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Praying with Purpose

Do you have any fire extinguishers in your house? If so, when is the last time you checked to see if they were still charged and ready to go? To be honest, I may have one in my house, under the kitchen sink behind the garbage can and a bunch of cleaning supplies, but I don’t know if it’s charged either! 

Chances are pretty good that, like me, you haven’t given much thought to the fire extinguisher at your house in a while. And the truth is, sometimes we view prayer in the same way as a fire extinguisher, something we only turn to in an emergency; otherwise, we don’t give much thought to it. But how did Jesus view prayer and how does He expect His followers to approach prayer? I think we know that the short answer is that Jesus wants us to think of prayer, to practice prayer, to turn to prayer, not just in an emergency, but much more actively, and purposefully! 

In fact, in Luke 11:1-13, Jesus taught us exactly how to pray with a model prayer designed to help us understand key prayer principles, and He shared a parable to help us better understand the heart of our heavenly Father.

Jesus’ disciples knew that prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life. It wasn’t something He did randomly or sporadically; Jesus prayed often and with purpose! (Luke 5:16) So His disciples wanted Jesus to teach them to pray too!  

I read a stat from a Pew Research study that surprised me this past week. Anywhere from 65-85% of adult Christians, depending on age, admit they don’t pray every day. Why? We could argue that we’re too busy, or too distracted, or too consumed by life to make prayer a priority. And even though all of those excuses are true, that doesn’t make any of them right!  

Maybe the reason we don’t make prayer a priority is because we think about prayer in the wrong way. While prayer is definitely a spiritual discipline, Jesus’ focus seemed to be less on prayer and more on the heavenly Father, to whom He was praying.  Maybe if we understood our heavenly Father better and appreciated Him more, we would pray far more often and with great joy and purpose! 

So when Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, to pray, He doesn’t give us so much a technique for praying as He does an appreciation for the recipient of our prayers. We will see this clearly in the parable of the midnight caller; but before Jesus tells His story, He gives us a model prayer that offers us some vital prayer principles.

Three Prayer Principles from Jesus’ Model Prayer

1) Prayer is to our heavenly Father(Luke 11:2a)

2) Prayer is about our heavenly Father’s glory.  (Luke 11:2b)

3) Prayer is about our heavenly Father meeting our needs.  (Luke 11:3-4)

Jesus teaches us to pray for our heavenly Father to meet our needs for nourishment, forgiveness, and moral guidance. After Jesus gives His model prayer in Luke, He offers a story that causes us to think more deeply about our heavenly Father in the parable of the midnight caller.  (Luke 11:5-8)

On the surface, this sounds like an odd story; how bold would you have to be to knock on a neighbor’s door at midnight to ask to borrow a few loaves of bread? But you must understand that the neighbor was in a dire situation, desperate to provide a customary and expected meal for a late arriving out of town guest. If he didn’t do that, he would bring shame and embarrassment, not only on himself, but the entire village! 

The next door neighbor reluctantly got out of bed, disturbing his whole family, to give the man the bread to feed his guest; but not out of friendship, Jesus said, but because of the man’s shameless audacity. (Luke 11:8)

So how do we interpret this story? Does it mean that God is like some sleepy-eyed neighbor who is annoyed, but willing to help us when we are in dire need? Does it mean that we should shamelessly badger God until He reluctantly responds to us out of obligation? Does it mean that there are times when God has “gone to bed” or is unavailable to us? 

Actually, it is exactly the opposite! God is not a sleepy, annoyed neighbor. He is a loving, caring Father. This is a parable, not of comparison, but of contrast. The point Jesus is making is that if a drowsy neighbor will respond to a shameless, audacious, bold midnight request from a desperate man, how much more will your loving, unwearied, available Father answer your knock for help? 

Our God is more than willing and able to help us every time we are in need! This gets to the heart of Jesus’ model prayer; God can and will meet our needs, no matter when they arise. He is always ready and gracious to respond! For much more, including three vital prayer practices (Luke 11:9-13), click here to listen to: The Parables - Part 6 - Praying with Purpose.


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