Q: If God knows what we need and when we need it, and he knows everything we think about, why do we need to pray?
A: This is a very interesting question!
There are a number of different elements to this: a theology of prayer; a discussion on the character of God as our provider; the theology of Divine Omniscience; and also the tension between Divine Sovereignty and Human freedom.
However, at the very heart of this question (at least as it is worded) is the relationship between God and Man. Quite simply: we don’t need to pray. We get to pray! This is an awesome reality that most of us fail to truly understand.
We need to take a moment to realize that our ideas and conceptions of God (who He really is) fall woefully short of the reality. This is an understatement. The box that we have God in is not sufficient or worthy of Him … but in some ways it is necessary because our finite minds can never fully contain nor comprehend the infinite God who lives and reigns.
Still, we must try to wrap our minds around how He has chosen to reveal Himself in His word. In the Scriptures we see God manifest Himself on a number of occasions to humans – some notable examples are Isaiah 6:1-6, Ezekiel 1:22-28, and Revelation 1:12-17.
In describing the coming of the Lord in His glory, the book of Revelation says:
The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Revelation 6:14-17, NASB)
The reality of who God is should cause us to tremble at His name. There is no one and nothing on Earth or in all of Creation to whom He can be compared. All of the power and glory that we know is but a small fraction of the power and glory contained in Him. Volcanic eruptions, nuclear bombs, and the blazing of our Sun are nothing when compared to the One who spoke the universe into existence.
He is God.
In His presence, no unrighteousness or impurity can stand. See how the prophet Nahum describes our God:
A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither; The blossoms of Lebanon wither. Mountains quake because of Him And the hills dissolve; Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, The world and all the inhabitants in it. Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire And the rocks are broken up by Him. The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site, And will pursue His enemies into darkness. Whatever you devise against the LORD, He will make a complete end of it. Distress will not rise up twice. (Nahum 1:2-9, NASB)
“Distress will not rise up twice.” That means the Lord doesn’t mess around … and when He brings judgment, He doesn’t have to do it again!
He is God. There is none like Him.
We must add to our understanding who we are:
as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
"THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS";
"WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS";
"THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN."
"THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." (Romans 3:10-18, NASB)
If we weren’t trembling before … we should be now! On our own, we have no chance before God. We’d have a worse chance of surviving an encounter with God than a birthday candle would of withstanding the blast from a rocket ship taking off for space!
Yet this is part of the Good News of the gospel:
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- (Colossians 1:21-22, NASB)
This is awesome. So’s this:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25, NASB)
Because of Christ, we who believe can stand in the presence of the Almighty. Because of Christ, we are invited to enter into the Holy of Holies. Because of Christ, we get to pray to our God. (See also Psalm 34:15 and Proverbs 15:29).
Because of Christ, God’s disposition towards us is forever changed from being under His wrath to experiencing His love and favor (John 3:36).
What’s perhaps even more amazing than all of this, is that God adopts us into His family and delights in giving us good gifts and for providing for our needs as His children (see Micah 7:18; Matthew 7:11; Galatians 3-4; James 1:17; and Romans 8:32). God also desires that we participate with Him in His work of salvation by being co-laborers with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Prayer is part of our participation in this labor – relying on His strength to accomplish those things that we cannot. As we yield ourselves to Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we pray to God that He would accomplish His purposes in us and through us (see Matthew 6:9-13, especially verse 10).
Likewise, God is pleased to give us a meaningful part in His work in that our prayers release His power (Revelation 8:3-5). Although God does the work, our participation in prayer is significant and if we fail to participate with Him our disobedience means that there is a lack in what God is willing to accomplish in our midst (James 4:2).
One final element to consider: God delights in us because we are His creation. As a Person, God desires that we have genuine and true fellowship with Him. A similar question could be asked:
If our parents know what we need and when we need it why do we need to talk to them?
Hopefully, we would answer this question by saying, we want to talk to them because our relationship with our parents is more important than simply the “stuff” they give us! In the same way, shouldn’t our relationship with our Heavenly Father be more than simply Him silently providing our every need without us talking to Him?
We don’t need to pray. We get to pray.
Have you spoken to your Heavenly Father today?