What does Luke 11:9-10 mean, and what can it teach us about being persistent in prayer? Jesus laid out three steps we can take to be more effective in our prayers.
What does Luke 11:9-10 say?
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
To summarize the story, a person went to his friend at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread for a guest who had unexpectedly arrived from a journey. His friend initially declined due to the inconvenience, but because the person persisted in his request, the friend relented and gave him what he needed (verse 8).
The important word is persistence.
The King James Version uses the term importunity, a word out of circulation today. But its definition really conveys the main point of this story. To importune is “to press or urge with troublesome persistence; to annoy; to beg, urge or solicit persistently.”
The story of the persistent widow in Luke 18 carries a similar message. She had a legitimate need and pleaded with the unjust judge to vindicate her. He finally did so—but not initially. The judge thought to himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:4-5).
It was her persistence that eventually carried the day.
What is the context for Luke 11:9-10?
After Jesus conveyed the importance of persistence in prayer with the story in verses 5-8, He explained how to be persistent in verses 9-10:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
This conveys a process: we start with asking, follow that up with seeking and end with knocking. This is not Jesus just repeating Himself three times, but rather explaining three distinct steps of persistent prayer.
We can be more persistent in our prayers by understanding what each step conveys.
What is the meaning of the steps Jesus revealed in Luke 11:9-10?
“Ask” comes from the Greek word aiteo (ahee-teh’-o), meaning, to “ask, request, petition, and demand.” It implies “demanding something that is due.”
It is appropriate to ask God for what we need. This is shown clearly in Hebrews 4:16. We are instructed to come boldly before the throne of grace in our times of need. This access to God was made possible by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
We are instructed to come boldly before the throne of grace in our times of need. In both the story of the friend and the story of the widow, there were real needs, and both people had a right to make the request. In fact, in the story of the widow, she demanded that the judge avenge her. We might say, “How can I demand anything from God?” Isn’t that stepping over the line?
While it could be, if we respectfully remind God of His instruction to us to ask and be persistent, we can stay on the side of honoring our Almighty Creator.
We should consider that God is the judge who is capable of intervening and rendering an edict, or judgment, on our behalf. In the context of a courtroom—with a plaintiff (widow) needing justice from an adversary who is troubling her, and a judge who can intervene—a respectful demand to the court is appropriate.
“Seek” comes from the Greek zeteo (dzay-the’-o), meaning “seek [in order to find out]” and conveys the concept of searching for something hidden.
It is acceptable to go before God to admit you need His guidance and seek out an answer.What we want—either an answer to a dilemma or for a particular need to be fulfilled—is often outside of our grasp. In a sense, it is hidden from us, but not from God. To Him, everything is clear and obvious.
Therefore, it is acceptable to go before God to admit you need His guidance and seek out an answer. It should also be noted that seeking includes doing your part to know the will of God.
The Bible is available to us and provides a way for us to seek an answer to our request. God may not answer our request immediately, but waiting can help us build patience.
If the solution to a dilemma, trial or conflict is obscure, ask God to provide a clear path. Seek the answer in prayer (as long as it takes) until God makes the right course of action clear.
“Knock” comes from the Greek krouo (kroo’-o), meaning “to strike . . . knock, beat a door with a stick, to gain admittance.” We could also say that we should knock loudly and keep knocking. This stresses how often and persistently we should approach God with our needs. We don’t just knock on the door once, but as many times as it takes.
By knocking, we communicate that we want God to open a door we cannot open ourselves. We have no promise that God will open immediately, yet we have the promise: “To him who knocks, it will be opened” (Luke 11:10).
By knocking, we communicate that we want God to open a door we cannot open ourselves.Our part is to knock and continue knocking until God opens the door. The “door” could represent many things, but all are opportunities for us to overcome, achieve personal growth, achieve success in life and become more like God in mind and nature.
When the door opens, we must move through it and act upon the opportunities God provides. This involves action and work on our part. Here is the partnership we have with God. God provides the opportunities, but we must take advantage of those opportunities.
We must be people of action. It takes faith to both recognize the open doors and have the boldness to walk through them.
The power of persistent prayer
God wants us to be persistent in prayer.
It demonstrates our desire to boldly come before Him to ask for His intervention. Since we often don’t know what to do, we must seek God until He reveals the answer and provides clarity. God will answer at the perfect time.
It’s then up to us to act on the answers and doors He opens to us.