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Why pray if God already knows? That’s a big question and a stumbling block for many. It needn’t be.
Prayer is communicating with God.
First of all, we have to understand that prayer is first and foremost communication with God. It’s how we get to know him and it’s how we get to know ourselves.
A second important fact to remember is that prayer isn’t about asking anyway. I think that’s what most of us think. And in reality, if we never asked for anything in prayer, we would still be praying. Many of the prayers in scripture have no particular request at all. They are more “praise” prayers.
For example, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, prays her beautiful prayer don’t you think she would have been asking:
“Lord, what will people think? I’m pregnant Lord. It’s going to be pretty obvious soon. Will I be sent away? What are my parents going to say? Lord, I’m scared. And finally, Lord, what is Joseph going to say? If he divorces, me who will take care of me and my baby. Lord, I am so scared.
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
and has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1-46-45)
Supposedly, one could argue that this was the mother of Jesus so we can’t use her as an example. But to that I respond she was also a young, pregnant, unwed girl in a time when this was more abhorrent than it is now. To pretend otherwise is to suggest that Mary wasn’t human but a saint. She wasn’t, not in the protestant tradition anyway.
Prayer is almost like spritual therapy
So it sounds like I’m suggesting we should never present our personal requests to God. I’m not. But if we spent our prayer time worshipping God and never offered our requests, God still knows about those unspoken requests. That would seem to back up the excuse about not praying because God knows anyway.
Prayer reveals us to us
But it doesn’t. Even though God does in fact know our requests, reads our heart’s desires, knows what’s on our lips before we ever utter the words, he still asks to pray.Tweet
Why do I say that?
Because we learn about ourselves through our own prayers. We learn where our hearts are.
When I pray I hear my selfishness and lack of compassion. When I pray, I open myself up to God and even though he knows me better than I know myself, this is exactly what he wants. Prayer is almost like spiritual therapy. That is, if we are sincere.
Praying the scriptures
If we just present our daily lists of requests and never really think about them in terms of what Scripture teaches, we will go astray. That’s why, more and more, I’m praying the Scriptures. (I will share more about this next week.)
When I pray according to Philippians 1:10, (And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,) it means I am praying that those within my circle of relatives and acquaintances will be filled with knowledge and discernment.”
A good place to start
It’s too easy and simplistic at times to think we know how to pray for someone, unless, of course, they have told us. Many times, if we start with scripture, we find ourselves praying for someone in ways we hadn’t thought of before. And it all begins with scripture that just naturally directs us down the right paths.
God tells us to pray
God clearly instructs us to pray at all times and in all kinds of ways. “Pray in the spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and be persistent in your prayers for believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18.
Therefore, we pray and present our requests because this is what God teaches. But it is also true that God does indeed already know our requests. That is one hundred percent accurate. But two things can be true at the same time.
Two seemingly opposite truths
First, prayer is a mystery
“Can you discover the depths of God?
Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
That’s where the mystery of God comes into play. It seems indeed a mystery as to why God calls us to pray in light of his foreknowledge about everything anyway. The only conclusion then is just that God loves it when we talk to him. Our prayers are a gift to God. He delights in them.
But let’s be honest. Prayer is a mystery. No human can truly understand the communion with an unfathomable God. It’s beyond our understanding. Who of us can possibly explain prayer? Being in the presence of the One who created everything. I wonder why I am even writing this series, Who am I that I think I have any more to say than has already been said by far more learned and more accomplished prayers?
And yet it is when we put our collective minds together that perhaps we unfold some of the mystery.
Secondly, prayer is simple
Now for those of you who see prayer as simple and child-like, and feel I’ve made prayer too complicated, that’s not what I’m suggesting. My own prayers are very simple. However, to deny the mystery of prayer is to believe you understand the mind of God. I believe that something beyond our understanding happens when we communicate with a holy God.
Something miraculous happens when we pray. God listens. That’s beyond our feeble understanding but we can welcome it, embrace it and still admit it is a wonderful mystery.
Most importantly, we pray because God calls us to pray. Prayer is simple and mysterious.Let’s be grateful for both.
God bless and have a good day.