We pray because we are commanded to
This is arguably the clearest reason why we pray. We pray out of obedience. And this is not something that we do once in a while; we are commanded to pray consistently: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, there are many more additional reasons why prayer is important.
We pray to glorify God
Prayer provides a way to ascribe glory to God and express our adoration to the Lord as we reflect on all His attributes and everything He has done. As Jesus gives a model of prayer on the Sermon on the Mount, He begins with the following opening: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). When we come to the Lord in prayer, we must understand that we are communicating with an all-powerful and almighty God and give Him the reverence He deserves. In addition, glory is also given to the Father when our prayers are answered: “Whatever you ask in My [Jesus’] name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). It is worth noting that when we pray in Jesus’ name, it is not a magic phrase that gives validity to whatever we asked for, but rather an affirmation that our requests are in line with God’s will and His character. If this is the case, Christ will act upon our requests and the Father will be glorified with the fulfillment of our prayer as He displays His power as He answers.
We pray to give thanks to God
Prayer allows us to express our gratitude to the Lord. As Christians, we thankfully acknowledge God for His daily provision and deliverance from sin and trials. It is not by our own strength that we accomplish these things, but by the grace of God.
“In everything give thanks….” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1)
“… but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
We pray to repent
We repent of our sin in prayer. Even though we are declared positionally righteous through Christ before God at the time of our salvation, we must continually seek forgiveness for our transgressions. The Lord’s Prayer includes a plea for forgiveness: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
While we must repent of personal sins, we can also pray in an intercessory manner. One example can be found in Daniel’s prayer: “O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.” (Daniel 9:16-17).
And we can put our hope in the assurance that the Lord will forgive our transgressions when we confess: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
However, if we try to hide our sin and do not repent, we will hinder our walk with the Lord and our prayers will not be effective. Therefore we must be quick to repent: “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;” (Psalm 66:18).
We pray for others
We are commanded to pray for fellow believers: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). As Christians, we are not concerned just about ourselves, but for the entirety of the body of Christ. We should therefore be in constant prayer for our brethren– our pastors, elders, missionaries, and everyone else who has been placed into the body.
We are also exhorted to pray for those in charge of us. This includes our government: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). It pleases the Lord if we pray for the salvation of our leaders.
We are even commanded to pray for our enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
We pray because we are dependent on God
As children of God, we are dependent on the Lord for His daily provision, protection, and peace. Using the Lord’s Prayer as a reference, we can see the we rely on the Lord to meet our daily needs: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
The same prayer also requests that God protect us from evil: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). In our striving to live a godly life, we want to be led as far away from sin as possible, that we may not become tempted or ensnared by it. In order to accomplish this, we need to ask the Lord for His protection.
Lastly, we pray to enjoy a supernatural peace from our anxieties and afflictions that only the Lord can provide: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). In doing so, we acknowledge that God is sovereign over our lives. This passage does not indicate that the life of a Christian will be a bed of roses. Often times it is quite the contrary, but we should recognize that even the most painful situation can be used by God to strengthen us and ultimately work for our good (Romans 8:28). On our own strength, we would probably fall into a state of despair, so we should prayerfully seek God’s peace.
The popular hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” captures this important biblical principle:
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
We pray to get things done
In addition, prayer is a way to call God into action. Our God is not an lifeless idol made by human hands and minds who can do nothing, but rather a God of infinite power who watches over His saints and delivers them. As David reflects on his deliverance from the hands of his enemies, he writes:
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (Psalm 18:6-7;14;17)
As we can see from David’s experience, prayer is effective. This is further supported by the following passage: “… The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:16-18).
But in order for prayer to be effective, there must be not be sin in our hearts, nor selfish motives behind our prayers: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). True prayer is grounded in a desire to further God’s will and not our own. Our hearts should ask of God, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Post by Ricardo Kuchimpos