Throughout the Bible, believers are commanded to pray. Many years ago, when our kids were little, one of my daughters asked, “Why should we pray?”
Caught off guard, I employed a variation of my favorite answer to my children (which is, “Cuz I said so, that’s why!”) by replying, “Cuz Jesus said so, that’s why.”
Trying to make prayer seem more attractive to my young daughter, I added that it’s a wonderful way to ask God for the things we need and want. Unfortunately, after a while I think she got the impression that God is no more than a cosmic Santa Claus: we rattle off our list, and then sit back impatiently waiting for Him to deliver the loot.
I finally changed the subject, fearful my daughter would turn into Sally from the Charlie Brown Christmas special: “Make it easy on yourself, God, just send money. How about tens and twenties?”
One view of prayer is portrayed in the movie “Shadowlands,” a biography of the famous Christian author C.S. Lewis. During a crisis in his life, Lewis explained to a friend why he was praying so fervently. He said (and I paraphrase because I haven’t seen the film in many years), “I don’t pray so God will want to do my will; I pray so I will want to do His.”
When you think about it, God is indeed sovereign and omniscient; He is outside of time; He already knows every single event of our lives—past, present, and future. It would be futile for us to beg God to do one thing when He’s already ordained that something else is going to happen in our lives.
But is that the only purpose of prayer, to ask for the strength to accept our inevitable fate? In the gospels Jesus makes it clear that we SHOULD ask God for the stuff we need and want, and our prayers CAN change God’s mind.
For example, a Canaanite woman came to Jesus in desperation, begging Him to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus completely ignored her. But she simply would not take no for an answer. Finally, Jesus exclaimed, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And He healed her daughter.
And don’t forget the famous episode during the wedding feast at Cana. When the party ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother Mary went to Him and explained the embarrassing problem. Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary just smiled at Jesus, like only a mother can. Jesus finally relented and performed the miracle of changing water into wine. It’s very clear from the biblical account that Jesus had no intention of performing His first miracle at that wedding feast, but because of a sincere request, He changed His mind.
So, is God sovereign and omniscient? Yes. Does He already know every single event of our lives—even our future? Yes. Is it futile to try to change God’s mind? Definitely NO!
Jesus tells us we must have childlike faith. God is our father and we are His children. We should approach Him as a child approaches a loving parent, filled with trust. So maybe our prayers should have two components: we should ask for the grace to handle the trials and tribulations of life. But we also should ask for what we truly want and desire, knowing that God delights in answering our persistent, sincere, and faithful prayers. And however things turn out, we should rejoice knowing it is God’s will for us.
(But just to be safe, we probably should not ask for tens and twenties—nor fifties and hundreds.)