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What's the point of praying for something to happen if God already has the future set in stone?

The Scripture teaches that God knows the future and knows it 100% accurately (Isaiah 41:22-23, Isaiah 46:10, Deuteronomy 18:18-22).  So if God knows the future, then the future is absolutely fixed and cannot be changed.  How does this fact relate to human choices, including the choice to pray?

Of the various explanations given by theologians that allow for both the foreknowledge of God and the free choices of man, I personally favor the option that involves the concept found in the phrase "would have." God does foreknow every choice of men, but if men were to choose differently than they do, God would have foreknown differently than He does.  So the idea that God's foreknowledge (although prior to man's choices) is conditioned by those choices (as expressed by the words "would have") is a concept that can help solve the tension between foreknowledge and free choice.

In actuality, the fact that God foreknows the future may not make the future any more unchangeable than it already is.  For if we define the future as what will happen, then no one can change the future. By definition the future is set.  It is what will be.  And if it were to be any different than it is, then it would no longer be what will be.  But the fact that no one can change the future does not mean that our choices don't affect what the future will be.  For if we were to choose differently than we do, the future would be different than it will be.  So the fact that God knows the future would not seem to make it any more certain than it already is by definition.

Yes, God knows the future and the future is, by definition, set in stone.  But our prayers can move the heart of God and cause the future to be different than it would have been had we not prayed. 

- Dave Bovenmyer

 

Does God want us to pray to him?  

Absolutely!  He loves to carry your burdens (1 Peter 5:7) and give us unimaginable peace (Philippians 4:6-7).  He loves to give good gifts to his children when they ask (Matthew 7:7-11).  He loves to be with you and near you (Matthew 18:19).  He loves it when you trust him (Matthew 21:21-22).  He loves to protect us from the unseen spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:18).  He loves us to support one another by praying (James 5:16).  He loves to reveal himself and all his goodness to us when we ask (Ephesians 1:16-19).  He loves to open our eyes to understand his unfathomable love (Ephesians 3:14-19). 

Yes, he wants us to pray to him!

- Brad Barrett

 

 
How often do we pray to Him?

More than an "event" or activity in our lives, prayer should be considered a conversation in relationship with a great God and heavenly Father.  The people of God in Scriptures seemed to have prayer as a normal and frequent part of their everyday lives.

Luke 5:15-16 says, "...great crowds gathered to hear him [Jesus]...But he would withdraw to desolate places to pray."  In spite of a busy life and enormous demands on his time (sound familiar to you?), Jesus often found quite, desolate places to pray.  He went out regularly to talk to his Father.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 5:5 speaks of widows who are to be in prayer "night and day".  Paul didn't see prayer as an event but a lifestyle. 

Also in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to "pray without ceasing."  This means to pray incessantly, without intermission. 

For many years, I found myself battling guilt because I didn't pray enough.  "Pray without ceasing" nagged my soul.  Let me respond to that guilt with two things.  First of all, we don't want to be responding to God because we constantly feel guilty.  We combat guilt with the truth of the Cross, that Jesus' substitutionary death and resurrection is more than enough to take care of my sins.  Nagging guilt is replaced by freedom through grace.  (See Hebrews 7:25).  Second, we will likely never pray "enough".  There is always more we can do.  But let's approach it like this:  ask ourselves, "How can I grow in love with my God more?  How can I talk to him more?  I want to give him thanks more.  I want to cast my burdens on him more regularly.  I want to experience a rich, meaningful relationship with him like David had in the Psalms." 

So how often should you pray?  All the time.  When you are in the shower.  When you are driving the car.  With your wife daily.  With your kids before bed and at times of crises in their lives. 

If you want a reminder to be more conversational in prayer every day, set your watch or phone to beep every hour.  Or find some other way to remind yourself that God is there and would love to hear from you.

- Brad Barrett

 

Why pray?  Doesn't it say in the Bible something to the effect, "Your Father in Heaven knows what you want before you even ask of it?"   Since God is all knowing, I am not sure of what is being accomplished here, since He already knows?

The verse you are referring to is in Matthew 6:7.  This statement by Jesus is a specific rebuke to those who repeat the same prayers over and over and over again, hoping that God will hear them because they are talking a lot.  Jesus says to not be like that.  It's not about volume of words.  He goes on to explain that you are talking to your Father in heaven.  Equate this to your earthly father.  While growing up, when you talked to your dad, did you repeat the same phrase or sentence to him over and over again, like someone might pray 15 "Hail Mary's"?  If you talked to your earthly dad like that, he would look at you and ask, "Why are you talking like that?  Stop babbling the same thing over and over and simply talk to me like a normal person."

Jesus says don't keep babbling meaningless phrases.  You won't be heard by your heavenly Father because you overwhelm him with many (and empty) words.  You will be heard because he is your Father.  And that's what fathers do:  they listen to their children.  And they know what their children need (as Jesus refers to in that verse). 

Our heavenly Father does indeed know everything we need and everything in our minds.  So why then do we need to ask?  Again, I go back to the father/child relationship.  As a dad, I love to talk to my daughters.  I love interacting with them.  I don't like it when they won't or don't talk to me.  Is our heavenly Father any less desirous to talk to his children?  I think not. 

So don't worry that he already knows what you need and want.  Just talk to him as a child talks to his daddy.  That sinful men and women like us can talk to this great and powerful God as Abba "Daddy" may be one of the greatest wonders of the world.

- Brad Barrett

 

Do I "need " to pray?   What's in it for me?

Do I need to pray?  Would you allow me a moment of facetiousness and answer this in a backwards (and hopefully humorous) sort of way?

No, we don't need to pray.  Well, I suppose if you want someone to help you bear your heavy burdens (1 Peter 5:7), then I suppose you need to pray.  Or if  you are grateful for the many, many things that God has done for you (1 Thessalonians 5:17), then perhaps you need to pray. 

No, we don't need to pray.  But if  you want God to help meet your basic, daily needs (Matthew 6:11), then you need to pray.   Or if you are in awe of the majesty and glory of God (Psalm 145:1-3), then I will concede that you need to pray.

No, we don't need to pray.  Well, if you have been hiding things, those "little" secret sins, from God but can't take the pressure in your soul any longer (Ezra 10:1), then I suppose that talking to him about it would be important.  And now that I think about it, there are all kinds of concerns you have for the people you love (2 Corinthians 1:10-11), so (sigh) I suppose you should pray and ask him to help them with his mighty power.

No, we don't need to pray.  After all, what would I do with all that peace and joy and thankfulness and freedom and power that I would have if I did pray?  :)

- Brad Barrett

 

What is the purpose of prayer? (is it to please God, change my heart, set God into action, etc)

There are multiple purposes to prayer. I will list a few.

One is to get help in our basic needs of life such as food (Matthew 6:11), deliverance (Psalm 34:4-7), and bearing our burdens (1 Peter 5:7). He wants prayer because he loves us and cares for us.

Another purpose is to draw near to God in an intimate relationship. For example, Jesus told us to pray to our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). David frequently found this intimacy, commonly shown in the more than 70 psalms he wrote (e.g., Psalm 63:-14).

A third purpose is to worship God as he deserves. This worship can be expressed in a variety of ways such as singing, shouting, clapping and dancing, as shown in most of the Psalms. We celebrate both his great attributes (e.g., power and steadfast love) and his deeds (e.g., salvation through Jesus).

As you read through the Scriptures in the coming months, keep paper and pencil handy to write down any other reasons you find as to why we pray.

- Brad Barrett