The other day I was listening to a radio segment about prayer. Someone had called in and asked the question, “Why bother?” If God has already planned out everything and knows what’s going to happen, and if God already knows what I want anyways, then why bother praying?
The question is a good one. I however was not satisfied with the answer given on the radio show. The speaker said that we need to pray only for the sake of relationship. There was also a vague comment about a verse in James saying “you don’t have because you don’t ask.” The answer given is incomplete, and partially incorrect.
Indeed God is omniscient, that is, he knows everything. He can see everything that will ever happen in history, and he does indeed know your heart and what you will ask him. It is also true that the Bible says we need to ask in order to receive. But it is false to say that we need not ask because God already has planned everything out. God is sovereign, in control of all things, but he has not made us robots that our lives are pre-planned, absent of free will. God knows what is going to happen, but he foresees these things in his omniscience. He may lead us to do his will, but we still ultimately have the choice to obey or disobey, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit or not.
Secondly, error lies in thinking the only kind of prayer is petition, or asking God for something. Indeed the most important thing about prayer is relationship with God. God is not a cosmic genie in a bottle that grants our every wish and whim. He is a loving Father who longs to have a relationship with us. He longs to welcome us into his family as the prodigal ran back to his father’s arms and was reconciled to him and forgiven his sin. Prayer is not only talking to God, but also listening to him talk back to us.
Ephesians 6:18a says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” There are different kinds of prayers. There are petitions, which is when we ask God for something. There are also prayers of adoration and worship of God, expressing our praise and love for him. There are prayers of thanksgiving to God, expressing our gratitude for the things God has done in our lives. There are also prayers of intercession, which is when we pray fervently for the needs and requests of other people.
In order to have a balanced and fulfilling prayer life, all kinds of prayer must be used. Again, we must not treat God as simply a genie in a bottle. He is our Father in heaven, and he is holy. We must adore him; we must thank him; he is worthy of all praise. We must also pray, not selfishly only for ourselves, but for the needs of others as well.
Most importantly, we must pray because it nurtures our relationship with our Heavenly Father. How can you have a relationship with someone you never talk to? Or how can you have a relationship with someone if you do all the talking and none of the listening? You couldn’t do it in an earthly relationship; how could you expect to do the same in a heavenly relationship with Almighty God?
Finally, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).