Over the years, one question I have been asked a number of times is if God knows what we are going to pray for before we ask (see Matthew 6:8) then what is the point of praying?
From a human point of view this question makes sense. For a lot of people, prayer can be very difficult, and when we are busy with a lot of commitments, finding time for prayer can be a serious challenge. However, prayer is an essential part of a relationship with God and so we still need to prioritize it. So how do we find time for prayer in our lives which are often very busy and difficult?
An important place to start is with why we pray in the first place. When we look at Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the gospels, for example in Luke 11:1-13, his starting point is that we have a loving Father in heaven who wants to hear our prayers and give us every good thing we need for life in this world and the next. Jesus revolutionized people’s approach to prayer when he taught his disciples to call God ‘Father’ in the Lord’s Prayer, and then to picture God as a father who wants to give good to his children (e.g. Luke 11:11-13). When we believe that we have a loving Father in heaven who wants what is best for us and who wants to do what is best for us, then we have a good reason to pray. Prayer becomes an act of faith that God loves us, will hear what we have to say to him, and will give us all we need for this life and the next.
If we go back to our original question which asks why we should pray when God already knows what we will ask, we can answer it by saying that praying shows that we trust God for everything we need. We can pray in the faith that God is the source of everything good and he will give us what we need. When Jesus teaches us to ask, seek and knock, he wants us to trust that God will give us what we ask for, that he will reveal himself and his goodness when we seek it, and he will open the doors of heaven to us when we knock.
Trusting this promise and praying like God will do what Jesus says is difficult for us because it is not normal for our human natures to trust God like this. When we add experiences we may have had of times when it seemed like God has not come through for us when we needed him, praying like Jesus teaches can be a real challenge for us. However, that is why Jesus’ teaching on prayer is important for us to hear. Jesus want us to be free and willing to approach our Father in heaven for everything we need, in the faith that he has all we need and he wants the best for his children.
This is why Jesus also teaches us to be persistent in prayer. When he says to ask, seek and knock, the language he is using is continual, on-going action. Jesus doesn’t want us to ask once and then stop if it seems like God has not heard us, but to keep on asking in the faith that God is hearing us and will answer us for Jesus’ sake. It is the same with seeking him and knocking on the door of heaven. Even if it seems as though God is not answering our prayers, Jesus wants us to be persistent, continually asking, seeking and knocking on the door of heaven for all the good blessings he has for us and for the people around us.
Obviously, there is a lot more we could say about prayer in the life of the child of God than we have time or space for here. However, in Jesus’ teaching from Luke 11:1-13 we can learn some basics about prayer on which we can build a healthy prayer life. Jesus wants us to view God as our loving heavenly Father who wants the best for his children and who has every good thing we need for this life and the next. When we believe that, prayer will be a natural way for us to bring our needs and the needs of other people to him. Asking, seeking and knocking becomes the on-going ways in which we actively pursue God’s goodness and blessing through prayer in faith and hope. As the children of God whom he loves, then, we can keep on asking our heavenly Father for what we need because Jesus says we will receive what we need. We can keep on seeking in the faith that we will find the goodness of God by the power of his Spirit. We can keep on knocking on the door of heaven through prayer because Jesus has opened the way for us through his life, death and resurrection.
More to think about:
- What do you find most challenging or difficult about praying regularly?
- How might your praying change if you took Jesus’ words seriously when he says: ‘Ask and it WILL be given to you; seek and you WILL find; knock and the door WILL be opened to you. For EVERYONE who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened’? (emphasis mine)
- What is something you need most in your life? Remember to bring it to God persistently, in the faith that he will hear and answer you for Jesus’ sake…