, "It is done." As far as God's part is concerned, everything has been given us already in Christ, who is "the fulness of the Godhead bodily." "For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell." Christ is here present, not afar off. Though it is invisible to our mortal eyes, all we are capable of desiring is here now. "For how many soever be the promises of God, in him is the yea: wherefore also through him is the Amen"; which means that they are all fulfilled now in Him. All things are in Christ, and Christ is in you. "In him ye are made full." Then can we not say in faith, "All things are mine here and now"?
Persistent, unwavering affirmation that it is done and is made visible now brings into manifestation whatsoever one asks or desires.