We have a relationship with an omniscient God who already knows every thought we have. Why would we talk to him, then, to tell him things and ask him for things? Why can’t we just live as his people and trust that he’s got everything covered without our input?
The reason is relationship! Discipleship—what we’re all commissioned to do—is built on relationship. To be in right relationship with others, we first must be in right relationship with God, and relationships are built in conversation and time spent together.
We follow the Creator who is sovereign and supreme over all. He is more than we can ever fathom, yet he relates to us as our Father. He feeds us, clothes us, provides for us, cares for us, loves us, and speaks to us. He calls us his children. While he is holy and exalted and beyond our comprehension, because of Christ’s work on the cross he now invites us into his presence.
Repentance and Favor
Prayer involves repenting and seeking God’s favor. In Daniel 9, the prophet prayed a prayer of confession on behalf of his people. Because of their sin, the nation of Judah was conquered by Babylon and later subjugated by Persia. Though we have no report of Daniel personally sinning or following idols, he prayed, “We have sinned and done wrong.”
Though we may not participate in, affirm, or agree with the sin we see in the culture around us, we are all subject to the world’s influence, and we’ve all neglected God’s commands and rebelled against him on some level. Daniel, living in a pagan society like we do today, acknowledged the awesomeness of God, the iniquity of the culture, and the nature of the people’s sin. He entreated God to act for his glory on behalf of the people who bore his name. Though the nation of Judah was in captivity, the temple was destroyed, and Jerusalem was desolate, Daniel prayed in faith.
“Though the nation of Judah was in captivity, the temple was destroyed, and Jerusalem was desolate, Daniel prayed in faith.”
How many church buildings sit empty now? How many churches are futile and dying? How many Christians still confess their sins, still seek God’s favor for the glory of his name, and still believe that God will act? Even when the secular culture prevails and the worship goes silent, God is still in heaven, listening for the prayers of his people to rise like incense in the throne room of heaven. God still cares. God still acts. Do we care enough to seek him in prayer?
The Purpose of Prayer
What is the purpose of prayer? Why did Jesus have to pray? He was one with the Father, so why did he need to talk to God? Jesus showed us that communication with God brings unity with the Father. In prayer, we reject self-sufficiency and demonstrate that our trust is in God. In prayer, we submit ourselves to God and his plan, attesting that his will and his ways are best. In prayer, we grow closer to God as we spend time sharing our heart with him and find comfort and guidance in his presence.
“Jesus showed us that communication with God brings unity with the Father.”
We must be persistent in our prayers. Jesus likened prayer to waking up your friend in the middle of the night to ask for something you needed in order to help another friend. Though your friend and his family were already in bed, he would get up and help you because of your “shameless audacity” to pound on his door at such an hour and ask. How incredible that, in like manner, we are invited to pound relentlessly on heaven’s door, asking the Master for whatever we need to do good works and help others! When those are our intentions, we can make audacious requests of God, and he will hear and answer!
Alternatively, James 4:2–3 tells us why we don’t receive when we ask, and it also has to do with our intentions: “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” We must have the right motives if we want God to answer our prayers.
In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about someone praying with wrong motives. A Pharisee came to the temple and spoke to God words of praise for himself and for the good works that he had done. This man found no justification before God because he prayed for his own glory—not for God’s glory. Yet a tax collector was heard and justified by God because he came to him in humility and desired God’s approval, not man’s.
“We are invited to pound relentlessly on heaven’s door, asking the Master for whatever we need to do good works and help others!”
So why should you pray? Pray to develop closeness in your relationship with God. Pray to repent of your sins and seek God’s favor. Pray because you trust that you are heard and justified by God. Most of all, pray because you want to bring glory to God. He is your Father, and in prayer, you can spend time with the one you love.
Excerpted from Matt Wilson, The 40-Day Discipleship Journey: Finding Answers to Why, What, and How of Following Jesus. Used with permission.