Real Prayer: asking, seeking, knocking

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount, Pastor Ruth Carver took us into Matthew 7:7-11. This passage is so well known, but Ruth helped open it up for us in new and meaningful ways.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

Jesus tells his disciples (and the crowd) that real prayer is simply making requests of God – asking Him for things. (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus tells a parable to show what God’s heart is like. (Matthew 7:9-11)

  • Earthly fathers are “evil” but still give their children good gifts when they ask.
  • The Heavenly Father, even more, gives His children good gifts when they ask.

Why we sometimes don’t ask God for things:

  • We think God has bigger issues to deal with than our problems.
  • We don’t really think our prayers will make a difference.
  • We don’t feel worthy to ask.

How do we practice this kind of real prayer?

  • Real prayer is persistent.
  • Real prayer is in the context of our relationship with the Father.

Ways to step forward in real prayer:

  • Ask God for your daily bread.
  • Pray for things in the moment that you care about.
  • Pray about what you and God are partnering on together.

When God says “no”:

  • Sometimes we’re actually asking for a stone or a snake – something bad for us.
  • Sometimes God is building our character and reliance on Him.
  • God sees the big picture and we do not.

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on real prayer in one or more of the following ways:

  1. Has there been a book about prayer that has been helpful to you? Share the title and gist of the book with your small group.
  2. Look up and read the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, the complete Serenity Prayer, or other prayers you have learned. How can praying “other people’s prayers” help us in our relationship with the Father?

Eastbrook at Home – April 18, 2021

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Join us for worship with Eastbrook Church through Eastbrook at Home at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM. This weekend we continue our preaching series on the Sermon on the Mount, “Becoming Real” as Pastor Ruth Carver opens Matthew 7:7-11 for us. This continues our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which began with “Family Tree” and “Power in Preparation.”

Join in with the Eastbrook 365 daily devotional for this series here.

We also continue in-person services at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 AM this weekend at the Eastbrook Campus, but you do need to RSVP ahead of time. Find out more info here.

Each Sunday at 8, 9:30, and 11 AM, you can participate with our weekly worship service at home with your small group, family, or friends. This service will then be available during the week until the next Sunday’s service starts. You can also access the service directly via Vimeo, the Eastbrook app, or Facebook.

If you are not signed up for our church emailing list, please sign up here. Also, please remember that during this time financial support for the church is critical as we continue minister within our congregation and reach out to our neighborhood, city, and the world at this challenging time. Please give online or send in your tithes and offerings to support the ministry of Eastbrook Church.

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Denise Levertov’s poem “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus,” from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov. Denise Levertov was a twentieth century poet, born in England and later residing in the United States.


It is for all
‘literalists of the imagination,’
poets or not,
that miracle
is possible and essential.
Are some intricate minds
nourished on concept,
as epiphytes flourish
high in the canopy?
Can they
subsist on the light,
on the half
of metaphor that’s not
grounded in dust, grit,
heavy
carnal clay?
Do signs contain and utter,
for them
all the reality
that they need? Resurrection, for them,
an internal power, but not
a matter of flesh?
For the others,
of whom I am one,
miracles (ultimate need, bread
of life,) are miracles just because
people so tuned
to the humdrum laws:
gravity, mortality-
can’t open
to symbol’s power
unless convinced of its ground,
its roots
in bone and blood.
We must feel
the pulse in the wound
to believe
that ‘with God
all things
are possible,’
taste
bread at Emmaus
that warm hands
broke and blessed.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

What Did Jesus Mean About Not Judging?

When Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” what does he mean by the word “judge”?

The word for “judge” in Greek is κρίνω which has a range of meaning that touches upon the arenas of moral discernment (knowing good from bad), lawsuits, governmental direction, and final damnation by God.[1] This mirrors the range of meaning for the word “judge” in English, which, has the following dictionary definitions:[2]

  • “to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises”
  • “to hold as an opinion”
  • “to form an estimate or evaluation of, especially to form a negative opinion about”

So, knowing the definition of the word is not really enough here. It is incredibly important for this context to know the specific meaning and usage of the word “judge” by Jesus. 

Now we know from the immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus is not exhorting His disciples to avoid using moral discernment. Jesus Himself has used such moral discernment throughout the Sermon, just as He does in other places throughout the gospels. Jesus also encourages His disciples to differentiate between what is good and what is bad, and to seek after and live by a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. So, clearly, Jesus does not mean that His disciples should throw out moral judgment or cease to differentiate between good and bad.

It’s also clear Jesus is not referring to lawcourt or governmental settings, even if there are implications for those spheres.

Instead, we see that the focus for Jesus’ instruction here is relational and interpersonal. Because the word “brother” is used later in this teaching, it seems most likely that Jesus is referring to the relationships within the disciple community that He is forming.

And because of that, many scholars and writers have suggested that the best sense of the meaning of “do not judge” is “do not condemn.” Do not condemn. Condemnation is rooted in a skewed view of others, ourselves, and God.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of others as less than whole people, as somehow irredeemably damaged, or lacking value and worthy of discriminatory treatment.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of ourselves as somehow better than others, more valuable or good, more intrinsically right in some way.

When we condemn people, we reveal a skewed view of God as either an angry destructive being or less than us and subject to our judgments.

Within all of this are two fatal sins that have been addressed throughout the Sermon on the Mount: pride and anger. Jesus’ disciples cannot live in the way of pride, it is contrary to the way of Christ, which is humility, and blocks us from living the good life with God. Neither can we live in the way of anger, for it too is contrary to the way of Christ, which is love, and also blocks us from encountering the good life.

And this is so easy in our own day, where political divides, media echo chambers, and social media have exacerbated our pride and anger to the point of readily dehumanizing one another. We now ignore injustice and cancel public figures without much more than a thought. We pummel other’s opinions with our opinions, hammer people’s hurts with our own hurt, and make condemnation so much a part of our lives that we’ve ceased to recognize it anymore.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

This is why Jesus’ words in verse two are so important. There He outlines the principle of reciprocity:

  • the way you judge, you will be judged
  • the way you measure, you will be measured

In the Greek the words come across in groups of three with such force that it’s hard to ignore. “If you do this, then that is what will be done to you. If you take this way, then that’s way you’ll receive it yourself,” Jesus says.

That’s reciprocity.

While there’s some debate about whether Jesus is referring to us receiving this back from people or from God, both aspects make sense here.

If we treat people with condemnation and harsh measures, that’s how we should expect them to treat us back.

And if we try to usurp God’s place as the only Judge and measurer of things, then we should beware of facing the final judgment where God will test our hearts, minds, words, and actions.

So, Jesus says: disciples don’t judge or condemn one another. Instead, with discernment and love, they help one another grow.


[1] Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, The Story of God Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 228.

[2] “judge (verb),” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judge.