If God knows everything, why should we ask him for things he already knows we need?
The Bible gives us many examples of God’s people at prayer. ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help’ (Psalm 39:12). ‘They all joined together constantly in prayer’ (Acts 1:14). ‘I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers’ (Ephesians 1:16). We are even told that we must pray – ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’ (Colossians 4:2). ‘I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer’ (1 Timothy 2:8). But if God knows everything, why do we need to pray?
Moved to pray
God really does know everything – ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ (Psalm 139:16). He knows everything that has already happened, everything that is currently happening, and everything that is ever going to happen.
This means that every time we pray he already knows what we’re going to pray about. He knows whether we’re going to say ‘thank you’ for something he’s done for us, or if we’re going to make some request.
He also knows the outcome of the prayer. For example, if you are praying for a non-Christian friend to come to church, he knows if they will come. So does this mean that if you didn’t pray your friend would come anyway? Perhaps so, but I believe God moves us to pray for the very things that he has planned.
The same applies to conversion. God has already chosen those who will be converted (Ephesians 1:4-5). Yet we are encouraged to pray for non-Christians and to hold evangelistic events so that non-Christians might seek the Lord. Why go to all this effort if God has already chosen who he is going to save?
Because God moves us to pray and evangelise as the means or agency by which he brings his purpose to fruition.
So does prayer make a difference? In one sense, no, because God has planned what is going to happen anyway. But just as he plans the outcome, so also he plans the means without which the outcome couldn’t happen!
So can we stop praying then? Obviously not. God tells us to pray. We are even told to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17) – that’s a lot of prayer!
The benefits of prayer
Apart from being the means through which God works his sovereign will, we gain many benefits through prayer. Think about the last time you prayed. Was it a quick prayer in a frightening situation? Was it a conversational-type prayer – just talking to God? Was it a confused plea for advice? Was it even your first prayer to a previously unknown God?
If you are a Christian you will know how you feel after praying to God. Your worries and anxieties fade. You feel as if you’ve just spent time with your best friend. A smile appears on your face and your head feels clear again. Prayer is good for you!
Prayer develops your relationship with God and helps you feel closer to him. This is a privilege that only Christians have – a close relationship with a heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his Son. Prayer helps you to grow in grace – leaving behind old sins and keeping one step ahead of the devil.
Prayer lets God carry your cares and you can leave your worries, fears and questions with him. Prayer lets you know that God is still there and that he still cares!
Are we ignoring God?
I’m sure God is pleased when we turn off the TV, put our other tasks aside and settle down for a good long chat with him! Here are some words from a song by a Christian band called Kutless. Listening to this song often makes me sad because I know I don’t pray enough!
‘Why do you run, why do you hide, oh, don’t you know I just want to be with you? Looking down from above as you watch TV, wondering why you’re ignoring me. Do you remember when I came to you and you loved me? …
‘Whatever happened to the love, the love you had for me, when you first came to me?
‘Don’t you know that I died, died so I could be with you for ever? Why do you run, why do you hide, oh, don’t you know I just want to be with you?’
Whether or not you like the way the song puts it, this is a biblical truth – God wants us to commune with him in prayer. True worshippers, said the Lord Jesus, ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship him’ (John 4:23).