If God Is In Control, Why Pray?
This was my recent response to a question regarding prayer from a gentleman who was kind and cordial but skeptical. I didn’t intend for it to turn into a blog, but here goes.
Prayer is about relationship between God and humanity. I believe we are created in his image. That means we are created to image/mirror his goodness in the world.
I could get into the origins of evil and brokenness but I’m assuming since you are atheist or agnostic we probably wouldn’t agree. However we both can acknowledge much pain and suffering in the world.
In my opinion, contrary to some Christian belief, God isn’t controlling every minute move on the chess board. He isn’t the author of evil. He does allow it though. There is free will as well as other reasons, some of which I have some grasp and some reasons that are beyond my understanding.
I agree with what someone else wrote in that God is not a genie. Sometimes people can treat God that way and not really think about what they’re doing. Sometimes people put God on trial. “Me and God are cool unless he doesn’t do what I want.” They don’t realize that by doing so they’ve put themselves in God’s place and he is their servant. When this happens, knowingly or unknowingly, and God doesn’t do what they want, it usually ends up in a detriment to their faith.
Faith isn’t a force that if we concentrate hard enough we can make limbs grow or make lame people walk. Faith is a multifaceted word that means trust/dependence/assurance/allegiance/loyalty. The object of our faith isn’t the result, but rather God himself. Do I trust him whatever the result? That’s great faith. That’s faith that endures. It’s faithfulness. That’s where God wants to take us. Prayer plays an important role in that.
Prayer is conversation with God. So whether he already knows or not isn’t the point. He wants a relationship with humans because he loves them. Prayer isn’t just about asking for things. That’d be a pretty sucky relationship. It’d be like people that only come to us when they want something. God wants communion with us. In fact I believe we are the most truly human when we are in communion with God because that’s what we were designed for. We are created in his image. So I regularly meditate on his presence. I tell him what I’m thankful for. I tell him what agitates me, etc.
I also make requests because he invites us to. I do believe prayer changes things. Ever since Jesus rose from the dead God has been exhibiting what his kingdom rule looks like through his people. When we show compassion. When we serve. When we empathize. When we care for those in need. And when we pray. He wants to work through our actions and he wants to work through our prayers. I believe he is using it all, which prayer is a vital part, to change the world and bring about his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is about humans calling upon the Name of the Lord.
Does prayer move the hand of God? Yes. I know walking testimonies. Does it always? No. He gets to say “yes”, “no”, “not yet”, or “not like you think”. There’s also this, James 4:2-3, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” However just because God doesn’t answer prayer the way we want doesn’t mean he loves you any less. We just have to be willing to live with not understanding what is going on behind the scenes. That’s what the book of Job is all about.
The Bible (I understand you don’t believe the Bible, but I’m explaining my perspective) says that when God judges his enemies in the end the prayers of his people will be taken into account. So all the prayers and cries over all the injustices and brokenness in the world God will take into account when he rights every wrong. Those prayers will be answered.
There’s so much more that could be said but it’d take a book, however I also want to express something that isn’t popular in some Christian camps. I believe God still works miracles and healings today and I will always ask with confidence when I pray. I’m not what Christians call a cessationist when it comes to miracles. However Christians often misunderstand that what we read in the gospels and Acts where miracles are happening left and right aren’t the norm. They were signs and wonders validating that Jesus was the Son of God as this fulfillment of Judaism was going out into the world. That’s why you see many more miracles on the mission field today. The gospel is going into uncharted territory.
To summarize. Prayer is more than asking for stuff. It’s communion and conversation with God. It has the power to change things, and sometimes God doesn’t act because we don’t ask. However he reserves the right to answer in his way and timing. Faith is trusting him that he is good and working behind the scenes regardless.