If God already knows my thoughts and my needs before I ever pray them, why pray at all? Why bother?
Just to establish the premise of the question, consider the following verses:
Psa. 139:4 – “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.”
Mat. 6:8 – “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
Now consider Jesus’ encouragement to pray:
Luk. 11:9 – “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Luk. 18:1 – “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,”
Purpose for Prayer
Part of the assumption underlying the question “why bother” is that prayer is about changing God’s mind, will, or actions. If, in fact, we are praying so that God can be instructed in how to act, then we might need to reconsider which one of us is God.
If God must be persuaded to respond to our needs, then our understanding of God as a Good Father might need to change. There must be some other purpose for prayer than for us to give God His to-do list for the day.
So, if the purpose of prayer is not to inform, instruct, or persuade God in some way, then why does Jesus both practice and instruct us to pray? In His instruction to His disciples, Jesus’ model prayer gives us the key:
Mat. 6:9 – “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.’”
Mat. 6:10 – “‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.’”
What God Would Have Us Do
If the first petition in Jesus’ model prayer is for God’s will to be done, then our first priority is not to tell God what we think needs to be done, but to hear what He would have us do.Our first priority is not to tell God what we think needs to be done, but to hear what He would have us do. – Loren Gjesdal Click To Tweet
Maybe we can hear how God works through prayer when we hear the echo of our prayer returning to our ears: “God, don’t you care about ….?” [echo] “…. don’t you care about…?”
As we pray for God to move and work on behalf of a care or need, we just may hear God’s invitation for us to be His hands and feet.
Prayer Is Part of Our Relationship with God
God can and does work directly in response to prayers, but He has also invited us into a relationship with Him, to be citizens of His kingdom through whom His sovereign will is carried out in the Earth. When God works directly, our circumstances might change. When He asks us to work on His behalf, we can change as well.
When God supplies His Holy Spirit to enable us to do His will, our faith, love, and worship of God increase. We don’t change God’s heart, mind, or will as we pray. He changes us, both as we pray, and as we see the results of our prayer.
Prayer is our willful engagement in the relationship that we were created to be a part of all along. Sin entered and created separation. Jesus tore down the wall of separation, allowing us to enter again into relationship with our Creator, which includes allowing Him to shape our heart and to lead us into actions that result in His glory.Prayer is our willful engagement in the relationship that we were created to be a part of all along. – Loren Gjesdal Click To Tweet
The Purpose for which We Were Created
Why bother to pray? Philip Yancey describes prayer as “keeping company with God.” Prayer is God’s personal invitation to engage in direct, one-on-one relationship with Him, the very purpose for which we were created. We don’t pray to change God, but as we pray, we should expect God to change both, us, and often through us, the world around us.
Prayer is that mechanism through which God has ordained for His will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven. And that’s why we should bother to pray — without ceasing (but that’s a topic for another time).
If you would like to learn more about the purpose and discipline of prayer, consider registering for the Artios class, Prayer Ministry!
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