"The Purpose of Prayer"
(Posted on January 12, 2009)
What is prayer all about? Why do we pray to a God who already has everything under control? Does prayer really accomplish anything? If you or someone you know has ever asked these questions, hopefully this article will provide you with some answers, or at least help you to think about prayer a little bit differently.
First of all, I believe that prayer can change God's mind. It won't every time, and in fact it probably happens rarely, but we know from the Bible that it is possible. One example can be found in Genesis 18, where Abraham interceded in prayer for the wicked city of Sodom. God appeared ready to destroy the city, but Abraham asked if He would spare the city if there were ten righteous people within it, and God agreed to do just that. Ultimately the city was destroyed because there weren't even ten righteous people living there, but the point remains the same--Abraham talked to God, trusted that God would be just, and God honored Abraham's request.
However, I don't think that trying to change God's mind is the primary purpose of prayer. I believe prayer has two primary purposes, though there certainly could be others that I am not yet aware of. These two purposes are in no particular order.
Purpose 1: You are showing God that you trust him. When you pray to ask God for something or ask him to do something, you are showing Him that you trust Him to determine the best outcome in that particular situation. You are letting go of it, letting it out of your control and giving it over to God. If you are able to stop worrying about it and completely trust God, that is the best way to live. Still, if you pray about it regularly and your worry decreases, you are showing God that you trust His decisions. We know that God wants to see that we have complete trust in Him after the test He gave to Abraham (Genesis 22). Abraham passed that test, giving God great pleasure, and God rewarded Abraham because of the complete trust Abraham had placed in Him.
Purpose 2: You are building your relationship with God. God wants His children to spend time with Him so that a closer bond can form. What happens if you don't spend much time with a friend, a relative, or perhaps even your spouse for a while? You start to drift apart because you aren't in each other's lives as much. It's no different with God. As the old saying goes, if you don't feel as close to God as you used to, who moved? We know the answer to that one because God never moves. You don't have to spend all of your prayer time asking for things. I enjoy spending some time each day just talking to God about something that happened that day or about something that's just been on my mind. I think He enjoys that, too.
Some people are natural prayers and some aren't. I don't feel like I am a natural prayer, especially when it comes to praying in front of others. I also don't persist in my prayers like I know I should (such as praying for someone's health or salvation day after day for a long period of time) like I should). But God knows no one is perfect. Prayer is a vital part of building a closer relationship with God, and I would encourage everyone to spend more time talking to God each day.