Imagine one of those on-the-street interviewers has just come up to you and shoved a microphone in your face. You had been enjoying a cool breeze and a hot cup of coffee, but now you’re staring into the biggest camera you’ve ever seen and a crazed looking reporter is blinking at you.
“Do you pray?” the interviewer begins.
“Of course! Every day!” you reply. So far, so good.
“Why?” the interviewer presses.
Hopefully you would answer that prayer is one of the ways that we can grow our relationship with our Lord and Heavenly Father. That is the most important reason. But the interviewer doesn’t think that’s good enough.
“No, really,” he continues, “why do you make requests to God? I mean, haven’t you read Matthew 6:8? It says, ‘For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.’ Aren’t you just wasting your time?”
What? You yank out your phone and search the verse in your Bible app. The guy’s right. The Bible does say that. So why do we bother asking God for things we need?
Do you know?
Obviously, God wants us to pray. Look at Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” or at 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” What about 1 Timothy 2:1 or Ephesians 6:18-19? Besides all of these, Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6, and we watch Jesus continually praying Himself while here on the Earth.
It’s astounding, but when we pray and even make requests to the Most High God, He listens to us, and answers our prayers (whether He answers with a “yes” or a “no”). While we read the Bible, we watch God heal people, give direction, and work miracles at the prayers of those who follow Him. But God is omniscient! He knew that Hannah wanted a baby (1 Samuel 1) and that Jonah wanted out of the fish stomach (Jonah 1-2), but He waited until they asked.
C. S. Lewis hit the nail right on the head, when he said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” God asks us to pray when he knows exactly what we will say and what we will think while we are saying it (see Psalm 139:2), and He does it for our sake.
Imagine if God just did things for us without us ever asking. We always had enough food, always had enough money, and always knew exactly what we should do. How long would it take before we stopped thanking God for those blessings? It would take no time at all for us to forget that God was doing those things and that we could never have done them without Him.
The essence of prayer is dependence. We, as humans, are so incredibly weak and helpless, living in the shadow of legions of things we can’t control. We need to be constantly looking up and realizing that God is both our strength and our refuge, to borrow some language from the Psalms.
In the interview at the beginning, your first answer was still the correct answer. God wants us to ask for what we need, even to ask repeatedly, but we don’t pray so that God will notice us or so that He won’t forget our problems. We pray so that our dependence on God grows. Prayer allows us to know Him, His power, and His comfort all the more through difficulties. And as C. S. Lewis said, that reliance has to be an intentional attitude every day. If we depend on God one day, that doesn’t cover us for the next. Every day is full of new challenges that can only be met with His strength and wisdom.I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee. -Annie Hawks, 1872