There’s a Scottish verb, which is also a noun, that has become the official name of a bird!
Ornithologists from Albion will immediately know I am talking about the “crake” which is a bird that has a distinctive, raspy call often described as “ceaseless”.
In Scotland it is also applied to those, especially young children, who are ceaselessly demanding attention, and for whom “no” is not a deterrent, just a deferred “perhaps”. [“mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY!] You’ve probably been there, done that!
I bring this up because it perfectly describes a teaching of Jesus which is often misunderstood, and just as often misinterpreted, by Bible teachers.
In Greek very often one word, when understood by the grammatical rules surrounding it, can say as much as a paragraph in English. An analogous thought in English is that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In Greek the tense of a verb can covey a multitude of meanings, and in the imperative mode the Greek tenses are very distinctive.
We find the indicative mode, and imperative mode, present tense in the well known sayings of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8.
The indicative mode always refers to a continuous action which has not yet been completed and the imperative mode implies that the action should be done in the usual way. So Jesus’ exhortations to “knock”, “ask”, and “seek” cannot and must not be viewed as a one-time occurrence — “one and done”.
There are two words for “knock” in Greek. One is like an unceremonious pounding, the sort of knock you might use to get someone out of bed in an emergency; and the other is a polite tap as we might use on a door when inquiring, “Hello, is anyone there?” It is this polite knock that Jesus uses.
Here’s the NIV translation of those verses:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Good stuff, but a little tepid. Now compare that with the Amplified Bible’s fuller translation (and footnote):
“[a] Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.” [a] Here the use of Greek present imperatives (asking, seeking, knocking; vv 7, 8) emphasizes persistent, constant prayer.
The Greek is emphasizing a continuous, polite persistence in asking, knocking and seeking in our conversations with God.
So, if we do not immediately get answers to our prayers we should continue to persevere in prayer until we do, or until God shows us that our petition is not according to His will. I have told people in the past that God mostly answers prayer in one of three ways - “yes”, “no”, or “I have a better plan!”.
Secondly, we learn that sometimes God takes time to answer our prayers. Sometimes the three ways are “yes”, “no”, and “not yet”!
A third lesson might be that while we are waiting for answers, God is working on our behalf and for our benefit - “yes”, “no”, and “I have some other pieces of the puzzle to accomplish first, (and you’re gonna love it)”!
Satan would have us believe that God either does not hear, or is not interested in, our prayers and is ignoring us. But I’m sure you can undoubtedly dig up lots of biblical examples of people who thought God was absent, only to subsequently witness some truly dramatic demonstration of His awesome power. So don’t listen to Satan’s lies, but politely and reverentially keep on praying. Jesus says that those who keep on asking, keep on knocking and keep on seeking are assured of answers, opportunities, and discoveries!
It makes no sense to believe God who loves you enough to sacrifice Himself for you is going to be stingy in getting you answers to your prayers.
Just keep on keepin’ on!
Be a crake!