Matt 7:7/Luke 11:9 – Ask, Seek, Knock… or?

In a recent conversation, it was wondered if the NLT over interpreted this verse.  This verse is noted frequently, especially when related to prayer.  It occurs in Matthew (7:7) and in Luke (11:9).  Let’s compare using the NLT and TNIV as our base translations:

Here is the TNIV for Matt:

Matt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

Here is the NLT for Matt:

Matt 7:7 – “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 

Here is the TNIV for Luke

Luke 11:9 – “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Here is the NLT for Luke:

Luke 11:9 –  “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 

Here is the verse in the Greek

Matthew 7:7 – Αιτειτε και δοθησεται υμιν, ζητειτε και ευρησετε,  κρουετε και ανοιγσεται υμιν·

Luke 11:9 – καγω υμιν λεγω, αιειτε και δοθησεται υμιν, ζητειτε και ευρησετε, κρουετε και ανοιγησεται, υμιν.

The differences are that Matthew leaves out καγω υμιν λεγω, where Luke has it.  Otherwise the statements are identical in spelling and tense.  

Looking at each of the verbs here we see that  αιειτε, ζητειτε, and κρουετε are each in the present active imperative with the present being in a customary sense as in “make it a habit” to ask, seek, knock – iow: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.  

If we look at how the NLT translated these verbs, I think they might have captured the real meaning of the text.  This is what Jesus wants of us isn’t it?  He wants is to keep pressing him about our needs before him in prayer.  To many of us give up after a time when instead we need to keep on pressing into the Lord in prayer for the needs we have.  God wants us to keep on pressing him – to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking, to knock and keep on knocking on heaven’s door!

ps. this is not to say the TNIV is not right but did the NLT over interpret?  The TNIV seems to reflect the traditional rendering but the NLT seems to reflect a little more literally the sense of the Greek in this verse.

13 responses to “Matt 7:7/Luke 11:9 – Ask, Seek, Knock… or?

  1. But the question then is whether the Lord is talking about persistence in praying about the same thing so that eventually you will wear God out or will pass some threshold and he will give you what you want, or is it speaking about a life that is characterized by constant prayer for all things and in all situations?

    Bryan

    • I think you’ve failed to grasp something very important here. That is what God values. God loves to be trusted and believed. Persistence testifies, “I know you’re good, Lord and I know you have what I need,” and continues *until* the answer is “yes.” You don’t seem to understnad this, yet it’s very important to God. Just like the woman with the demonized daughter, Jesus ignored, rebuffed, disqualified and insulted her before praising her faith and giving her her request. You might want to consider meditating on that passage and its many implications, while bearing in mind this is the only woman in the NT whose faith was praised by Jesus and she was without a covenant. Faith fodder here!

    • I think unquestionably, “ask and keep asking” is the meaning of the Greek tense, with the meaning confirmed both by the woman with the demonized daughter and the teaching on importunity, and finally by His question, “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” He spent over three years giving freely and yet people refuse to understand that He was communicating the nature and benevolence and lovingkindness of God. Consider the definition of faith in Heb. 11:6 — the substance and the evidence. Yet, what gives us our faith? It’s our grasp of God’s goodness and kindness and our seeing His great love in His Word and saying in our hearts, “He loves me that much and He’ll so this for me!”

      • oops.. “so” was a typo for “do”

        The last line didn’t appear on either post until a certain number of letters were typed. Is it my browser malfunctioning or an interface glitch?

  2. Thanks for this good post. NLT is good here, but TNIV loses something. The point is surely reinforced by the following verse in both gospels. But …

    “Matthew has υμιν after all three statements”. Not in my Greek NT, Nestle-Aland 27th edition (the standard scholarly one), in which it is omitted after the second statement as in Luke. This is not even a variant in the apparatus. Also this would be grammatically odd. Are you sure it is in your text?

  3. See this is why we labour to know the Bible in Greek!! Breathe it in people… it’s moments like these that remind us that our laborious toil is not in vain!

  4. The fact that English translations aren’t capable of perfectly capturing the Greek reminds us that our hard work in learning Greek is actually worthwhile

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