Why Pray when God Already Knows What We Need?


Father God, 
who brought heaven down to us
and whose reputation is spotless, 
we offer you our whole hearts. 
May you accomplish your will in and through us
in our time and in our places here upon the earth.
Give us what we need for this day so we are nourished and sustained.
Forgive us our sins for too often we stumble along life’s path. 
Because you forgive freely, we commit to forgiving others 
knowing they too stumble in similar ways.
We ask you, Lord, to protect us from the enemy’s schemes
and from temptations that could turn us away from your glorious purpose.
You spoke and everything that is came into existence.
You are committed to holding all things together through your power and might.
Always and forever, You alone are worthy of worship.
Oh God, who is Light and Love, receive our prayer. 
Let it be so.

The Bible says in in Matthew 6:8 that God knows what we need before we ask Him. That very fact is enough to keep many people from asking God for anything. 

If we look at the verse in context, we notice Jesus was explaining how unnecessary and ineffective it is to make a show out of prayer. Prayer isn't necessary at all in the sense that God knows what we need all the time. Jesus pointed out that those who prayed loudly in public and repeated many words were heard by everyone within hearing distance. They easily accomplished what they set out to do. They were heard but that was all that happened.

Jesus wanted his followers to understand the quiet nature of prayer. Words spoken for attention alone were meaningless and powerless. Prayer happens in the context of relationship. Asking is a healthy part of our conversation with God our Father. 

Recently, I read someone's take on the kind of relationship that assumes asking as a primary way of approaching prayer. The writer must have grown up in a similar situation as a teenager as me because he related asking in prayer to a common interaction that I could understand.

On Friday nights when I was in high school, I would go to my mother and ask for money to go to into town to watch the Panthers play football or basketball, and then afterward, to cruise around town with my friends. You know, I needed a tank of gas and a cherry limeade. Mom didn’t leave money on the table for me. She expected me to ask her if it was okay for me to go and to ask for the funds I needed for my social activities. It was unspoken that this was the way this privilege was arranged. She expected me to ask even if her plan was to provide for my entertainment. I'm sure she had gone by the bank on her way home from work so she'd have cash in her wallet.

My mother loved and trusted me. She gave me enough to meet my needs and to bless me. I didn’t have to beg. It was natural in our relationship to ask from one another. My asking reminded me of my dependence on her. It gave me an opportunity to acknowledge her care with a simple, "Thanks, Mom." There were times when she asked things of me and (most of the time) I was willing to do what she asked. Our relationship was built on love.

James instructed us that we don’t have because we don’t ask---or if we ask, we do it with wrong motives. (James 4:3)

Jesus' model prayer teaches us how to pray with a right understanding of God our Father. Repeating words we know by heart misses the whole point. Jesus was showing the reality of our relationship to God. By meditating and entering into the truths of this important prayer, we enter deeper into the reality of our loving relationship with God.

In the above prayer, I paraphrased Jesus’ model prayer in my own words expounding on what the Holy Spirit has taught me over many years as His follower and friend. I think it blesses his heart when I remember his character and faithfulness. I know He wants me to depend on him for my needs whether it is for bread for my body or bread for my soul. Rewording the prayer in my voice transforms it from the mere rote prayer that I learned as a child into something much more intimate. 

By using the word "we" in my paraphrased prayer rather than changing the pronoun to "I," I position my heart to remember that my relationship with God isn't exclusive. I am part of God's family. My life matters in relation to others. God knows this and it is important that I acknowledge this reality as well. He doesn't think I'm being presumptuous to ask on behalf of my brothers and sisters.

I challenge you to think again about your prayer life and consider paraphrasing The Lord’s Prayer in your own voice. I read several versions of the prayer in different translations so I could begin to move away from the prayer I know by heart and think about what Jesus was teaching. I will always love that version but as I grow older, I want to grow deeper in my prayer life. This rephrasing is one exercise toward that intention.

Prayer is important or Jesus wouldn’t have taught concerning it. Imagine if you had been the person who asked Jesus how to pray? When He gave you the model prayer, would you have been convinced that prayer is a vital part of living in the kingdom of God? Will you consider the model prayer is the answer He would give you were you to ask him to teach you to pray today?

Our actions follow our beliefs. The day we believe Jesus’ instructions regarding prayer is the day we become people who pray.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)

Comments

  1. I love this so much. Thank you Dea. The analogy of asking your mother for money every week is spot on. He already knows what we need but accepting an answer we don't expect is where trust and faith begin.

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  2. I love it too!! Have kept this post and your paraphrase of Ps 8.
    Love what Shelly says too.
    Your writing is so inspiring Dea!
    Many blessings, Mary G.

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