Monday, May 19, 2014

Is Prayer Really Necessary? (Part One)

There is a question that often repeats in my head: Why should I pray if God knows what I am thinking anyway?

I have heard others ask: Should I pray constantly about the same thing or just pray once and leave it to God?

Let's sort through this, from the beginning. First of all, prayer is simply talking to God. This may cause us to ask "Why should I want to talk to God?" 

Some possible answers might be:

-to thank Him
-to ask for stuff
-to ask Him to forgive us for something
-to get to know Him better

If we think of our relationship with God in terms of a friendship we might have or a dating or marriage relationship, we can shed some light on our relationship with God. When you are friends with someone, how do you get to know them better? Do you ignore them or learn as much as you can about them? Do you talk to them or allow yourself to be distracted by other things on a regular basis? I'm sure you said you have to talk to someone to get to know them.

Why don't we take this approach with God? I often find myself being distracted by my computer, my phone, work, etc., and don't talk to God very much. Am I getting to know Him better? No, not really. Thankfully, one really big difference between God and a human friend is that God will always be there. When we ignore our human friends, they will eventually find other friends. A person can only stand to be ignored for so long. God, however, loves us and is extremely patient. I became a Christian when I was five years old. For a few years, I "acted" like a Christian. When I turned 11, though, I just wanted to be popular. I tried to do things that I thought would make me popular. They didn't, but they did serve to pull me away from God. I didn't recommit my life to Christ until I was nearly 20 years old. During those nine years, I did whatever I wanted to do. I turned my back on God. There were times when I felt convicted by the way I was living, but I ignored God. He, however, was always there. When I "came to my senses" at the end of my second year of college, I was overwhelmed by God's love. He waited.

Be careful you don't view God as being co-dependent, though. Does He need me? No, but He does love me and wants to have a relationship with me. It is not God's will that any of us should perish (Matthew 18:14).

Think again about your friendship/relationship. If you ask that person constantly to do something for you or to give you something, how well would you get to know them? How long do you suppose you would be friends? Probably not very long, right? Now, think about God. If we only talk to Him when we want something, will we ever see Him as anything but either a benevolent granter of wishes (if you get what you ask for) or a cruel and heartless overlord (if you don't get what you ask for)?

Did you know that God always answers our prayers? He does. If you are a parent, think about when your kids ask for something. If you aren't a parent but had a parent, think about when you asked for something. Do you/did your parents always say yes? I hope not. Children who grow up getting everything they ask for don't often make for very well-adjusted adults, but that's a topic for another post. Sometimes we say no, and sometimes we say yes. We also don't answer right away or tell our kids that we need some time to think about it. In other words, we say "wait." Why do people often say that God must not be listening or that God didn't answer a prayer when we don't get what we ask for. Why do we assume that what we want is the best thing? Read Proverbs 19:21 (NIV):

Many are the plans in a person's heart;
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

Is it unrealistic to think that the creator of the universe knows what is best? Of course not. It makes sense that He is able to see how the tapestry is woven and how one wrong thread will change the picture or how the removal of a thread will leave a gaping hole. Think about George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life. He didn't want to live, but he was able to see what life for so many would have been like if he had never been born. God knows that our hearts will ache when our loved ones pass away, those same loved ones we prayed earnestly for God to heal, but He also knows that that event is a part of the tapestry. It will shape us. It will shape the lives of those around us. My grandmother died almost 20 years ago from lymphoma. During her illness and chemo treatments, she had such joy, and she shared her love of God with anyone who came in contact with her. At her funeral, there were people even my grandfather had never seen before. He remarked that he had no idea she had touched so many people's lives. While we still miss her terribly, we can see that God had a plan for her illness and ultimately her death. Many came to believe in Him through her testimony, even my grandfather.

This leads me to the question: Should I pray constantly about the same thing or just pray once and leave it to God?

In an effort to answer this, I will see what the Scriptures say, in "Is Prayer Really Necessary? (Part Two)."

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