What’s the point of prayer?
If God knows everything already, what’s the point of telling Him what He already knows is on your mind? If He already knows what’s going to happen, what’s the point of asking Him to do something you would like to see occur?
Sometimes I simply pray and say, “Dear God, concerning all that concerns me, what’s on your mind? In Jesus name, Amen.”
The short answer to why we pray is that our Father appreciates the discussion.
In all honesty, I find this appreciation—this enjoyment of His with us—mind bending. In the first place, the simplicity is challenging to embrace when my life feels so complex. In the second place, that the Divine One, Creator of all that is, and Supreme Lord of lords finds pleasure in my engagement is…beyond words.
There is a great deal about prayer and the talk of prayer I do not understand, e.g., storming the gates of heaven, moving the heart of God, travailing in prayer, collaborating with others to influence God’s decisions, praying persistently in order to get what you ask, etc.
But for all the mysteries, I do understand conceptually that prayer is talking with God. Granted, why He desires to engage me in discussion is inexplicable apart from the mystery of His passionate love for me.
Apart from engaging him with my whole heart, there is not much I bring to the table. He certainly doesn’t need my opinion, although through prayer, it is apparent He values hearing from me. And as is the case with any discussion, it is a two-way street. He would like for me to listen and value what He has to say as well.
There are lots of Bible verses and passages about prayer—and folks a lot smarter than me have written books and commentaries on the subject—but one verse has held my attention for a number of years. Isaiah opens his book with seventeen verses of grievous discontent on God’s part and then records this statement by God: “Come now! Let us reason together” (Is. 1:18a).
Based upon the first seventeen verses of the book, there’s every reason for God to distance Himself and no reason for Him to engage. This divine invitation to discuss things is not even a whole verse. It’s a mere 18 verses into a 66-chapter-long tome of holy writ dealing with lots of serious stuff. “Come here! Let’s talk,” He says. And furthermore, as if this translation isn’t staggering enough, the word “reason” can equally be translated “dispute.”
It seems to me that good parents understand this concept somewhat. For example, one of their darlings runs amok, and chases a series of bad decisions with another and another. They create havoc and bring disarray to the family. Their just due would be banishment, and some form of time away might follow, but only after the parent says, “Hey buddy (or princess)! Let’s sit down and discuss this.”
Like the parent needs to be enlightened by their eight-year old.
Like the child is going to offer a dispute that justifies the havoc they’ve created.
Like the parent has either time in their day or place in their brain for childish inanities.
Yet, the good parent invites—frequently orders—that a summit occur for two reasons: a) so the child is clearly respected and their perspective validated, and b) for the relational engagement.
Everything else is secondary to respect and relationship.
As nearly as I can figure, when God dictates that we should pray without ceasing (1 Th. 5:17), it has nothing to do with collecting information and everything to do with unceasing affirmation from our Father that we matter to Him. If He already knows everything, what other explanation is possible?
I do labor when I pray at times, not so much over what God wants, but what I want from God. Still though. While any worthwhile discussion about important matters should be passionate, I can’t help but wonder if my angst in prayer doesn’t belie who God is while revealing a shortfall in my faith.
Here’s the deal: What’s important about prayer is not that I understand it but that I practice it.
In the same way God makes us parents and uses that relationship as a metaphor for our relationship with Him, He gives us the metaphor of marriage. As parents, we grasp a bit better what God means when He says He is our Father and we are His children. As a spouse, we are better able to conceptualize our relationship with God when He says He is like a husband and we are like His wife.
Thinking then about prayer within the context of marriage, I talk with my wife and don’t fully understand the exchange—and neither does she—but we enjoy and engage in the practice.
Prayer is similar!