Why do we pray?
Some of us may have never really asked the question.
Some of us may have never really been able to answer it.
Prayer is one of the most fundamental aspects of following God through Christ. If one opens the Bible and begins to read, it won’t take long before they recognize the prominent role prayer plays in the lives of believers.
Rather… one recognizes the role it should play.
Among well-respected Christians who have been following Christ and studying the Scriptures for decades, one of the most common struggles I hear about is prayer. To be honest, it is an area of the Christian life I struggle with as well. It’s not that I don’t think God is there, or that He doesn’t care, or isn’t listening; it’s that I have great confidence in God. I love God. I’m exceedingly grateful for the Gospel of salvation through Jesus and the steadfast leadership of the indwelling Spirit. I tell God those things a lot.
But why else should I pray? Does my input matter? Do I change God’s mind? Does a sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent God receive any joy when a weak, limited, often self-serving person like myself dares to tell Him about my life or even ask for things?
If you are someone who has struggled with prayer, may I offer a few thoughts for consideration.
Pray because… God has provided it
Ultimately all of the Christian life is about God—not us. God is the sovereign King. But the Bible tells us that this great King in His sovereignty has provided a means of communication with His people. Not only do we have an open door to the Creator of galaxies, we have the listening ear of a loving Father. The Bible is clear—in and through Christ, we have relational access to God.
Consider the words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew:
“When you pray…” (Matt. 6:5, 6, 7)
“Pray like this…” (Matt. 6:9)
“Whatever you ask in prayer…” (Matt. 21:22)
Not, if you pray; Jesus says, when you pray. Prayer is not an add-on to a relationship with Christ. Prayer is presumed by Jesus as standard equipment, and He assumes we will use it. We never need to be afraid to pray. We never need to fear that God doesn’t want us to come to Him with words of adoration, petition, and even questions. In fact, God assumes we will.
As the apostle Paul says, “For through (Jesus) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
Pray because… God knows your prayers are imperfect
Have you ever heard someone switch into “prayer mode”? When they bow their heads for prayer, they adopt a somber whispery tone and speak in staccato phrases interspersed with an inordinate amount of the words “just” and “Father.”
It’s easy to think this change of tone is because the person is being ingenuine. In all honesty, it is probably because prayer is hard.
What if we say the wrong words?
What if we say something wrong?
Good news: We will, and it’s okay.
Paul reminds us in Rom. 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Did you get that? God has already exposed us as prayer-strugglers. Instead of dismissing us or being disappointed in us, God made provision for our imperfection. And what is that provision? Just as God the Son is our intercessor, God the Holy Spirit is our holy translator.
God knows us. He listens to us. He groans alongside us. God prays with us.
Pray because… God accomplishes His will through everyday means
We often want to excuse our lack of prayer by the fact that we know God will accomplish His will in our lives, and it will be best. So let me ask…
Do we also believe God will accomplish His will for our monetary needs? Yes.
Then do we still go to work?
Do we believe God will accomplish His will in the lives of our children? Yes.
Then do we still read the Bible and share the Gospel with them?
Do we believe God will accomplish His will for the nourishment of our bodies? Yes.
Then do we still eat food?
The fact that God will do something doesn’t dismiss the ordinary means through which He chooses to do them. Just as God accomplishes the nourishment of our bodies when we eat food, God accomplishes the nourishment of our souls when we pray.
If we eat to accomplish God’s sustenance of our bodies, we must pray to accomplish God’s sustenance of our souls. It’s His way. It’s what He desires, designed and delights in.
God is sovereign, and God is good. God will accomplish His will in your physical life, so eat your food. It honors and glorifies God when we actively participate in the means through which He provides for our needs.
Likewise, God will accomplish His will in your spiritual life, so actively and continually engage the means He has provided… eat your prayers.