If God knows the future and has it planned out already, then why should we bother to pray? Will it change His mind? Does it have any affect on what is already destined to be? And why must I pray if He already knows my needs? These are all questions that I have asked myself in the past. Maybe some of you have asked some of these too. Today, I’m going to try to answer these questions.
So why should we pray? The most important answer is because God commands us to pray. This is evident throughout scripture.
Colossians 4:2 - “Devote ourselves to prayer”
Ephesians 6:18 - “pray in the Spirit…”
Romans 12:2 - "Be faithful in prayer…”
Philippians 4:6 - “let your requests be made known to God”
1 Thessalonians 5:17 - “Pray without ceasing..”
God calls us to pray, therefore, as Christians must be obedient to what God is calling us to do.
But why would God call us to devote ourselves to pray without ceasing if He already knows what we need? The answer is that He simply wants to have a relationship with us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that when a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God. In order to have a relationship with someone, we must first begin to communicate with that person. We must talk with them, share our thoughts with them, and more importantly listen to them. The better the communication is between two people the better the relationship is. This is the same with God---the quality of our prayer life determines the quality of our relationship with God. God wants to reveal himself to us and He does this through prayer.
But if God already knows the future, why would He want us to waste our time praying for things He knows will never happen or are already destined to happen? Because our prayer may be the means through which something is destined to happen or not happen. God has already predestined for our prayers or for our lack of prayers. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, we are called God’s co-workers. He simply invites us to share in His work through our prayers. When we share in the work of something great on Earth, we are excited about it. We want to share with others about the good work. When we get involved in a particular work, we are excited when it succeeds and want to share its success with others. This is the same with prayer. When we pray and our prayers are answered, we want to shout it from the rooftops. We want to tell everyone about how God answered our pray. The more we participate in God’s work through prayer, the more we also begin to trust in Him and the more our faith grows. The more we work with God, the more our prayers begin to line up with His will for us instead of our own will or selfish needs. Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes the “pray-er.”
So, if God commands us to pray faithfully without ceasing for things that He already knows we need in order for us to grow closer to Him, then how and when should we pray and for what should we pray? In Ephesians 6:18, we are told to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” There is no “best” prayer. Or best way to pray. There is no limit to what we can pray for. If God’s main purpose of prayer is to have a relationship with Him, then we can begin by just talking to Him---telling him our thoughts and feelings, our fears and our desires, our frustrations and our joys just as we would talk to our closest friend. I think St. Ignatious of Loyola says it best,
"We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel."
And once we are done, we must sit and listen to Him just as a good friend would in turn do.