Matthew 6.8 observes, your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. So why pray?
Knowing everything is an integral character quality for being God. Since God knows everything why should I pray? The God-Man, Jesus the Savior, makes this observation. So why pray?
We really can’t help but pray. We will pray. Everyone prays. We don’t have to live long on this earth before realizing we need someone greater than ourselves to be in control and to gain control of this world. In our darkest hours all people pray.
God, fortunately, is not discouraging prayer. Rather, Jesus teaches how to pray so that our prayers are well received by God. That is the goal of prayer isn’t it? Jesus’ observation about God knowing everything is a rebuke to those who would pray frivolously, publicly, about life’s minutiae. Those prayers are really about the person praying and not about God listening. True prayers, Jesus outlines, have certain characteristics.
First, they are relational. When we pray we are to look up and call God, Father. What an invitation God gives humanity. No other religion teaches us to pray this way. Effective prayer begins with being a child of God calling upon the Almighty as our Father in heaven.
Second, prayer is about God’s glory and will and not our wants or desires. This is the shift in our prayer we most need to make. The vast majority of our prayers are about us and what we want changed in our world. Effective prayer begins with our focus toward God being honored in the world and His will being observed here as it is in heaven. We are to pray more people would love God and obey His commands.
Third, we are to focus on our needs not our wants. Food for today is about as basic a need as we can get. If we have this we can move on in our prayers.
Fourth, prayer is to remind us of our need for God’s mercy and grace. Our prayers must include, Father forgive me. Our God is holy and we are not no matter how much good we think we do. As we remember our need for God’s mercy because we are sinners we are to likewise remember all those who have sinned against us and forgive them too. This is imperative for God hearing our prayers.
Fifth, our prayers are to remind us that good and evil exist in this world and we are to choose good. God’s enemy exists to steal, kill and destroy all people but especially those people who love Him. Our sin or rebellion against God’s good ways is what destroys us. Our prayers are to be about living a life pleasing to God seeking His strength to do the will of God.
Finally, prayer is conditional. We don’t like this truth but God ends His teaching with the warning that the forgiveness we receive is conditional upon the forgiveness we give. The relationship we have with God is based upon His forgiveness of our sin so that we can be children of God and thus have access to the Father.
This forgiveness we receive from God must be given to people around us. It is the practical manifestation of our having received God’s forgiveness. When we love others as God loves us God takes great delight for then we are behaving as His children reflecting His character in this world.
When His people live this way their cries to Father are heard, well received and quickly responded to in a way that honors God and glorifies His Name.