I was doing my devotions today with the navs handbook and it touched on a specific topic that I thought I’d share a couple of my viewpoints on, which is about why we pray. This has been a struggle for me in the past, and it’s so freeing to realise the truth of it all and to actually understand why I’m even praying. Looking back, i don’t know how i could not even understand such a simple concept. I think this understanding depends a lot on how I previously viewed God and essentially, not really knowing His heart.
What’s the point in praying when God already knows what you need?
- Lack of Prayer withholds the blessings that the Lord greatly desires to release unto us. I believe there’s so much the Lord wants to release and pour out unto His beloved children (and plus He knows what we need) but He wants us to ask him for it because…
- Prayer = Relationship.
When we recognise that prayer is fundamentally about relationship, this question becomes less important. Prayer is far more than simply asking/petitioning. But petition, nonetheless, is a hugely important aspect of prayer. It’s an open invitation for all of us, from the Heavenly Father to partner with Him, in all that He is doing on the Earth… heckyeah i wanna be part of His revolutionary plan!
Those who seek God in prayer will most likely come to an intuitive grasp of the fact that God’s knowledge of our need is not a reason not to pray, but actually reason to pray.
Jesus affirms this in Matt 6:7-9: “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:’Our Father in heaven…'”
Jesus doesn’t say: Your Father knows what you need before you ask him, thus there’s no point in praying. Rather, he suggests that your Father’s knowledge of your need is, in fact, reason to pray, not reason not to pray. The biblical perspective on prayer is definitely not: God’s going to do what God’s going to do. So what’s the point? It’s the opposite. Prayer is powerful. And it’s most powerful when prayed in line with God’s will.
So, if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and thus has the power and knowledge that it takes to intervene regardless of our asking, what is the point in asking (esp when we consider the additional fact that God will only answer our requests if it is in line with His will)??
Does God simply withhold intervention until called upon simply because he takes pleasure in being asked? That idea is probably scratching the surface. I do believe though, that one of the primary reasons God calls us to offer requests to him is indeed that he desires to be asked.
I’d be somewhat hesitant to suggest God likes it when his children come to him in great desperation with great burdens which they feel to be insurmountable. And, much like with any intimate relationship, one does not like the fact that their loved ones come to them to express anguish or hurt; rather, we desire that our loved ones come to us with such expressions (and requests). There’s nothing enjoyable about having someone we care about come to us to share their pain; it’s quite the opposite. And yet, at the same time, we strongly desire that they share their pain with us.
Surely the case is similar, yet greater, with God, who takes no pleasure in the suffering of his children. Yet he does desire that we bring to him our requests, whether small or great, whether fickle or honourable.
Maybe the most profound and yet, simple answer would to offer another question:
What else would you propose?
Why ask when God is sovereign and so on…?
Well, what else would you suggest?
What would you advocate as a viable alternative to petitionary prayer?
The reality is that God has so ordained it that he responds to the requests of his people. When people ask the “Why?” question, I wonder how much they’ve really considered the hypothetical alternatives. The only alternative thought of would be this: God being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, simply pre-empts our requests by fulfilling our needs and desires before they arise – before we even know we’re in need. If God gave us all what we needed before we knew we needed it, would we know that we needed anything? Would we even know that we needed God?
It doesn’t take much thought to wonder whether such a system is possible or even desirable. What’s our ultimate need? God. How do we know that we need God? We are unfulfilled without Him. We first follow Christ because we need Christ. And we will always need him. We continue to follow Christ because we know we need Christ.
Although there seems to be more questions than answers, surely the conclusion is clear: it all boils down to relationship.
George MacDonald puts it far more eloquently:
Also, through praying, our motives will gradually change; our requests will become more concerned with God’s glory than with our own selfish desires. In fact, our desire will increasingly be for God’s glory.
But we need not despise the fact that, in the earlier years of our walk with God, our prayers might be dominated almost entirely by requests. The reality is that we are children learning to walk before the Father. Richard Foster states that this stage is “an essential part of growing and deepening in things spiritual. To be sure, it is an inferior stage, but only in the sense that a child is at an inferior stage to that of an adult. The adult can reason better and carry heavier loads because bot brain and brawn are more fully developed, but the child is doing exactly what we would expect at that stage. So it is in the life of the spirit.” (Richard Foster, Prayer, p48)
Petition is an absolutely fundamental aspect of christian prayer. But there is of course more to prayer than making requests. And there are risks attached to the practice of prayer that is limited to solely petition. When asking greatly outweighs worship and thanksgiving, we focus on that which is not yet received. In frequently asking and rarely worshipping or thanking, we focus on the need (what God hasn’t done) as opposed to who God is, what he has done and what he is doing. This imbalance has the potential to lead the praying person to a steadily growing sense of frustration and disillusionment as prayer comes to be seen as futile. The solution to the problem lies largely in cultivating a fuller and thus more balanced prayer life. As we learn to look up, worshipping God for who he is, giving thanks for what he’s done, and holding on to his promises, we will grow in faith, hope and expectation. More importantly, we will grow in love for God. Our requests will be shaped increasingly by our knowledge of who God is and what He’s like. And, increasingly, God’s glory will be our great passion, as we seek his face before his hands.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we as or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”