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Why bother to pray?

August 4, 2011

Its one of those questions which usually comes up within a Christian community rather than with those on the outside.  As we learn more about God’s omniscience, His capacity to know everything, from the Scriptures at some point each Christian will spend a moment wondering why we bother to pray. If a loving God knows everything, so the question will go, then He really doesn’t need us to pray as He knows what we need and desire before we do. This came up last night, at my Bible study group, as we looked through Psalm 12 together. Psalm 12 begins with:

Help, LORD, for the godly are no more;
the faithful have vanished from among men.

A cry for help, a prayer really for God to act, as King David looks around Him to find nothing but ungodly people. No surprise really that on looking at his neighbours, particularly if at this point King David is in Israel supposedly the country of the people of God, that on finding they are all wicked David should ask God for help. However, further on down in verse 5 we get this:

“Because of the oppression of the weak
and the groaning of the needy,
I will now arise,” says the LORD.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Here we find God saying that He has seen what is going on, the weak oppressed, the needy being ignored, and He will act. The question then which arose last night then was ‘why if God sees what is happening does He not act before we even pray’? I thought this was a good question given that God sees deeper than we can ever see. If we see sin no doubt God sees that sin as darker and more repulsive than we do, and if we have finally been led to pray about a situation we can be sure that God has been aware of it for far longer. So why the need to pray?

The answer lies in the type of God who rules the universe, the character of the God of David and of you and me. At His heart, God is a God of relationships, something which His very nature as a trinity makes clear. Even before anything was created God was in a relationship, a relationship between the three persons of the Trinity of complete love and acceptance. In creating the universe, this Triune God creates merely to share this loving relationship with other beings who can appreciate and freely choose to opt in and take such a relationship seriously. God then is looking to engage in meaningful relationships with those He has made in His image, rather than command robots who will follow His every will. God wants to be part of our lives by invitation, He wants us to want to include Him, to rely on Him, to speak to Him and to worship Him. Not because He needs such a relationship, after all he had a more perfect relationship before in Himself, but because we do!

Here then is why we are called to pray, why God waits to answer rather than jumping in and why He works with us to solve the problems which we’ve prayed about rather than magically making it all right. Through the process of praying our relationship with God is strengthened, our trust in Him is deepened and in the end such a trusting relationship with the all-powerful maker of the Universe is the one thing which will see us through any adversity even our own death!

I would love your comments on how you have come closer to God through prayer!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2011 1:07 pm

    This is beautifully expressed, Mike! Yes, it is all about having a relationship with God. As C. S. Lewis so aptly put it: “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me”. We are transformed when we seek out the Lord in prayer and in worship. He will come close to us, as you said, by invitation.

  2. August 4, 2011 1:13 pm

    Sounds like you had quite the Bible study! Great topic. This was a question that I started probing quite deeply awhile back. I like your conclusion and it is similiar to the one I came to as well.

    “God wants to be part of our lives by invitation”…I believe that to be true also. And I’ve found that oftentimes when I come to God about things which I need discernment on or things that are causing me anxiety, anger, bitterness,etc. I walk away from my time with God with a renewed sense of clarity, oftentimes a sense of direction and I feel refreshed in His presence and filled with His peace. Sometimes it seems that maybe going to God with prayer is not meant to always elicit a divine intervention from Him in our problems but perhaps instead many times our time with Him gives us the tools to solve our own problems ourselves, through the strength, direction and peace we find in Him. This glorifies Him for through our times of weakness, His strength shines forth, allowing us to overcome life’s many obstacles.

  3. August 4, 2011 1:35 pm

    I love this take on prayer Mike. I have learned over the years that prayer is really a conversation with God that we should have every day several times if we need to. I used to think that prayer was only supposed to happen before meals and at church and now I find myself doing it as soon as I wake. If for some reason I don’t, my day doesn’t feel right! 🙂

    I feel more secure and protected by his grace when I pray whether it’s lengthy or just one or two words.

    Thanks so much for this lovely post.

    • August 7, 2011 9:28 pm

      Thanks Tameka, glad you’ve moved to praying regularly and wherever you are!

  4. August 4, 2011 1:40 pm

    Sounds like a great Bible study! I’ve learned through my recent car accident that we pray to come into His presence, to drive away fear, for safety and just because we are overjoyed to still be ALIVE!!!

  5. August 4, 2011 1:41 pm

    I really love your new post Mike. I was teaching the kids how to pray last Saturday and to make it easier for them, I asked them why bother praying to create a heavier impact…The very same question you just had 🙂

    I recounted how God manifested Himself to me through prayer….through stories… through dreams and certain circumstances in my life.

    It is indeed a relationship very much like the ones we have with intimate friends. I’d talk to Him the way I’d talk to people… When I lose words, I use the Psalms…

    Praying is communicating with a person we love…it is constant…deep…not bothered by moods nor feelings…it creates fire inside and moves us to action.

  6. August 4, 2011 1:48 pm

    If I did not Pray, I could not Live.

    Prayer has become more of an event these days, and less of an ongoing dialoge with God. Praying isn’t just sking for God to intervene in your life on your behalf, prayer is a conversation on a deeper level, a spiritual level.

    Unless you pray, you will never come to recognize the voice of God, the Spirit of Christ and the directions that He is giving you.

    Christians should stop assigning a time of day for prayer (ie before bed, or after getting out of bed). Prayer should be an ongoing continuous conversation that you have with our Lord, so that you can understand His true nature, recognize His voice. And also, it keeps the ‘principalities and forces of darkness’ at bay, weakinging the strongholds and bonds that they attempt to ensare us with.

    Awesome post Mike!

    • August 7, 2011 9:30 pm

      Thanks Aaron, I agree we should be praying at all times, though I think a set time can be helpful and provides a foundation for the day. Thanks for commenting, Mike

  7. August 5, 2011 1:08 pm

    This is a beautiful post Mike. It is a question that I never ask myself tho. I have continuous conversations with God on an ongoing basis. Whether it is called praying? or what? I do it, and enjoy it. I feel that I am never alone. He is always there listening 🙂

  8. August 5, 2011 4:53 pm

    As a Christian and once very connected in God , I believe in prayer less and less…I see too much suffering in and around me… maybe someday I will again know the reason we pray..but as of yet have not found it…As always…XOXOXOX

    • August 5, 2011 5:27 pm

      Thats a sad story Bongo, given it is when we’re suffering that we need God more than ever and prayer is often the best way forward in such situations. I’ll pray for you, as always…

  9. August 6, 2011 8:31 am

    nice post. i agree that prayer is about strengthening my relationship with God not about “placing my order” for miracles. i think your Bible study group is lucky to have you 😉

    • August 6, 2011 8:35 am

      Thanks Linda, we have lots of great people in our church and bible study group with lots of people adding to the discussion! I hope your bible study is good too 🙂

  10. August 10, 2011 10:45 pm

    Great emphasis on the relational aspect of prayer. I recently read an evangelism book that actually encouraged Christians to invite Wiccans to a prayer group so they could see Christians praying! This personal relationship is something people in other religions do not have. For example, Islam teaches that you can’t know God personally or have experiential knowledge of Allah. Thanks for sharing this, Mike!

    • August 11, 2011 7:10 am

      Thanks Mikel, really interesting aspect you’ve mentioned contrasting Christian prayer to those of other religions. One of the core aspects to understanding the relationship we can have with God is the Trinity, which is of course unique to the Christian faith, and which sects which have come off from Christianity, JW’s/Mormons/Unitarians have completely misunderstood!

      • August 11, 2011 3:41 pm

        You’re welcome. Incidentally, I’m working on a series of posts about talking with cult members about the Trinity. Hope to put the first one up next week!

  11. August 10, 2011 10:57 pm

    Great Post Mike. I tweeted it to 1100 followers. Good stuff like always.

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