Why Do We Need to Pray?
“Because I said so!”
Don’t you just hate it when that’s the reason given for being made to do something? Not only is it frustrating, but it’s also a motivation killer. It’s one thing when the question “Why?” stems from a rebellion-rooted resistance, but when one sincerely doesn’t understand why, this answer can be a real bummer. I remember having my knuckles rapped with a ruler for asking the simple question, “Why?”
Whack! “Because I said so! Now be quiet and do it.”
I still wish I could rap that teacher’s knuckles with a yardstick and not tell her why! (We’ll deal with forgiveness and inner healing another day.)
None of us want to do something just because someone else said so. Oh, I know God requires things of us at times without the full knowledge of why, but they are usually faith and timing issues - not the way He expects us to live life on a regular basis. He doesn’t program us like robots, or require an ostrich mentality of us: head in the sand, blind to the truth, the issues, and facts.
I Wonder Why
God has given us a Bible full of answers to the whys of life. The one I’m interested in is: Why pray? I’m not speaking of why in the sense of needing this or that. Obviously, we ask because we want or need something. I’m speaking of why in the context of God’s sovereignty.
Do my prayers really matter all that much? Isn’t God going to do what He wants anyway? Most people, even if only subconsciously, believe just that. The proof is in their prayer life, or lack thereof.
Can my prayers actually change things? Does God need me to pray, or does He just want me to pray? Some would argue an omnipotent God doesn’t “need” anything, including our prayers.
Can God’s will on Earth be frustrated or not accomplished if I don’t pray? Many would brand me a heretic for even raising the question. But these and other questions deserve answers. I’ve discovered that understanding the why of doing something can be a great motivating force. Not knowing why robs us of motivation.
As a kid, I wondered why the sign said “No Diving” in the shallow end of the pool. Then one day, I hit my head on the bottom. I don’t do that anymore!
I wondered why I couldn’t touch the pretty red glow on the stove. I found out!
I wondered why the guy in front of me in the woods said, “Duck.”
I thought, I don’t want to duck. I don’t have to duck. Then the branch whopped me upside the head. Now I duck.
I Need to Know
Someone said, “To err is human; to repeat it is stupid.” I’m sure I’ve qualified for the latter once or twice, but not with these three issues because where they are concerned, I know why! However, we’re not talking about bumps, burns, and bruises when we speak of prayer; we’re speaking of eternal destinies. We’re talking about homes, marriages, the welfare of people we love, revival in our cities - the list continues.
When God says, “Pray,” I want to know it will make a difference. I’m not into religious exercises, and my time is valuable - so is yours. Was S. D. Gordon right or wrong when he said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed… Prayer is striking the winning blow… service is gathering up the results”? (1)
If God is going to do something regardless of whether or not we pray, then He doesn’t need us to ask, and we don’t need another waste of time. If it’s all que sera, sera, then let’s take a siesta and let it all just happen.
If, on the other hand, John Wesley was correct when he said, “God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer,” I’ll lose a little sleep for that. I’ll change my lifestyle, turn the TV off, even miss a meal or two.
Is Prayer Really Necessary?
The real question is: Does a sovereign, all-powerful God need our involvement or not? Is prayer really necessary? I believe it is. Our prayers CAN bring revival. They CAN bring healing. We CAN change a nation. Strongholds CAN come down when and because we pray. I agree with E. M. Bounds, who said:
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil… The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth. God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer.” (2)
Quite a statement, and I couldn’t agree more.
Think about it: Is this not the reason the earth is in such a mess? Not because God wills it so, but because of His sovereign decision to work and carry out His will through people.
Is this not the story woven throughout the Scriptures:
God and humans, for better or worse, working together?
God needing faithful men and women?
God needing prophets? Judges? Preachers?
God needing a human Messiah?
God needing human hands to heal, human voices to speak and human feet to go?
Yes, this “need” was created by His decision - God has no inherent limitations - but Scripture is clear: God works on Earth through humans. Doesn’t He need us to ask for His kingdom to come, His will to be done (see Matthew 6:10)? Surely He wouldn’t want us to waste our time asking for something that was going to happen anyway, would He?
Didn’t He tell us to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)? And yet, He knows our needs before we even ask ( Matthew 6:8).
Didn’t Jesus tell us to ask that laborers be sent into the spiritual harvest (see Matthew 9:38)? Yet, doesn’t the Lord of the harvest want that more than we do?
Didn’t Paul say, “Pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thessalonians 3:1)? Wasn’t God already planning to do this?
Are not all of these things God’s will? Why, then, are we supposed to ask Him for something He already wants to do - if it isn’t that our asking somehow “releases” Him to do it?
Either God wants the earth in its horrible condition, or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t, which is certainly the case, we must assume one of the two things. Either He is powerless to do anything about it, or He needs and is waiting on something from us humans to bring about change. Dr. Peter Wagner stated it this way:
“We must understand that our sovereign God has, for His own reasons, so designed this world that much of what is truly His will He makes contingent on the attitudes and actions of human beings. He allows humans to make decisions that can influence history… Human inaction does not nullify the atonement, but human inaction can make the atonement ineffective for lost people.” (3)
This is why the great spiritual statesman Jack Hayford said:
“Prayer is essentially a partnership of the redeemed child of God working hand in hand with God toward the realization of His redemptive purposes on earth” (4)
On this National Day of Prayer - and every day - let’s rise to the occasion and embrace the incredible invitation to be co-laborers with God…representatives of Christ, carriers of His awesome Holy Spirit, and ambassadors for God’s great Kingdom. It matters.
Pray with me:
Daniel, Nehemiah, and others in Scripture began their prayers for restoration with identificational repentance. Father, following their examples, we do so now. Our nation has turned from You and served the baals. This has produced violence, murder, broken homes, abandoned children, unsecured borders, evil and godless government, loss of our national destiny, addiction, homelessness, identity-less children, child mutilation, abortion, a weak economy, great division and hatred, lukewarmness in the church, and much more. We repent on behalf of our nation. Many have done so in the past, yet the sins continue; therefore, we do also.
We cannot earn forgiveness or salvation; this comes only through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Through this sacrifice, which releases mercy, we appeal for national cleansing and restoration.
Deliver us from evil. Give us honest, humble, wise, sane, servant leaders in government. Give us an honest media, true educators, a strong military, secure borders, and an on-fire church. Give us revival - a great awakening and a reformation. And give us a worldwide harvest.
We pray these things, now and always, in the name of Yeshua, the Hope of the world. Amen.
We decree that the God who birthed America CAN and WILL save America!
Today’s post was taken from my book Intercessory Prayer, and published by Baker Books.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1975), p 51.
C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), p. 242.
Jack W. Hayford, Prayer Is Invading the Impossible (South Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1977; revised edition, Bridge Publishing, 1995), p. 92, 1977 edition.