The purpose of praying has little to do with asking God for things. We pray because God wants us to. Praying is a conversation with God. However, does God really need our prayers? God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us.
God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. If that’s the case then why does God want me to pray in the first place?
Prayer is a means God gives us for us to build a trusting relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with Him. He’s already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. Yet, since a loving relationship with Him is God’s highest concern for us, He constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated. Because of this, God seems to ordain that some things will only be done through prayer.
If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective? We need to remember that God commands us to pray for several reasons. First, prayer is a constant reminder for us that God is the only source for help and strength. When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.
Second, we need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition. We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer. However, God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. One does not make a request, pull a lever down and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference? What did or did not work?
There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the cosmos. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world. To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?
Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayers. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see.
** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.