To Receive Is To Be Willing To Give

Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’

I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” – Luke 11:5-13

When we ask for help from a neighbor, friend, or loved one, we are expressing our need to them, of course. We know that we are unable to do something or the get something we need, without the aid of another or others in general. This is a humble revelation of need and at the same time, it’s an appeal for care and help.

In asking another for help though, there are other things being expressed and offered as well. When we go to our neighbor, friend, or family members and ask them for help, we are letting them know several things. Certainly, the first, is our need, but there is more than that too. We are also telling them, whether we know this or not, that we believe in their abilities, and in their care for us. We are letting them know that we believe in them, that we trust them.

Asking for the other’s help does something else far more important than that too. When we ask another for their help, we are actually gifting them with the opportunity to forget, for a moment, their own concerns. We are giving them the chance to leap out of the narrow confines of their own egos, to selflessly serve the needs of another, beyond themselves.

Certainly, all of this is unspoken; much less thought of at the conscious level in either the asker, or the helper. But when we ask for help, or, on the other hand, when we respond to the needs of another, God sees the center of our hearts, and gives us the grace of courage to ask, or the grace of love to act in response, and he knows that this will encourage our spiritual growth.

The scripture passage from Luke’s Gospel above reveals the even greater truth, that, if we who are fallen and sinful, know how to give good things to those we love, “how much more the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Our response to the other’s request for help, whether it be because we love them, or because they have, in their deep need, importuned us so persistently that we finally act, simply to get them off our backs, we will, in fact, be doing what we ought to do as human beings for one another. We are told in the passage, too, that our heavenly Father’s response to our prayers will be, not just greater, but it will be unconditional and whole. We will receive not just what we asked for in our blind and even desperate need, but more, because Our Father in heaven knows our needs better than we do.

Jesus is telling us in this passage that the Father answers our deepest prayers. “Ask and you will receive.” But he is also telling us that if we seek him earnestly, persistently, we will find him and when we do we will know a love and a support that even our greatest imaginings could never have conceived. If we believe in God and trust in his love, we will always have the help we most desperately need.

Here, too, is an unspoken truth. If we are the one being asked for help, and we offer our aid to the needy other out of love, whether we know him, or her, or not, trusting that God will give us the necessary graces to help him, or her, we will also accomplish several other things. We will not only be aiding the other in his, or her need, but we will be forming a deeper, more abiding community with him, or her. And here’s the really fantastic part, we will be growing our own soul’s capacity to meet and to know God in the face in eternity. What grace! What a pure grace this is.

A father knows what to give his son. Our Father in heaven knows more dearly, more intimately, and more graciously, what we, his sons and daughters, need. When we ask, he will give until our cups overflow with his grace. Then we will become the servants of his love to others that he made us to be.

If we learn to ask trustingly, to seek humbly, and if we respond lovingly to those who ask and seek our aid, then, when we knock on the door of heaven at the end of our lives, we can trust that it will be opened wide to us, and we will be received into the Holy Presence with open arms.

Thanks be to God!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.