Why pray if God is in control? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
After all, the Bible tells us that:
- God predetermines all things from eternity past (Ephesians 1:11).
- God knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8).
- God is unchanging in his character (Hebrews 13:8).
So that begs the question: why pray?
Well, lots of reasons.
The same Bible that teaches you that God is sovereign, unchanging, and knows your needs is also the same Bible that gives you plenty of reasons to pray.
Over the summer, I read through parts of Wayne Grudem’s excellent book, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (which is the abridged version of his book, Systematic Theology).
In his chapter on prayer, Grudem lists at least four reasons why Christians should pray. You can find them below.
1. “Prayer expresses our trust in God and is a means whereby our trust in him can increase.”
Grudem defines prayer as “personal communication with God.” Christianity is more than just about a relationship between you and God, but it is not less. And in order to increase your trust in your Creator, God has ordained prayer as one of the means to do so. Prayerlessness is indicative of a lack of dependence on God.
“Perhaps the primary emphasis on the Bible’s teaching on prayer is that we are to pray with faith, which means trust or dependence on God.”
“God as our Creator delights in being trusted by us as his creatures, for an attitude of dependence is most appropriate to the Creator-creature relationship.”
“As children look to their fathers to provide for them, so God expects us to look to him in prayer.”
Faith-filled prayers show trust in God.
2. “Prayer brings us into deeper fellowship with God, and he loves us and delights in our fellowship with him.”
One of the primary ways to grow in deeper fellowship with God is through prayer. For years, the church has recognized prayer as one of the “means of grace” (e.g. Bible reading, prayer, and the sacraments) to grow in your faith as a way to love Christ more and to become more like him. Prayer is one of the primary ways to deepen your fellowship with God.
“When we truly pray, we as persons, in the wholeness of our character, are relating to God as a person, in the wholeness of his character.”
“It is only natural that God would delight in such activity and place much emphasis on it in his relationship with us.”
A strong prayer life is not easy to develop. It’s hard work. Some days, I’d much rather be reading a book about prayer (and apparently writing about prayer) than actually praying. Nevertheless, a growing, fervent prayer life is attainable through patience, time, and consistency. It’s worth planning your prayer times, too. Either way, consider how you can grow in prayer to deepen your fellowship with God.
3. “Prayer allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important.”
I once heard John Piper say that “prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t pray.” He finished by saying, “Any Calvinists out there squirming?” I couldn’t tell if Piper was joking or not, but I get the point.
For those of us that are reformed, for those of us who love the doctrine of providence and believe with all our hearts that God is sovereign over all, we can have sometimes have a tough time believing that we play a role in eternal events through prayer.
But as it’s been said before, God ordains all ends, but he also ordains all means to the ends, and prayer is often the means to those ends. In other words, God wants to use your prayers to get things done.
“When we pray, the work of the Kingdom is advanced.”
“In this way, prayer gives us the opportunity to be involved in a significant way in the work of the kingdom and thus gives expression to our amazing significance as creatures made in God’s image.”
I sometimes ask myself, “If God answered every prayer of mine next week, how many new Christians would there be?”
There is nothing wrong with praying for yourself, but also seek to pray for that which can last into eternity — indeed, change eternity.
4. “Prayer often changes the way God acts.”
James says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
“He implies that failure to ask deprives us of what God would have otherwise given to us.”
“If we pray little, it is probably because we do not really believe that prayer accomplishes much at all.”
“If we were really convinced that prayer often changes the way God acts and that God does bring about remarkable change in response to prayer (as Scripture repeatedly teaches), then we would pray much more than we do.”
So why pray if God is in control of everything? Because Scripture gives us several good reasons to do so. Sometimes a little bit of theology can fuel the flame to propel you to pray more. After all, the fact that God already knows what you need shouldn’t be a reason to pray less but, as we’ve seen, to pray more. As Michael Horton once said, “People ask me, ‘Why pray if God is sovereign?’ I respond, ‘Why pray if he isn’t?'”
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