Career Breakthroughs: Is Prayer Enough? Part 1 of 3

ManPraying1Is prayer enough to make your career dreams come true?  Can a lesson from Jesus, seemingly all about prayer, virtually guarantee a career breakthrough?  These are excellent questions and the answers are quite exciting!

As a Christian working for a living, you probably spend some time, perhaps a good deal of time, talking to God about your career.  “God, please give me that promotion I’ve really been hoping for?”  “Lord, if you just help me not have to travel so much, I promise to be a light in the local workplace.”  “Father, I’m working so many hours. Can you please help me find a great paying job where I don’t have to work so much?”

These are all noble prayers.  I’ve prayed them myself, many times throughout my career in fact.  And if you’re like me, you have also felt the confusing disappointment when these sincere requests go unanswered.

Truth is, one reason they may go unanswered is simple.  And it’s found exactly within one of Christ’s teachings on prayer.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the phrase “Ask, seek and knock”.  Its part of a series of lessons Jesus taught his followers throughout Galilee.  These three words are found together in only two of the four gospels, Mathew and Luke.  And, like most Christians, you’ve probably been taught to rely on them as a guide for faithful, heartfelt prayer, petitioning our God for help.

Yes, the most accepted teaching on this apparently straightforward passage is prayer.  It’s all about prayer – start to finish, end to end, front to back.  ‘Ask’ means pray, ‘seek’ means pray more, ‘knock’ means pray even harder.

In Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 7 he states it this way:  “Pray; pray often; pray with sincerity and seriousness; pray, and pray again; make a business of prayer, and be earnest in it.’’

Similarly, Calvin concludes the same: “Accordingly, Christ, in order to excite us powerfully to this part of our duty, not only enjoins what we ought to do, but promises that our prayers shall not be fruitless.”

B.W. Johnson, another popular commentarian, offers a similar rendering; “The terms are here used with reference to prayer, and these constitute a climax. Ask implies a simple petition. Seek indicates an earnest search. Knock shows perseverance in spite of hindrances. The three represent earnest prayer.”

I would like to offer a different position, one that hopefully encourages you to greater faith in Christ and greater outcomes in all your righteous career endeavors.  In doing so, * I must respectfully disagree * with 90% of all commentaries on these two passages with the humility CS Lewis showed toward William Blake when he said, “…not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius…”

What if Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9 refer to more than just prayer?  What if Jesus meant these passages to describe a three part process of acting on one’s Christian desires?  I believe they do and I can explain why, not just from lots of experience but also with the support of God’s word.  Follow the next installment to find out why…

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to bring the power of Christ’s word, as the foundation of career success, into corporate and small business America.

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  1. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.

  2. Shawn Sommerkamp says:

    Thanks for the kind words Marc. Please send me your questions and I’ll address them in upcoming blogs.

  3. I too disagree with Henry and Calvin. It just so happens that I am conducting a job search now, but for years my understanding of this saying of Our Lord to “ask,seek and knock” is not simply about prayer UNLESS it actually presents a deeper, expanded meaning or concept of prayer. To me Jesus is introducing us to “whole prayer”, or “entire prayer” if there is such a term. If this is true, a “whole prayer” a “three-dimensional prayer”, involves more than just the lips speaking the soul’s desires (little better than wishing). It goes beyond into practicing the faith–moving in faith–“stepping out” onto the water; moving toward the answer in the direction directed by the Spirit–seeking. It goes farther into “putting the body in the path of the blessing”, actually positioning the whole being closer to the blessing…drawing closer to hear better — testing and “trying the spirit by The Spirit” for truth–knocking.

    • Edia…really appreciate your insights. I love what you refer to as ‘lips speaking the soul’s desire’ being ‘little more than a wish.’ I totally agree. It’s about having the faith, as you say, to step out onto the water. The testing and trying you mention is the essence of Romans 12:2…”then you will be able to prove what the will of God is” (in the NASB) and “test and approve God’s perfect will” (in the NIV). Thanks for taking the time to respond. Well said!

  4. Intriguing subject, Shawn. Of course I woudl like to know more about your insight into the matter. My understanding of prayer is that it must be profound. The following two scriptures have solidified my current point of view: James 1:6-8 NIV
    [6] But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. [7] That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. [8] Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. – and Mark 9:28-29 NIV [28] After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” [29] He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer. ”

    • Thanks for sharing your insight Cam and especially haring those scriptures. So my question is this: “How can you tell if someone really believes a thing?” This is where a wonderful metaphor comes to mind. It’s like the tightrope walker who walks across the tightrope with the wheel barrow. Do we believe he can actually do it? If we say yes then we must be willing to get into the wheel barrow. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said to Ask, Seek and Knock. It’s as if he is saying, “Do you really want this thing you are asking for? Go look for it. And when you find it, go grab it.” Thanks again for your response.

  5. WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for Christian coaching