Why do we pray?
Many Ask, "If God Is All Powerful And Knows-All, Then Why Pray?" Find Out The Answer!
Here we addresse some very specific questions that most of us have wrestled with during our lives. These every day, common questions about prayer have occurred to all genuine seekers after God. We trust that this information and the answers provided will equip you to better comprehend what the Bible calls the "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God."
Question: Why are some prayers answered while others are not?
Answer: Surely each one of us has anguished over this very concept more than once in our lives. Individually, each one of us may have formed an opinion that it would be good for God to act in a certain way and when He does not, we are crushed. The Bible has much to say about prayer. In the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 we are given a pattern for praying from the Lord Jesus Himself. As you examine that prayer, you will see that we must have a relationship with the Father, the One we are addressing. We are supposed to be praying that His will would be done and not ours! One of the more difficult concepts for us, as humans, to grasp is that Someone else knows what is best for us. In John Chapter 17, Jesus Himself is shown agonizing over issues that He is bringing before God in prayer.
This single article cannot deal exhaustively with the entire topic of prayer. Our hope, however, is that it will cause you to study God's Word even more so that you may plumb the depths of those riches that He has for you.
Question: Doesn't the Bible say, "Ask whatever you want and it will be given to you"? So, why is it then that I ask, but I don't receive?
Answer: Be encouraged! You are not alone in these thoughts. Over the centuries since Christ first spoke, I am certain that many have had the same understanding that you have, and many have been befuddled also. Let's be Biblically specific. . .
The Bible does not ever say that we can ask for anything and expect to get it!
Nowhere in the Bible does God ever say that a human being can ask for whatever he/she wants and He will do it. This is a common misperception. It's what I call the "Genie-in-the-Bottle-Approach." All of us want a Genie like that who will respond to our every whim. But that is certainly not who the God of the Bible tells us He is!
Here's what you need to know. There are no gimmicks. There is nothing that you can do to maneuver God into a position where He has to respond to you in a certain way. If you believe that, then you are failing to understand that the finite (us) do not control the infinite (God).
Question: Well, doesn't the Bible say that if I ask He will answer?
Answer: Not in the way you may be understanding it! You may again be attempting to understand God as the "Heavenly Dispensing Machine". For example, - in real life, we observe something; we see that we would like it and then we pay money to get it. That's the way we often think that the Heavenly Dispensing Machine should respond to our prayer requests. We say we want it and He spits it out! But when we think this way, we are overlooking the fact that God knows what is ultimately best for us and we do not. Let me attempt to illustrate this very point: Suppose that a mother and father have a small son who longed for a bicycle. The bicycle that he wanted was dressed-out to look like a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The parents had a different bicycle picked out for him, one more suited for his size and temperament. They gave their gift not on the basis of what he wanted, but on the basis of what was best for him. The parents were able to see a lot further down the line so that they knew what might ultimately do him the most good.
Question: Doesn't the Bible say that where two or three are gathered that God is right there in their midst? So if He hears us, why doesn't he answer us?
Answer: I hope that I'm not beginning to sound like a broken record. Let me draw your attention to an imaginary box that I like to call the Quadrants of Answered Prayer. Perhaps I can assist you to visualize the situation.
Imagine all of the 4 boxes in the quadrant represent answers to prayer. But you must realize that we only really want to accept answers to our prayers if they are answered according to our wishes. (That would be Box I). In Box II, imagine that we think that what we have prayed for is good and that we should receive it. God knows better. He may have a lesson to teach us about patience and perseverance. Therefore He may delay the answer until the most appropriate time. In Box III, when we pray, we find that we have no peace about something, - we do not see how it could be any good. In our opinion, we do not think that we should receive that. Nevertheless, God says that He will give it to us. We do not think those circumstances should happen to us....we do not think that we should receive a demotion, or an "F" or some form of hardship at this time. God sees it differently and answers "Yes! - this is something that you should have at this time." Finally, in Box IV we have the situation where we believe that it would not be good for us and God agrees by saying "No" to the circumstances. It is very important for us to realize that God has acted in all four of these instances. God has many answers for us that may not be identical to our preconceived opinions of Him. That is because He is much bigger than our perceptions of Him.
Question: OK, what about this. What about if I ask through Jesus. Doesn't the Bible say that I should ask in Jesus Name? So if I end my prayer by saying, "in Jesus name," doesn't that pretty much obligate God to come through for me?
Answer: If this is your thinking too, then you may still be attempting to manipulate a God that cannot be outsmarted or manipulated. You might want to consider learning more about God. I would suggest that you concentrate on revering God and growing in your knowledge of His ways. It is very wrong of us to think that God thinks the same way that we do. Below, I have listed some of God's requirements for prayers to be answered. All of these requirements come from God's own Word. In other words, they came right out of His mouth.
(a) The petitioner must possess purity of heart. Psalm 66: 18,19 says "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." God is saying that we must have the right motives. He knows the thoughts and intents of our heart!
(b) Believing in God and in His power must also be part of the petitioner's makeup. Mt. 21:22 says, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Did you know that the Biblical word for ‘believe' means to believe in, adhere to , trust in, and rely on. ‘Belief' in the Bible is not just a momentary thing. It is a habit or pattern of the lifestyle. Again, I hope that you get the idea that the God of all creation is no one's fool.
(c) The petitioner is to pray in Christ's name. John 14:13 states, "And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." Let me again clarify. A Biblical name spoke volumes about the nature of the person. When Jesus says that we should ask in His name, He is saying that we should be asking in accordance with His will. We are to be in agreement with Him! Over the years people have attempted to use this as a way to manipulate God. It has never worked. We must try to get over the notion that God is a Celestial Butler who serves our wishes as room service!
(d) The petitioner should be asking according to God's will. In I John 5:14 these words are recorded for us, " This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." This verse is the corollary to the one above. As you can see from the Quadrants of Answered Prayer, when one prays in alignment with the will of God, we will see our prayers answered!
Incidentally, in paragraphs (a) through (d) above you see listed what are the personal requirements regarding prayer. There are also other more general requirements regarding prayer. We are to pray with a forgiving spirit (Mt. 6:14); with simplicity (Mt. 6:5,6); with humility and repentance (Lk. 18:10-14); with intensity (Mt. 7:7-11); unceasingly (I Th. 5:17); without many words (Mt. 6:7); with confident expectation (Mk. 11:24); and with the unity of believers in mind (Mt. 18: 19,20).
May God richly bless you as you diligently search the Scriptures.
Jan Paul Sattem