Must We Pray?

Have you ever though to yourself: Why is prayer necessary? The God of the Bible is omniscient, meaning He knows all things. He knows what we are going to say before we say it. Our hearts are an open book before Him. If so, why then do we pray?

Some individuals, whether they are well-intentioned or desire to appear more cleverer than they are, choose not to pray with a desire to leave all things up to God’s plan. They may say something like, “Who am I to interfere with God’s plan?” or maybe “Why would God listen to someone like me? We don’t care about the plans and desires of ants, why would God want to hear about my complaints?”

There is a simple answer to this question. We pray because God has commanded us to pray; that ought to be sufficient reason alone. The Lord Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) specifically addresses the topic of prayer and treats it as an ordinary feature of life.

Our English translations say simply “when you pray…” two times in Christ’s exposition concerning acceptable prayer. (Matt: 6:6, 7). Christ’s introduction to the Lord’s prayer is given as a command, “Pray then like this…” (Matt: 6:9 ESV). As we examine the New Testament, we find an abundance of evidence of the Lord Jesus Christ calling His people to pray. He calls them to pray in secret (Matt. 6:6), to pray honestly and humbly (Matt. 6:7), to pray by His standard (Matt. 6:9-13), to pray for the success of the gospel (Matt. 9:38), and to pray for help against temptation (Matt. 26:41).

Another reason prayer is necessary is because even the Lord Jesus Himself prayed. One of the defining features of the ministry of Christ was His dedication to talking with His heavenly Father (Matt. 14:23). Prayer was the means by which Christ blessed the little children (Matt. 19:13). Prayer was the means by which Christ Himself was strengthened for His passion and the torment, suffering and death He would endure at Calvary (Matt. 26:36-44). In merely looking at the first Gospel, it is plain to see that prayer functioned as a pillar in both the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, and should likewise be in the life and ministry of every Christian thereafter.

Prayer is necessary because God has invited His people to make their requests known to Him, and to grow in love towards Him by regularly meeting with Him in prayer. No part of the character of God reduces our need for prayer, but instead reinforces it. Because God knows all things, I can come to Him in prayer, knowing that He is rightly seeing me and my needs. Because God can do all things, I can come to Him knowing that my prayer may be the means He has designed to accomplish His will on earth. Prayer is truly the way that we talk with God.

The Bible often uses the language of “calling upon God” to describe prayer. We call our friends when we want to tell them something or ask them something. We call on God for the same reasons. But it isn’t presumptuous because He’s invited us to do so. It isn’t futile because God Himself has instructed us saying, “I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 ESV) Jesus even challenges us, “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt. 21:22 ESV) How do the words of Christ affect your heart? Are you in disbelief? Are you doubting? Are you encouraged? Are you hopeful and expectant? Regardless, Christ invites you to pray.

John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer, wrote, “Therefore we see that to us nothing is promised to be expected from the Lord, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers. So true is it that we dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s gospel, and which our faith has gazed upon.” (Institutes 3.20.2) Prayer is one of God’s chief means of transforming our hearts by His Spirit. It is not an empty exercise, but an admission and recognition simultaneously that we are weak creatures in need, and that God is Almighty, All-powerful and ever willing to love and hear us for the sake of Christ.