Why bother praying?

I believe in God and seek to live a Christian life. Although I was taught that prayer is an important factor in our relationship with God, I wonder if it is really necessary. The Bible teaches that He is all-knowing, loving, and always ready to give what is best for us. Why then should we pray?

Once I was discussing spiritual issues with an intelligent, articulate young man. Suddenly he startled me with an outburst. “This whole idea of prayer is foolishness!” He knew about prayer and what the Bible said about it. Yet I wanted to probe him a bit. “What do you mean prayer is foolish?” I asked. “Well,” he said, “prayer doesn’t affect God in any way. The Bible says that ‘God is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ So anything you say to Him will not change Him. God knows everything anyway. He says, for example, ‘Before they call I will answer.’ What good does praying do if He already knows? It’s a waste of time.”

Makes sense, right? Wrong, and here’s why.

First, in the Bible, God says we should pray. “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” (1 Timothy 2:8).1 “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Prayer impacts the quality of our lives. As Ellen White writes so beautifully, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.”2

Second, Jesus, our example, prayed. If prayer doesn’t make any difference, why was Jesus praying—sometimes all night, and at Gethsemane to the point of shedding blood as sweat? Was He not aware of His Father’s plans and purposes? The prayer of Jesus shows that prayer is more than asking for something—it is being in constant communion and fellowship with God. It also reveals that only by dependence on God can one receive strength and power to complete one’s mission and purpose in life. Prayers in Gethsemane and on the Cross are prime examples.

Third, we ought to pray for each other. Jesus once said to Peter, “‘I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail’” (Luke 22:32). Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him thrice, but He also knew that there is power in intercessory prayer and that it is important that the person involved should know he is being prayed for. So intercession is another important aspect of a Christian’s prayer life. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Of course, prayer includes placing our needs before God. Daniel prayed, fully aware that God knows everything. Paul prayed continually for himself, his mission, and his congregations, even though he knew that they are all in God’s hands. Prayer is not so much to inform God of our needs, so He works on things our way, but to connect with His mind and heart. We can then begin to think His thoughts and understand His way, bringing our praying into harmony with His will.

So why do I bother praying? Because God wants me to, Jesus modeled it, the apostles practiced it, and it connects me to the mind and heart of God.

Don Driver is the senior pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Beltsville, Maryland, U.S.A. His e-mail address: ddriver4@juno.com

Notes and references:

  1. All Bible passages are quoted from the New International Version.
  2. Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publ. Assn., 1956), p. 93.