There are many reasons why we need to pray. I want to remind you of one, quite possibly one of the most important reasons. Are you ready for it?
We need to pray because prayer is God’s way of getting us in line with what he is doing in this world.
Although I don’t believe “prayer changes things,” I very much believe that God does different things than he would have done because of prayer. I know that God answers the prayers of his people. I believe he does it naturally through his providence and supernaturally through miraculous intervention in human affairs.
I also believe God does whatever he has planned from all eternity past. I don’t believe God has ever or will ever do anything that he wouldn’t have always done.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure how these things dovetail in time and space. Because of prayer, God does things that he otherwise wouldn’t have done while he never does anything that he hasn’t already planned to do. How God’s decretive will (what he’s decided to do outside of time) and how God’s willingness to hear and answer the prayers of his people inside of time – how these things mesh together, well, I’m not sure I can provide a satisfactory explanation regarding the academics of it all.
Except in this small way. I believe God uses prayer to change us and conform us to his will as much as he uses it in any other way in our lives as his children.
Take a look at this week’s psalm. For example, Psalm 80:1-2 says,
1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!
God already was, from eternity past, in the business of hearing and leading and shining and saving. The author isn’t asking God to do anything he’s not already planned to do and hasn’t already begun to do.
But we forget! We get preoccupied with talking too loud and wandering off and closing our eyes and trusting ourselves. And God’s plan to change us into the image of Christ includes getting us back to the point where we talk to him and follow him and glory in him and trust in him.
This is what the psalmist prays for because it’s what the psalmist needs. And God’s afoot here stirring up a prayerful heart because this is precisely what he’s going to do.
I am well aware that this doesn’t answer all the questions and quell all the squirming regarding the mysteries of prayer. But it does help me pray when I realize that even the desire to pray is a work of God getting me in line with what he’s doing in this world and more specifically in my life.