Have you ever asked yourself, why pray, because you’re pretty sure God already knows everything anyway. Why tell Him again?
Have you ever asked yourself, why pray, because your prayers don’t get answered the way you want them to?
You are not alone!
Over the last few weeks we’ve been laying a great foundation for better understanding prayer, and today we’ll continue to do just that — better understand prayer — by asking the question, Why pray? It’s imperative we take time to think this through because if we have a faulty or short-sighted understanding of prayer, we won’t be praying to our full potential!
I hope you’ve looked back on what and who have influenced you about prayer. Knowing these things helps us see what has shaped our prayer lives so that we can move forward, into a future with God in a deeper, more powerful prayer life.
In fact, recognizing those influences will also help each of us recognize that all our prayer experiences — good and bad — have given us a filter through which we see prayer.
Max Lucado, in his book on prayer, Before Amen, says it this way:
“We want to pray, but why? We might as well admit it. Prayer is odd, peculiar. Speaking into space. Lifting words to the sky.
…We have doubts about prayers. And we have our checkered history with prayer: unmet expectations, unanswered requests.
…Why keep tossing the coins of our longings into a silent pool?”
It’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes prayer feels like tossing coins into a silent pool. Sometimes we doubt prayer — its purpose and power. Sometimes we’ve experienced the disappointment of unanswered prayers so acutely that we give up on praying altogether, perhaps even giving up on God.
Please know that this happens to a lot of us. But don’t take my word for it! Read the Psalms. King David, also known as “the man after God’s own heart,” went to God consistently in prayer over his lifetime, but there were seasons when he felt unheard by God. And he’d tell God that. Then he’d remember all that God had done for him in the past, his faith would rise, and he’d step out in certainly that God heard him and would remain faithful to him.
If you’re feeling any of these doubts or frustrations about your prayer life, I hope you’ll draw near to God and ask Him to show you why you should pray. He is faithful. He is.
Well, Jesus prayed!
Here are a (very) few verses to illustrate this truth —
“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.” Matt. 19:13
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” Luke 22:32
“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.’” John 17:1
As Jesus-followers, we’re meant to grow more and more like Him everyday — so, if He prayed, we should too. I love what Philip Yancey had to say about this:
Philip Yancey, in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?:
“After surveying Jesus’ practice of prayer, I realize that his example does answer one important question about prayer: Does it matter? When doubts creep in and I wonder whether prayer is a sanctified form of talking to myself, I remind myself that the Son of God, who had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he devoted to caring for people.”
“The very fact that [Jesus prayed] establishes its worth. ‘Ask and you will receive,’ he said frankly, a rebuke to anyone who considers petition a primitive form of prayer. When his disciples failed in their attempts to heal an afflicted boy, Jesus had a simple explanation: lack of prayer.”
Maybe it’s enough to stop there. Jesus prayed.
But, let’s not. Another reason, closely related, is that Jesus told us to pray. Here are a few instances —
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt. 26:41
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
“Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36
And, if that’s not enough…Jesus taught us to pray!
Pastor and prayer warrior, Peter Greig, points out that the one thing the disciples asked for Jesus to teach them was prayer! (See his Seven Minute Seminary video on the Seedbed YouTube channel).
Not ministry management or even how to do miracles…but HOW. TO. PRAY.
What does that tell us?
To me, that says the disciples had watched Jesus pray, and they’d witnessed direct and divine results to His prayers. And they wanted to know how to do prayer Jesus’ way.
And He obliged by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6).
Additionally, the Bible demonstrates the effects of prayer over and over again. From Abraham and Moses, who were known to go before God to intercede for the people they loved, to the apostles of the new church — prayer is shown as powerful and effective.
One of my favorite scenes of the new church and their prayers is from Acts 4 right after Peter and John have been released from “custody” —
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
And the answer to that prayer?
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
In this passage we get the setting, the new believers’ prayer, one of David’s prayers, and the immediate answer to their prayer. I think it gives us a beautiful picture of why we pray — God hears! God responds! The Holy Spirit’s power is unleashed!
Let’s summarize what we’ve said so far — Jesus prayed, He told us to pray, He taught us to pray, and the Bible demonstrates that prayer has power. Four really great reasons for us to engage in this practice.
Yet there’s more!
I acknowledge I haven’t fully addressed the questions I posed at the beginning of this post. Honestly, it might take a few more posts to do so, but I hope you’ll tune back in to see where God is taking us on this journey of prayer.
And, in case you’re wondering where our Daily Text lesson on prayer is… Never fear! It shall be here in our Part Two of Why Pray?
Meet you next time as we continue to unpack reasons we should be praying.
Pondering prayer in whole new ways,