Ecclesiastical Christian institutions and their teachers would have us believe that it is anything we want, be it money, a new job, a new car or our football team to win.
As if the Supreme Being is some sort of genie that will get us whatever we want: As though God is our servant.
This is simply untrue. Why would Jesus suggest his students ask for that which he opposes they focus upon:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" (Matt. 6:25)
If Jesus doesn't want his students to focus upon these materialism, why would he then want them to ask God for materialistic things?
The fact is, Jesus is not referring to asking for materialistic things in his statement in Matt. 7:7-8.
Rather, the "it" Jesus is referring to is the subject of his teachings:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
What is required in order to love someone? Can we love someone who we don't know?
Therefore, what Jesus is suggesting his students ask for is to come to know the Supreme Being.
You see, God wants us back. Even though we rejected Him and thus came to this physical universe to escape Him, He still wants us back. He Himself gave us the freedom to choose to love Him or not. He thus has complete understanding and forgiveness for those who fell away from Him.
Therefore, as soon as we sincerely want to return to Him, He will help guide us back to Him. He will allow us to get to know Him again.
But we must ask first. He doesn't want to barge into our lives. He wants us to make the choice to return to Him. This is what love is about.
And yes, - He will forgive us of our envy and our greed - and He will heal our self-centeredness. This is because He is strong, tolerant and gentle by nature.
But we must ask first. We must want Him back in our lives. We must want His healing touch.
At the same time, we should realize that God has feelings. When we have acted against His will and we left Him, He is certainly hurt by that, just as any loving friend would be. Any loving friend would feel pain when the one they love decides to leave.
For this reason, we cannot just ask to return to Him on a whim. We must be serious. We must be sincere about our desire to return. It must not be a matter of making a show of religiousness to impress others.
For these reasons He tests us. When a person approaches God and asks for forgiveness, and sincerely asks to come home, the door will be opened, certainly. But it will also come with a number of trials and tests to not only measure our sincerity, but to make us stronger and more sincere in our desire to come home to Him.
Consider, for example, if a person leaves a loving wife or husband to be with another. For many years they were gone, and then suddenly they decide they want to get back together with the former spouse. Does the former spouse take them back just like that - immediately? Certainly if the former spouse still loves them they would let them back in to their lives. However, this would likely not be immediate. First the returning spouse would have to prove to them (and themselves) that they are back for good. They would have to illustrate to the former spouse (and themselves) that they haven’t just come back on a whim, just to leave again.
For this same reason, God sets up various tests for those who request to return to Him. He wants us back, but He also wants us to be serious about it. He wants us to come back because we want to be with Him. He doesn't want us to come back just because we couldn't get what we wanted - be it money or fame or whatever - when we were ignoring Him. He doesn't want us to return just because we want to get saved. He wants us to return to Him with love and sincerity in our hearts.
It is because of His love that He will open the door and let us back into His life - even if we initially are doing it for the wrong reasons. And once we start the journey, He will guide us (and test us) to increase our sincerity, faith and natural love for Him.
These points illustrate the character of a truly loving, merciful and wise God.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)