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Parameters in Prayer

Parameters are important in life. Without them, anarchy would reign. Here are some examples:

  •  In sports, we have white lines on the field to define the parameters. Without them, our games would turn crazy.
  • We have social parameters in our conversations that protect, affirm, and allow us to respect those we are in relationships with.
  • Our roads are covered in markings and signs to direct us to drive in ways that prevent us from crashing.

Many people believe that with all the freedoms we enjoy, parameters need to be removed to experience even greater freedom. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that. Healthy parameters are necessary for healthy living and, more often than not, find their root in care, not control, and from love but not legalism.

Sometimes in our prayer life, we need parameters as well. Often it feels like our prayers aren't going through. If we were honest, we all felt like our prayers were hitting the wall and falling on the floor rather than hitting heaven.

In Luke 11 the question of parameters in prayer is asked by a disciple of Jesus who says, "Lord, teach us to pray ." The question is actually a prayer… one that we would do well if pray more often. In the following twelve verses, I believe that Jesus offers us the following three parameters:

1)      The Parameter of Praying according to God's word. (vs. 2-4)

Jesus teaches his disciples what has become known as "The Lord's Prayer ." This outline from Jesus, though, is not meant as a method of prayer (where we recite some magical words and God listens) but as a model for it. And what Jesus is modeling is that our prayers should be grounded and found in scripture. You see, each line in this prayer is taken right out of the pages of scripture. One of the most important parameters in our prayer life is ensuring that our prayers align with God's word – the Bible. It is in this book that the character and heart of our loving God are revealed. One of the best things you can do to pray more effectively is to read your Bible.

2)      The Parameter of Shameless Persistence. (vs. 5-10)

Jesus tells this ironic story about how, in a hospitality-rich society, a neighbor is not prepared to help out a friend with a late-night emergency. But he says that if the one who has need exercises "shameless persistence," then the neighbor will have no choice but to meet his need. While God is not someone who devalues our relationship with us or sleeps as we need, the point is that we need to be committed to not quitting on the things that we are praying for. So often, we stop asking, seeking, and knocking on heaven's door. That's why the exhortations in verses 9 -10 say keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. If we want to pray more effectively, we must become shamelessly persistent in our prayers.

3)      The Parameter of God's Goodness. (vs. 11-13)

Jesus teaching on prayer concludes by reminding us that God is good, and because of this, he has promised us some incredible things. He has promised us a purpose, abundant and eternal life, never to leave us. He has assured us that he will forever provide peace and strength and a million other blessings, written on almost every page of the Bible. The third parameter of prayer is that we need to align our prayers with God's promises for us. There is little point in asking for something God hasn't offered us – because it simply won't be as good. As you pray, are you praying into or outside of the promises of God?

The passage concludes that as we learn to pray this way, He will give us a most beautiful gift, His Holy Spirit. Have you noticed that we invoke 2/3rds of the Holy Trinity as we pray? We tend to bookend our prayers by opening "Our Father" and close with "In Jesus' Name." What's the Holy Spirit's role in prayer? It's to work in answering the requests of God for us in response to our prayers. Jesus is teaching that as we put these appropriate, Godly parameters around our prayers, He will give us the best gift of all: the Holy Spirit, who actively works to respond to our prayers.

How can you build these parameters into your prayers?

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