Why Pray? God already knows what He's going to do.
Why Pray? God already knows what we need or want.
Why Pray? It doesn't really change anything.
Pray? Why Pray? Why Pray? I have been asked this question by so many
people. And, their arguments are logically compelling. Their emotion is
honest and often heart-breaking.
One influential woman in my
life, Carol Nauta, struggled with this before her death. She heard a
pastor friend of mine share a personal story about his own life. He
showed graphic pictures of his minivan and explained how he and his
family had survived a terrible accident. "Praise God!"
concern was, "Would he still be praising God if they hadn't all walked
away from that accident?" If not, her feeling was that the, "Praise
God", wasn't genuine.
She wondered aloud with me. "Why pray? What good does it really do? We just have to trust God that He'll do what is best."
So, for Carol, who lost her life in a tragic accident and heard us singing, "Blessed Be Your Name", at her funeral, I guess this is my best reply to your question.
Let me begin with the three questions I posed earlier. Each one exposes a different lie we tend to believe about prayer.
1 - Why Pray? God already knows what He's going to do.
is true. Some have a picture of God waiting around until it is time to
act. Possibly waiting until we pray in order to decide what to do. The
Bible doesn't describe God this way nor is it how we experience Him in
our daily lives.
God is constantly at work all around us, and we miss most of it.
So, the response of healthy spirituality is not trying to convince God
to act. He is acting. The act of prayer is not to motivate God. God is
Our hope is to discover what He is
doing. Prayer opens us up to see what God is doing all around us and to
understand His will. Prayer is not about telling God what to do. It is
about perceiving what God is doing, what we have missed in the midst of
our own business or our own busyness.
2 - Why Pray? God already knows what we need or want.
is true. Some have this picture of God wanting to hear about our fickle
desires and longings and ever-changing moods as if our prayers are the
tabloids of His life. He can't wait to get the juicy details of our love
lives, who we are fighting with, and what's the latest gossip on our
friends. They think that God somehow benefits from us pouring all of
this out to Him in prayer.
The Bible describes God
differently though. Many times when people cry out to God, they feel
that he is not listening, not caring about the agony that they are going
through. That is not to say that their feelings are accurate, but
rather just the opposite.
How you feel during prayer
is much less important than we have been led to believe. Our spiritual
and emotional health depends on us knowing what we are feeling and being
able to express it appropriately. That is true enough. But, whether we
feel like God is listening doesn't change the reality that He is
Often, it takes our time of prayer to pour
out our hearts to God before we realize what we want and need and the
difference between the two. Then, in prayer, in the presence of God, God
can begin to reveal to us why we think we want certain things or need
certain things. He can reveal to us the deeper truths, the greater needs
that so easily elude us in the busyness of our lives. In these times of
silence and solitude, of focused prayer, of listening prayer, our needs
and wants can be transformed to fit with reality, with the truth.
3 - Why Pray? It doesn't really change anything.
is the least true of these statements. It is true in that it doesn't
usually change outcomes (except when God does something truly miraculous
and sometimes He does!). It is false, however, when we consider how prayer
changes us and changes our relationship with God.
directly changes us. It allows us to step back from our lives, to
recognize that God is in control and not us, and to see what God is
doing all around us.
As we are changed through prayer,
our relationship with God is changed. We recognize God's work in our
lives, our role in His plans, and we are more willing to be obedient to
His Spirit when He leads in some way. Sometimes, prayer can cause us to
change our habits, choices and words based on our new understanding of
reality. This influences all of our other relationships.
action may dictate our own action in response. Or, we may be called to
participate in His action and so partner with Him in His work. Or, we
may just be able to marvel at His work and give Him praise.
in prayer, we learn to recognize God's
activity in our lives and acknowledge His will. Then, in prayer, we
surrender our own needs and wants and allow Him to change them, to align
them with His will. And, finally, prayer changes us, changes our
relationship with God and changes our relationship to those around us.
is all very reasonable. For those of us who want a more personal answer
to "Why pray?" here it is. Prayer is when the best part of me, the part
that is longing to draw closer to God, to live for God, to love God
with all that I am is nourished and refreshed and feels alive and free.
It is in prayer that I feel at peace with myself and all of the
circumstances in my life. It is through prayer that I experience the
presence of God in my life and am reminded that all is well with my soul
simply because God is present. His presence changes me and therefore
The task of the Christian is "to
become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and
participate and take delight in it," (p.4, The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene H. Peterson.)
is how we learn to love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our
soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind and to love our neighbor
Take some time to pray, just be you in the presence of God, and be ready for God to transform you so that you become who you were created to be a little more each moment.