“If ye being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” (Luke 11:13)
There are few promises in the Bible so broad and unqualified as those contained in this wonderful passage. The last in particular deserves especial notice.
The Holy Spirit is beyond doubt the greatest gift which God can bestow upon man.
Having this gift, we have all things, life, light, hope and heaven.
Having this gift we have God the Father’s boundless love, God the Son’s atoning blood, and full communion with all three Persons of the blessed Trinity.
Having this gift, we have grace and peace in the world that now is, glory and honor in the world to come.
And yet this mighty gift is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ as a gift to be obtained by prayer!
“Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”
There are few passages in the Bible which so completely strip the unconverted man of his common excuses as this passage.
He says he is “weak and helpless.” But does he ask to be made strong?
—He says he is “wicked and corrupt.” But does he seek to be made better?
—He says he “can do nothing of himself.” But does he knock at the door of mercy, and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit?
—These are questions to which many, it may be feared, can make no answer. They are what they are, because they have no real desire to be changed.
They have not, because they ask not. They will not come to Christ, that they may have life; and therefore they remain dead in trespasses and sins.
And now, as we leave the passage, let us ask ourselves whether we know anything of real prayer?
Do we pray at all?
—Do we pray in the name of Jesus, and as needy sinners?
—Do we know what it is to “ask,” and “seek,” and “knock,” and wrestle in prayer, like men who feel that it is a matter of life or death, and that they must have an answer?
—Or are we content with saying over some old form of words, while our thoughts are wandering, and our hearts far away?
Truly we have learned a great lesson when we have learned that “saying prayers” is not praying!
If we do pray, let it be a settled rule with us, never to leave off the habit of praying, and never to shorten our prayers. A man’s state before God may always be measured by his prayers.
Whenever we begin to feel careless about our private prayers, we may depend upon it, there is something very wrong in the condition of our souls.
There are breakers ahead. We are in imminent danger of a shipwreck.”
–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 2: 9-10. Ryle is commenting on Luke 11:5-13.