“Why do we need to pray if God knows what we are going to say before we think it?” The question took me completely by surprise. This was a group that had been meeting to encourage one another, to provide for ourselves a forum of spiritual accountability. As the question bounced off the walls, I noted in thought, the other hearers were obviously as perplexed by the question as I.
Confession being good for the soul, I admit now we dismissed the question and proceeded down another path. Somehow the words would not leave me and I found myself revisiting it over the next few weeks.
“So God”, I asked. “If you are aware of my thoughts, why am I working at this prayer thing?”
I thought about how many times I had agonized in prayer over circumstances of ministry and personal concerns. Those struggles to find the right words, to make of my cadence appropriate offerings to the King of the Universe.
It occurred to me that though I had preached on prayer, led Bible Studies; I did not hold comfortably a theology of prayer.
In the weeks that followed, it became apparent I needed to revisit the prayers of scripture. And there in the pages of a half dozen translations, I listened to the voices of numerous individuals who too, we’re seeking to understand.
Here are a few observations on my pilgrim way:
- My passion may not be God’s passion.
- My time schedule testifies to my heart values.
- Prayer is not about changing God – it is always a way of His changing me.
- Retaliation is easy – praying for your enemy is personally redeeming.
- Time in prayer is not spent, but invested.
- Jesus prayed. Isn’t that enough?
- Jesus prayed in secret. Does God get any “alone time” with me?
- As Jesus prayed, his disciples saw authenticity – when I pray what do my people see?
- Prayer keeps life in perspective – many things in life are temporary.
- Character development happens in me when I surrender not struggle.
- Prayer needs to top my “to-do” list, especially prayer for my family.
- Prayer reminds me of my place in God’s life.
So, ultimately the answer to the question “why pray?”, is not about God, but about me. What happens to me when I pray, what changes in my ambitions, motives, and values is the focus. I am still convinced I don’t spend enough time in prayer, but what I do spend seems to have gained an eternal perspective.