‘Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life; this spiritual bread is the most abundant of all things (John 10:10), the freest of all things (Isa. 55:1), but the rarest of all things in actual possession, and the reason is, “We have not, because we ask not” (Jas. 4:2). Jesus tells us to ask, but he teaches us also how we should ask, and loves to place the petitioner in the most unfavourable circumstances, that others may be assured likewise that they shall obtain if they ask.
‘The first thing in prayer is a sense of need: a need which is entire and ascertained. The suppliant must first know that he has nothing, but is poor and needy. He must be sure of this, and make it a settled point, and not merely suspect it. There is a great difference between suspected and ascertained want. Many say they have little if anything good, but they don’t want to be sure of it and so never cry for the bread of life. The suppliant’s need must be urgent, requiring immediate assistance whether for himself or for others. Christ puts a case in which the man requiring bread could not wait till tomorrow. The need must be felt to be irremediable otherwise. Neither shop nor market was open at midnight, and the man had nothing to set before his guests, and he was shut up to go to his friend as his only resource.
‘Next, the suppliant must have confidence in Christ as being willing to grant his request. This is supposed to be a very common belief, but if this belief were to come athwart you it would be a new thing to you. It has run current among you that Jesus Christ has bread to give, but is it a reality to you? Sometimes men are ready to say, “Christ can give, but he has no will.” Oh, what blasphemy! How amazing that God hath endured his people when they have brought up such an evil report against him! Oh, dear brethren, it is this that hinders prayer, and success in prayer, when we say, “He has no mind to give us what we ask.”
‘Next, perseverance in asking is needful. The first knock has obtained nothing; it seems to have produced no result, but the man continues knocking. Many knocks have produced no effect, but these knocks have troubled the possessor of the bread, and have brought out the secret, not that he has no bread, or objects to bestow it, but that he is not willing to be troubled at present. The petitioner is unwilling to trouble his friend, but he is still more unwilling to go home and tell his guest that he must starve; so he determines that he must knock, for he cannot do without it, and for his importunity he gets it. Even so with our Father in heaven. We begin to be ashamed of asking the same thing over and over again; but then there is the great want; and the feeling, “I cannot go without it,” leads to perseverance, and this obtains it in the end. The difficulty becomes the greater, the longer we continue knocking; for if we are not to go without it, we must make louder and more continual knocking. I must either go away, and give it up, or seek with such vehemence as must obtain it, as if a greater effort than ever were needed and must be made. And it must be so with us, seeing how dreadful it is to perish. I cannot perish! or in interceding for others, “How can I bear to see the destruction of my people? Therefore let me seek until I find.”
‘Jesus says, “Every one that asketh receiveth.” Never was there a case to the contrary. Thousands of cases there have been when men have knocked and got nothing and gone away; but there never was a case of a man who sought to the end and did not get. Then, the bread is supplied, and in great abundance. He gives “as many as he needeth”. This importunate petitioner never lessens his request because of the denial, and it is great wisdom in spiritual things not to lessen our requests because of the delay. We should not diminish the request, but increase the importunity. There will be no counting of the loaves. There is bread enough in our Father’s house and to spare; and, oh, there is want enough! Though God tarry, have large desires and expectations, but these come to nothing unless there be large faith and large requests. Let us, dear friends, ask much of our God, and keep asking much, because when he arises he will give an abundance.’