What is the point of prayer?
I won’t lie, this is something I have thought about at various points in my life. Everyone always says, “God has a plan” or “It’s in God’s hands”…so why do we need to pray, then, if God is going to do whatever he wants to do anyway?
This is becoming an increasingly hot topic across social media as tragedy and divisiveness continues to strike our nation. There have been numerous instances where Christians have been told to “get off your knees”, “stop praying”, and “actually do something.” In fact, the hashtag #thoughtsandprayers went viral after the Las Vegas shooting to mock those offering their thoughts and prayers since many believe that thoughts and prayers are simply not helpful.
So what do we make of all this?
It can certainly feel like a gray area to me. Thankfully the topic of prayer and why we pray was addressed today in the Bible fellowship class that my husband and I attend at our church (Prestonwood Baptist Church). It really helped me understand many reasons why prayer is important. I figured I can’t be the only Christian on earth who has doubted the purpose and power of prayer before, so I hope someone out there will benefit from this shared information and perspective that I gained from our class today, plus some additional research that I did on my own…
Why we pray:
- Because God tells us to pray.
Here are a couple of places in scripture where we are commanded to pray:
* “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James 5:13
* “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
* “The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.” Proverbs 15:8
* “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
* “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
- Because we don’t know what we need.
Have you ever experienced a disappointment when something that you wanted didn’t work out the way you hoped? This has happened to me multiple times.For instance, I applied for a job one time and I KNEW it was in the bag. The person I interviewed with even spoke to me as if I already had the job, saying, “When you are in this position, you need to focus on this…” I mean I KNEW that job was mine. Then a couple of weeks passed by and I was informed that they selected someone else. I was CRUSHED. I kept asking God WHY did this happen?! Why did it seem SO CLEAR and then suddenly take a sharp left turn, leaving me blindsided with rejection? The answer is because it wasn’t the job I needed. It wasn’t the right one. In fact, about a year later that position was terminated by the company unexpectedly.
As Christians (and humans in general) we have to accept that we cannot and will not know all of the working parts in God’s greater plan. Sometimes hindsight is 20/20 and sometimes hindsight still makes no sense to us. Which is FINE because it does make sense to God. And if we don’t have all of the answers or insight that God has, then how can we possibly know what we really need? All we can know is how we feel right now, and what makes sense based on the limited scope of knowledge that we have gained from our life, which is only a microcosm of God’s knowledge of ALL things since the beginning of time and throughout eternity.
And this is exactly why we need to pray. Because we do not, and cannot, know what is truly best for us. We have no idea what we actually need.
* “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
This leads me to the next point…
- Total dependence.
Praying to God and asking Him to lead you in the direction that He desires, or praying for His Will to be done is part of fully submitting to God.Isn’t it interesting how even people of little to no faith turn to God in dire situations? Why is that? The answer is pretty clear: because they finally feel helpless. They finally realize that He’s the only option left and they are forced to depend upon Him. As Christians we are called to live with full dependence upon our Lord and Savior. Prayer is an act of submission.
* “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
* “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 7-9
There were more than 3 points when we discussed this in class today, but I really think the primary purpose of why we pray can be boiled down to those 3 points.
Does God always do what we ask in our prayers? No. But does God hear our prayers and consider our prayers in his plan when we pray fervently and devoutly? Absolutely. There are examples throughout the Old Testament of times when God responded to prayer and “changed His mind” because of an act of submission or prayer.
Does this mean prayer needs to replace action? Absolutely not. If you pray for God to pay your bills while you sit on your couch, it’s not going to happen. You still need to get up and DO the things God has called you to do. But prayer is an essential component to a life that is faithfully devoted to God.
Therefore, my belief stands: I will pray because God says I should, because He knows more than I do, and because, as a Christian, I should depend upon Him for everything.