Ask, Seek, Knock

Ask, Seek, Knock

I am not a wordsmith like some of my friends, but I do enjoy words.  I enjoy the way similar words have slightly different meanings.  I love finding just the right word to express a feeling. Well written songs move my heart. Basically, I try to pay attention to words.

So this weekend at church I found myself lost in thought after the Bible reading – Ask, seek, knock.  I had always read that as a line of repetition as if each word meant the same thing and it was repeated for emphasis.  As if Jesus were saying, “Don’t you get it, just ask.”

But this week, for the first time, I realized that if God had meant the words to be the same he would have used the same words.  To ask is not the same as to seek.  To seek is not the same as to knock. These are different words with different meanings.  And at this point, I wish I could speak Greek, or Aramaic or whatever language is recorded in this passage because I’m suddenly very suspicious that the full difference in these words is lost in translation.

Asking is pretty straightforward.  I ask when I have something specific I want and I can go to the source.  Asking a question, asking for help, asking for an object – in every instance I can think of today asking is about specifics.

Seek is a little more ambiguous.  I seek when I have an idea of what I want but I’m not sure where to find it or maybe I don’t even know exactly what it is. Sometimes I find it quickly, other times it takes me longer.  Seeking is alot like waiting, there is really nothing you can do to make it move faster – you must continue to seek until you have found.

Knock is the most different.  I knock when I don’t have access on my own.  Maybe I don’t own the property or maybe I have permission to be there but do not have a key.  Either way I knock because I need someone else to open the door for me.

So, why does this matter? This matters because the verse is about our (well my) relationship with God, about my being willing to request from God the things I need. In a way, I had always thought of it as asking – I need to ask God for this or ask God to change me. But maybe it isn’t all about asking God to do this or do that.  It makes sense to me, most of my “asking” of God has really always been seeking – Why do I do this God?  How do I change this about myself God?

But what really stopped me today was knocking – seeking entrance or permission or however it might be referred to. Knocking to gain entry to another “space.” There is another verse about knock – where Jesus says he stands at the door and knocks.  I guess this verse as always tainted my reading of the Ask, seek, knock verse because I automatically think knock of my heart or knock on heaven’s door. But unless there is something in the original language that doesn’t translate this is not just referring to my heart or to heaven.  Knock and it will be opened – I can gain access to another … place?  space? area? I’m not really sure.  (I did explain this is the first time I’ve thought of this verse differently didn’t I?)

So tonight as I go to bed, I go SEEKING better understanding of the KNOCKING part of the verse. And if I get brave, perhaps I’ll even spend my prayer time knocking instead of just seeking and asking. I wonder what amazing things God has in store for me when I do knock.


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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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