In Luke 10:9-10 Jesus tells his disciples to ask, seek and knock. The verbs are in the present tense and in the imperative mood, which indicates that Jesus was telling his disciples to begin asking, seeking and knocking and continue doing so. Some scholars believe Jesus means for the disciples to be persistent when an answer is not forthcoming, but I wonder if this is true. Rather than approaching God who is unwilling, I wonder if Jesus is telling us God is willing, but we need to get rid of the baggage we have that God is not willing. In other words, not only don’t we know how to pray (Luke 11:1), but we have the wrong picture of God, and we need to work this out in our experience in order to understand God properly.
If it is correct to say the disciples had no idea what to expect of God (Luke 11:1), then it seems Jesus was revealing the heart of our heavenly Father, when his children come to him in prayer. What I see Jesus saying is that the disciples should continue asking as though God were listening. That is, ask for more and more of what they need for the Kingdom’s sake. Don’t just stop at the mere minimum of what is needed.
Do we perceive God is far away? Then seek him as though he could be found at the very moment of prayer. Keep seeking him until the way is familiar. A shut door infers one doesn’t want to be disturbed. In the daytime, the door remained open in the ANE culture. If one’s understanding of God is that he doesn’t want to be disturbed, then knock and continue knocking until we are able to see God is always open to us. Hospitality in the ancient Near East was very important. In fact, it was probably given the very highest priority. To view God as being behind a shut door is to understand he is not hospitable, as though he doesn’t want to be disturbed.
The first friend in the midnight parable in Luke 11:5-8 was willing to be disturbed, because hospitality was so important in that culture. He would have been embarrassed, had he not opened to his unexpected guest. The second friend had shut his door for the evening, but he opened it to his needy friend, not because he was his friend, but because he would have been embarrassed not to do so in that culture. If we perceive God is behind a shut door, we need to knock and continue to do so, not because God is unwilling to open to us, but because we need to understand God is much more willing than we have always thought him to be.
To sum up his point Jesus contrasts the fathers among his disciples with their heavenly Father (Luke 11:11-13). First of all Jesus shows his disciples how they wouldn’t think of giving their children something that would harm them, when the child asked for something to satisfy his need. Even though they are sinners, they know how to give that which is good. Therefore, if sinful men know how to give good things to their children, how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13) or good gifts of the Spirit (Matthew 7:11) to those who ask? Thus, indicating the type of need Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples to ask the Father for their daily Bread – i.e. Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:3).
In Luke 11:1 the disciples came to Jesus, admitting they didn’t know how to pray. That is, they didn’t know how to approach God, so they sought Jesus to teach them how to do it. In Luke 11:13 Jesus shows them (and by extension, us) that God is more willing to receive us than we realize. They (and by extension, we) have the wrong idea about God. They (and we) perceive God is distant, normally not hospitable and unwilling to be disturbed. Praying is a good exercise to correct this poor perception of God. God will show himself available and willing, but we also must work out our own wrong, ill-conceived ideas about our heavenly Father.