Last week we read from Matthew 6, a passage in which Jesus said, “Do not pray like the pagans who think they will be answered because of their many words. Your Father knows what you need before you even ask Him.”
That raises a question: Why pray at all of God already knows? Why do we have to tell God things he already knows? Wouldn’t a loving God who already knows what we need, simply give that to us?
That is a valid question but I think the answer is quite simple. There was once a little girl who grew up in a family where everything she needed just appeared. She idsn’t have to ask; things just turn up. There was food in the cupboard. Wonderful clothes – just what she would have wanted – turned up in the wardrobe. As soon as she was old enough, a bike appeared in the shed, then a computer arrived and a little later the perfect boyfriend just turned up as well!
She never had to ask her parents for these things. They just appeared. Of course, it was her parents who were providing for her every need and they did it because they knew what she needed, but they felt somewhat taken for granted. They would have preferred it if she had had to come and ask; if she had had to acknowledge where all these good things came from. As it was, her life focused on the gifts while she largely forgot the givers. Life was very comfortable, thanks to her parents, but actually, she never did remember to thank her parents.
Wouldn’t the same thing happen if God simply gave us everything we need? If we didn’t need to pray, we wouldn’t pray. God tells us to pray because the relationship is more important than the answers.
Prayer is about a relationship. It is not simply about getting what we want. It is about a relationship.
That is one of the dangers of an affluent society. People have everything they need – and, if not, the government will look after them. They don’t need to pray. We are physically rich and spiritually impoverished, in other words, physically rich and relationally impoverished (in terms of our relationship with God.)
And so, God requires us to pray.