“Why should I pray?"
“If God is all wise and all powerful, isn't prayer presumptuous?”
“How can I pray in faith and at the same time leave a matter open to God's will?”
These questions were sent to staff members with Cru’s prayer ministry almost 30 years ago, but they continue to be relevant today. At the time, staff members Ben Jennings, Ev Davis, and Leonard Mahoe put together these responses, which can help today just as they did then.
It’s true: God is all-wise and all-powerful. The decisions He makes are always right. It is also true that God has a plan for the world, and He knows how He wants to bring it about.
It's difficult to understand how God works out His sovereign will, but we can give you two reasons why we should pray.
First, prayer is not an exercise designed to make God do things our way. Prayer, which is simply talking to God, is our means of developing an intimate relationship with Him. Surprisingly, that's exactly what He wants with us (see John 17:20-23, James 4:8).
Jesus even commands us to pray and ask. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” John 14:13 says, “ And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Second, Scripture indicates that prayer is God's primary means of accomplishing His will (John 15:16).
He has chosen to live His life through us and produce His intended fruit through prayer. He has chosen to act in response to prayer.
The second option is more likely. God has known from the foundation of the world what He's going to do. Graciously, He lays part of His plan on our hearts, prompting us to pray. Then He works through our praying.
Let's put this into practical terms. Let's say you are spending some time in prayer. You have yielded your will to God and are experiencing His presence. As you talk with Him, if you have a burden to pray for something, you can assume that this is the prompting of the Holy Spirit (John 15:7).
The word “worship” comes from an old Saxon word that means “worth ship.” It points to actions and attitudes that indicate an object’s worth. Worship of God is not a ceremony; it is our way of expressing our recognition of God’s worth.
We worship God not because He needs it, but because we need it. Meditating on His attributes and praising Him boosts our understanding of Him and provides a necessary foundation for our faith. These elements are necessary components in worship.
We can’t trust anyone or anything – God included – more than we know it. You won't sit on a chair if you're not sure it will hold you. And you can trust God only to the degree you know He is trustworthy. Worship plays a vital role in this kind of trust.
The Bible instructs us to pray with both our human spirit and with the Holy Spirit.
Our human spirit is the faculty by which we contact God and His realm. So we can define “praying in the spirit” to mean pure, worshipful prayer, in which you are communing with and focusing on God.
It's possible to pray with our minds but not our spirits. Many of our dinner prayers, for example, are merely said out of habit and memory – we aren't really thanking God, just doing our duty.
However, we also need the Holy Spirit to pray with us. The Holy Spirit, God's Spirit, helps us pray as we should. Notice Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
You have suggested an answer to the question in your question itself. The key is to “pray to God in faith.” The joining of true faith in God with prayer can bring about the delicate balance you seek.
Notice we said faith in God. You are not called to have faith in faith, as if believing hard enough will bring about the desired outcome. Your faith must rest in God Himself.
And what must you believe about Him?
Read more about prayer:
Adapted from the article “Unraveling some of the mystery surrounding prayer…Honest Answers to Tough Questions” by Ann Manley Work, from the Sept/Oct 1986 issue of Worldwide Challenge.
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