During my Adult Bible Fellowship class last Sunday, one of the members mentioned that he and a coworker that he had been reaching out to, happened to get on the topic of prayer. The coworker asked the question, “Why should we pray if God knows everything?” A similar common question is “Why should we ask God for something if He’s just going to do whatever He wants?”
Our Relational God
This is a great question that is asked when people are trying to understand the nature of God. But the question reveals a misunderstanding about God and His plan. God is relational, and He is in the process of redeeming people (Titus 2:11-14). As D.A. Carson says, “God is a person; he is not a machine”, and when we pray, we are not simply putting our order into a fast food drive through. We are actually communing with God, and we are talking to Him. Prayer is about humbling ourselves before a God who is willing to be in a relationship with us, rather than just getting what we want.
God’s Plan: To Draw Us To Himself
God’s plan is to draw people to Himself (John 6:44, 12:32), and through the hope we have in Christ as our great high priest, we can draw near to God (Hebrews 4:16, 7:19). Part of drawing closer to God is to pray, to communicate with Him. Yes, God knows everything, and He is sovereign over all creation. However, that should be the basis for why we go to him; He actually has the knowledge and ability to take action. And He wants us to draw close to Him. Now, His plans may be quite different than our prayers, but the overall focus of God drawing men and women to himself through Christ remains the same. Furthermore, He knows the best way to draw you to himself and make you more like His Son Jesus (Rom 8:28-29).
We pray to God because we understand that He wants to glorify Himself by drawing men & women to Himself through Jesus Christ. He is going to accomplish His plan. When we understand His nature and His plan, we can draw close to him without worrying about Him doing what we want Him to do. We can trust that He is doing what is best; namely, drawing us into a vibrant relationship with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.
D.A. Carson has a great interview addressing this very question, and you can watch it here. I find his answers to be very refreshing. He is not trying to explain all the mysteries of God’s decision making, but emphasizes what God has revealed about Himself that really re-frames the question and answers it with the nature and plan of God.