Saturday, July 09, 2016

Why Pray if God Already Knows?

Biking on North Custer in Monroe

Why offer petitionary prayers (asking prayers) if God already knows what we need? 

I remember reading, a long time ago, C.S. Lewis's essay "Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer." Lewis writes: "The problem I am submitting to you arises not about prayer in general but only about that kind of prayer which consists of request or petition.... I have no answer to my problem, though I have taken it to about every Christian I know." (In Lewis, Christian Reflections

I think the answer involves remembering that prayer is a dialogue, a conversation, that God invites us into. This means that prayer is the manifestation of relationship with God. In this regard we are like little children in relation to God. Of course the all-knowing God already knows what we need. God pre-knows what we are going to ask, in a far greater way than a loving parent may already know what their child is going to ask. This does not somehow invalidate the child's asking or the parent's response.

I like how theologian Wayne Grudem writes about this:

"God does not want us to pray so that he can find out what we need, for Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6: 8). Instead, God wants us to pray so that our dependence on him can increase. When we come to him in prayer about something, we express a trust in him, a trust that he will hear and answer our prayers. That is why Jesus compares our prayers to a child asking his father for a fish or an egg (Luke 11: 9 – 12). As a child trusts and expects his father to provide for him, so we ought to expect, in faith, that God will provide for us. That is why Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matt. 21: 22)." (Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, Kindle Locations 591-595)

Today, in times of praying, I brought a lot of petitions to God. Jesus tells me to "ask," with a promise.So I will, again and again.

My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.