God knows what we need even before we ask him. So…why should we pray?
But there’s more to the question – and the answer – than that. And as I was thinking about it this week, I remembered a post I wrote years ago, one where I shared a picture of a poster my father gave me, wall art that I hung in my high school bedroom, and then my college dorm room, and which I still have today:
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God knows what you need
I know my dad meant for the message (which is a quote from Jesus, in Matthew 6:8) to point to my Heavenly Father, but I felt like it applied to him, too. Dad usually did know just what I needed, and he was always quick to provide an encouraging word, a sound bit of advice, or even, sometimes, a gift.
Sometimes, it was a gift that I didn’t think that I needed:
And other times, it was something I was sure that I did. Like when my father gave me an introduction to Jesus.
You can read the longer version of that story in the earlier post; the nutshell report is that Dad (who’d been a Sunday school teacher, a rec-league coach, and every other decent thing that a person could be) was stunned to discover that the Christian life wasn’t about trying to be “good”. But when he explained the whole sin-and-grace thing to me, it made perfect sense.
(I was eight, at the time. I knew I was a sinner. And I was super grateful for grace.)
My dad would have celebrated his 81st birthday this week. I’ve written about his battle with brain cancer in this space before, and I’ve shared how much I miss him, even after 20 years. There have been so many times in my own parenting journey when I’ve wished, more than anything, that I could have him around. Times when I’d love to seek his advice. To ask him to pray. Or to just see his smile.
Today, when I hear people wonder why we should pray (“I trust God to do what’s best for my family,” was how one man put it, when he told me that he didn’t pray), I often think of my dad. And how, even though I knew that he knew what I needed, I’d still ask him for stuff–whether I wanted a new dress, a dose of wisdom, or the car keys. After all, he was my dad.
Which is, I believe, why God wants us to pray.
Prayer signals relationship
At its most basic level, prayer signals relationship. John Wesley said, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.” That’s a claim that the Bible reinforces. God could do stuff on his own – heal this person here, make it rain there – and sometimes it seems like he does. Far more often, though, we see him waiting on people, engaging with people, getting to know people – and then meeting their needs – through their prayers.
Prayer acknowledges our dependence on God. It’s a way of saying, “You’re God, and I’m not.” And whether we’re talking to God because we need a healing or some other tangible blessing, or we want guidance for life, or we just like to hang out in his presence, the ultimate effect of our prayers is to draw us closer to him. “God works through the prayer process,” wrote Jennifer Kennedy Dean, “to expand our vision, to deepen our hunger, to stretch our faith, and to lift our desires higher. We start the process desiring something from him; we end it desiring only him.”
All of which is to say yes, God does know what we need, even before we ask him.
But he still wants us to ask.
And this week, as I’ve found myself missing my dad, I’m more grateful than ever to have had an earthly father who pointed me toward my Heavenly Father. He is the One who loves us enough, and is powerful enough, to do more than all we could ever ask or imagine. He is the One who loves it when we pray.
Today, I ask you to ___________.