The Prayer that Listens: How to Practice a Lifestyle of Ask, Seek, Knock


Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

If I had to sum up my spirituality—the way I do life, the way I commune with God and the way I approach him—in three words, those three words would be Ask, Seek, Knock.

There are two basic ways to pray.

One is to come with a list. It may be prewritten, or you may make it up on the fly. But it’s a list of things to say, to check off. Petitions to make. Praises to give.

I’m not bashing it. The Lord’s Prayer is a list, at least at first.

And I pray it, line by line just like Jesus gave it, with my own personal additions added in (where I want to see his kingdom come, how I hallow his name, which daily needs need meeting, which debts I am releasing or seeking release from).

But it’s not the only way to pray.

The other way is more tentative. It’s conversational, and it goes like this: Bring something before God. And then ask. Wait. Seek. Wait. Knock. Wait.

In the waiting, listen.


Expect God to speak.

Jesus, The Speaking of God

Some Christians believe God does not speak to individuals today. At least not in any way except directly through the Scriptures, interpreted with as much exegetical and hermeneutical soundness as possible.

(“You can’t just go around claiming Jeremiah 29:11 like it’s a personal promise! It was given to Israel under very specific circumstances!”

Okay, fine, but all things considered, the entire Bible—interpreted as exegetically and hermeneutically soundly as possible—confirms that God knows the plans he has for me, and they are not to harm me, and they are to give me a hope and a future.)

With all due respect, I think this is a severe misunderstanding of God’s nature and also of his purpose in saving us.

Jesus, we are told in John 1, is the Logos, a Greek term usually translated “Word” that is maybe more literally translated “the Speaking.”

He is the voice of God, the continual message, the ever-speaking of the Father, through whom the world was created (and is sustained) and by whom we know the invisible God.

The New Testament leads us to expect the continued speaking of God, in every possible way. We as his people should expect to dream dreams, to see visions, to prophesy (Acts 2:17-18). That is what it means to be full of the Spirit. It is this seeing and hearing and speaking that are the sign of Jesus’ enthronement in heaven and the inauguration of the New Covenant.

“If any man speaks,” says Peter, “let him speak as the oracle of God” (1 Peter 4:10). The Greek word is logios, divine utterances.

When the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus told us, “he will teach you all things” (John 14:26). The Greek is didáskō, “to teach (literally, ‘cause to learn’); instruct, impart knowledge (disseminate information)” (Helps Word Studies).

This in fact is the fulfillment of one of the Old Testament’s ancient promises:

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. (Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34)

The word “know” in Jeremiah is a Hebrew word stressing personal knowledge, experiential knowledge. We, God’s people, will know God in the way we know our closest friends, our spouses, our children.

All this to say: It would be very odd for God to make these promises, to declare these intentions, and then not speak.

If God Is Speaking, We Should Listen

This being the case, we should practice a prayer that listens.

Ask, wait. Seek, wait. Knock, wait.

In very practical terms: Come to Jesus with a Scripture. Read it. Ask, “Lord, what do you want me to see?”

And then listen.

When something comes to you—as it will—ask again. You might “hear” a word, “see” a picture, feel an impression. I place “hear” and “see” in quotation marks because for me at least, these are not strongly visual or auditory experiences. It’s more like something rises up into my consciousness.

And then I ask God about it.

“What does that mean? What do you want me to see?”

Much of the time what comes up is a word or phrase from a Scripture, so I’ll look it up and read it and ask questions about that too, or just bask in it for a while.

Be willing to risk looking silly. Maybe some of the things you ask about won’t have come from the Lord, and you’re chasing wild geese, going down rabbit trails. That’s okay. It’s a hazard of exploration: sometimes you get lost.

At long as you’ve got a compass and a guide, you’ll get back on track.

(I’ll let you figure out the analogy in that one.)

Be willing to wait a long time for the answers. Sometimes they are immediate. Sometimes you ask a question, and the answer drops into your spirit three or five or ten years later.

Would you ever have heard the answer, if you hadn’t asked?

Jesus indicates probably not.

A More Relaxed Kind of Prayer

This is my favorite kind of prayer, even though sometimes (okay, always) I get distracted, sometimes I doze off, and roughly seven times out of ten, I come away not having “heard” a single thing.

It’s a beautifully relaxing, gentle thing—listening. You can’t force the answers. You can’t hold hot irons to God’s feet and make him talk. You just come believing he wants to talk to you, and receiving it when he does.

I usually try to pray my way through a cup of coffee. I just slowly drink a cup of coffee, and I spend the length of time it takes me to do it asking and listening, and following up anything that comes to mind.

I have learned incredible, amazing things by studying the Bible in depth. Everyone should do it.
But everyone should do this too. Everyone should practice prayer that listens.

For me, the most personal revelations, the most life-changing moments of “seeing,” they’ve all come through this kind of asking, seeking, knocking prayer.


(This is Part 84 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

I would love to hear from you. Scroll down to leave a comment below!








4 responses to “The Prayer that Listens: How to Practice a Lifestyle of Ask, Seek, Knock”

  1. Jeff Avatar

    I am coming to appreciate more and more my prayers/conversations with God. As you say, sometimes I feel an immediate connection to a thought or a particular scripture. But more often than not, I just feel at peace, in the moment. Thank you, Rachel, for all that you share with us. I find it really helps me connect to my triune God. Bless you!

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thanks, Jeff! I appreciate the encouragement and I’m so glad the blog is helpful to you!

  2. Dan Avatar

    Good stuff Rachel. As always you strike a chord that resonates in harmony with those things I desire to learn and live out for the glory of God. After all, what father would go through such extremes to make it clear that we ARE his children and then treat us like the proverbial “red-headed step child.” Silly at best.

  3. Susan Avatar

    The Compass is the word of GOD, the bible.
    The guide is JESUS.

    A very helpful and well worded post. I will save, and re-read until it becomes habit.

    Thank you ❤️

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