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Constancy and hope in God


"Ask, and it shall be given 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. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Mat. 7:7-11).

This instruction speaks of both constancy in prayer as well as constancy in deeds. Sometimes it happens that a person with good intentions goes from one extreme to another: at first he fervently takes on some good deed; later, encountering difficulties, he leaves it and does nothing more. The reason for this inconstancy is inexperience and presumption.

Of course the majority of people, in different degrees, are weak and inexperienced in living virtuously. But it as bad not to do anything as to take on deeds that exceed our strength. In order to avoid these extremes, one must ask God, first of all, for understanding; then later – for help, for faith that "everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." For strengthening our faith that we will receive what we ask for, the Lord gives the example of the relationship we have with our own children: "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" To demonstrate His point that God fulfills our requests, Jesus Christ told the parable of the unjust judge. The meaning of the parable is understandable: if even the unjust judge fulfilled the request of the widow, so that she would stop pestering him, the more so will God, who is merciful, fulfill our prayer (Lk. 18:1-8).

The Evangelist St. Luke, in recording the words of the Saviour about constancy in prayer, uses the words "Holy Spirit" instead of "good things": "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Lk. 11:13). It is possible that the Lord would have explained later in the same discussion that the grace of God is that great good thing which it is necessary to request. Truly, all things elevated and good have as their source the Holy Spirit, for example: a clean conscience, clarity of mind, strength of faith, comprehension of the meaning of life, vigor, spiritual peace, unearthly happiness, and especially, holiness, which is the greatest treasure of the soul.

As for the material blessings and successes which we strive for in life, we can also ask these of God. At the same time, we must remember that they have a secondary and temporary importance. As the Lord teaches further on, we strive not only for that which is pleasant and easily attained, but for that which leads to salvation: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Mat. 7:13-14). The wide gate is a life directed toward gathering wealth and physical pleasures. The straight, or narrow, gate is a life directed toward improving one’s heart and doing good deeds.

At the end of this section of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord gives us a commandment noteworthy for its brevity and clarity, which encompasses the entire scale of human relations: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Mat. 7:12). Herein is the entire meaning of God’s law and the writings of the prophets.

In this part of His teaching, the Lord teaches us to ask God for understanding, help and spiritual gifts constantly, once we have chosen the straight path of life and to try to do good to every person. Undoubtedly God will help us, because He is the inexhaustible source of all good and our loving Father.

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