If God already knows everything we need, why pray?

If we believe that God is sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful and that he is a good Father who knows all our needs, then why bother to pray? Isn’t praying to God then a waste of time?

As we shall see, prayer is certainly no waste of time. Why pray then? The short answer is that God commands us to pray. Jesus instructs us to pray and even details exactly how we should pray in Matthew 6:9-13, in what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. We can see that in this prayer, we are to ask God for things. We are to ask for his kingdom to come, for his will to be done as in heaven, for him to give us daily bread, for the forgiveness of our sins, that we would be kept from temptation and be delivered from evil.

Yet the question still remains – surely God desires to grant us all these things anyway as his children, so why pray for them?

John Calvin’s insights into prayer are valuable at this point. He believed that prayer is not so much for God’s benefit, but rather for our own (see Institutes 3.20.3). Of course God knows what we need even before we ask for it. Yet it delights God when we humble ourselves and pray to him. It demonstrates that we need him, it stirs us to love and worship him and know him as our true source of life. Our affections and zeal for the Lord grow as we pray to him.

Praying to the Lord helps us understand more of God’s character: The act of praying reminds us of our frailties, weaknesses, needs and sin as we ask God to help us in these things. It is as we confess our sins in prayer before our Heavenly Father that we come to know him more as the One who is altogether perfect, good and holy, who forgives us of all our sins in Jesus Christ, who does not treat us as our sins deserve, who has compassion on us and satisfies us with good (Psalm 103:3, 5, 10, 13).

Prayer helps us see God’s faithfulness and goodness in our lives: As we see God continually answer our prayers, we will know him as a truly faithful Father who desires to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11).

Praying does actually make a difference: Throughout Scripture we see God’s people pray and God answering those prayers. Think of Moses pleading with God to spare his wrath from the Israelites after they had committed idolatry with the golden calf. God relented and had mercy on his people (Exodus 32:11-14). Or when Elijah asked God to send rain upon Israel after a long drought, and God sent a great rain (1 Kings 18:42-46). James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16). God really does hear all our prayers through Jesus Christ, our Mediator.

Through prayer, we also know the providence of God: We come to experience for ourselves this truth that God works for good in all those who love him. That he really does provide all that we need, in his own time, and in his own way. And that we know that his covenant promises are indeed true for us – his steadfast love endures forever and never fails us. He indeed wills to help us in our troubles and pain, to provide for us in our need and to work the many hardships in our lives into good, for his glory.

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