by Matt Slick
Why should we pray? We should pray because God tells us to pray and because we are told such prayers matter to God and prayer glorifies God. We should pray so that we can participate in spiritual battle, be humbled, and finally. We should pray because it changes us.
First of all, prayer is the practice of the presence of God where we as followers of Christ seek God in spoken or thoughtful form and where we make our requests and confess our sin to God Almighty. Prayer is the exercise of faith in the ability of God to hear us and to respond to us. Prayer is a privilege of the Christian. It is the means by which God has allowed us to communicate with Him, to find His will, and to conform ourselves to His character in Christ. This is what prayer is. But, not only that, there are reasons we should pray.
We should pray because God has commanded us to pray.
God tells us to pray. It's as simple as that. We should pray because that's what He wants for us to do. He has His reasons, and He knows what is best for us, and prayer is one of the ways to accomplish His will in our lives. In fact, Jesus, who is God in flesh and can do whatever He so desires, prayed to God the Father for the will of the Father to be done (Luke 22:42). In fact, in many places, Jesus tells us to pray.
- Matthew 6:6, "'But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.'"
- Matthew 6:9–13, "'Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'"
- Luke 6:28, "'bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.'"
Not only does Jesus tell us to pray but also He tells us how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). He tells us to be forgiving, to seek the will of God, to pray quietly, with humility, and with expectation.
Paul the apostle also tells us to pray.
- Philippians 4:6, "'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.'"
- Colossians 4:2, "'Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;'"
- 1 Timothy 2:1–2,"'First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.'"
So, prayer is a command of Scripture, and if we love the Lord, we should seek Him in prayer. It is a form of worship and obedience to God. It is a privilege that we have because it is bought with the blood of Christ.
We should pray because our prayers matter to God.
God loves us and is concerned for us. He knows that by praying, we are seeking Him. This is pleasing in His sight, and it is consistent with His desire to love us and to provide for us. Prayer is the place where we encounter Him, spend time with Him, and enjoy His presence. He cares about us, which He has proven by the cross. He is not a distant father who is unreachable and uncaring. Quite the contrary, He is "Abba," daddy (Gal. 4:6), and He desires to hear from us because He loves us and cares about us.
Just as our children's' concerns are important to us and we want to enjoy their fellowship, so, too, with God. Our concerns are important to Him, and in prayer, He enjoys our fellowship.
We should pray because our prayers glorify God.
When we pray, we are depending on God. We are admitting our inability in so many things and in so many ways. That is why we turn to Him and trust Him as the sovereign Lord. It is a form of worship. And, all of this glorifies Him. Our prayers to Him mean that we are honoring Him and praising His name as we acknowledge His greatness and ability to not only hear us but also to answer. In prayer, we praise His name. In prayer, we are acknowledging that the only way to God is through Jesus.
We should pray because we can participate in spiritual battle.
In prayer, we can ask God to move in the spiritual realm. We can ask Him to send His angels to war against the demonic horde. We can seek His will in our own lives as we resist the evil one.
In addition, we have our own spiritual battles that we must fight against. The enemy, the devil, "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Since He is a spiritual being, we need spiritual weapons to fight Him. Prayer is just what we need.
- Matthew 26:41, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
- Phil. 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
- Colossians 1:9, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."
- Philemon 4–5, "I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints."
We should pray because it humbles us.
Prayer is a humbling activity. We often get on our knees and bow our heads, which is a sign of complete submission. Our hearts match our physical position as we seek our Lord. We are depending completely on Him or trusting in His great knowledge and providence to be able to answer our prayers. Of course, those answers fall into three main categories: yes, no, and wait. But, whether the answer to our prayers in our requests is granted or not, we should always have the attitude that His will should be done not ours (Luke 22:42). This requires humility.
By depending on Him, we are being humble. Such humility is something God desires in us and for us. He resists the proud (James 4:6). But He does not desire humility for us without experiencing it Himself. After all, Jesus humbled Himself when He became one of us.
Philippians 2:5–7, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."
So, prayer is the practice of humility before our Great and Almighty God.
We should pray because it changes us.
When we pray, it conforms us to the person of Christ. There is something about being in the presence of God in prayer with an attitude of humility that has a positive effect on us. I can't quantify what it is. I can only tell you that the more time you spend in prayer, the more your heart is softened, your will is conformed to God's will, your attitude becomes gentler, and your hope is restored.
Philippians 4:6–7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Prayer changes us more quickly than does our experience. In prayer, we experience God's wonderful presence and that has a profound affect. God uses our experiences to change us too, but in prayer, we can be more quickly and wonderfully changed.
Inside the Bible
Matthew 6:5–8, "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."
Mark 11:25, "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions."
Romans 8:26, "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; . . . "
1 Peter 3:7, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
Jude 20–21, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."
What is prayer?
Prayer is the practice of the presence of God. It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence on God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.
Can we change God's mind with prayer?
How is it possible for us to influence God who has always known all things from eternity? Does God interact with us in some sense of knowing what we will do and decide to do things in response? Or, does God decree whatever shall come to pass, including our prayers, so that all our prayers are ultimately within His will? The debate within Christianity is deep. However, Scripture is clear.
"In the Bible prayer is worship that includes all the attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates him in prayer. This highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought of as communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. Prayer in the Bible is not a ‘natural response’ (see Jn. 4:24). ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Consequently, the Lord does not ‘hear’ every prayer (Is. 1:15; 29:13). The biblical doctrine of prayer emphasizes the character of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with him, and his entering fully into all the privileges and obligations of that relation with God." (Wood, D. R. W., and I. Howard Marshall. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).