Since God is sovereign, why pray? What is the purpose of prayer according to the Bible?
Table of contents
What is Prayer?
Prayer is very much like talking to someone on a very personal, private basis. We communicate with people every day by talking to them but what about God? He knows our every thought and intent of the heart anyway. Since He knows our thoughts, why pray to God and especially since He has preordained things in our life? Why? It’s because Jesus commanded us to pray (Luke 18:1). Prayer is like a direct line to heaven but Jesus is our Mediator and gives us access to the Father (Heb 4:16). That is why Jesus tells us to pray in His name. In John 14:13-14 He says “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” If you wanted to talk to your best friend you’d call him or her up and just pour out your heart to them. I have a friend that tells me things that he tells no other. He knows that he can trust me not to gossip about what he shares with me. I keep what he tells me in confidence. So too is praying to God…it is talking to God and pouring out our hearts to Him. It is telling Him all our fears, concerns, anxieties, and worries and holding nothing back. It is asking for things that we cannot do for ourselves and asking for His help in things that we are helpless to affect. Prayer is talking to God through Jesus Christ.
As I touched on earlier, why should we pray since God has determined the outcome of things in our life since He is sovereign over all? We do not change God’s mind by our prayers…prayer changes us but it can change circumstances so God wants us to pray to Him. How often? Paul says “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph 6:18a). Daniel prayed incessantly. Jesus was a Man of prayer one time praying all night and once “he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12) and “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). One time after a long day of ministry “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone” (Matt 14:23). If Jesus saw the need to pray, then how much more so do we need too? We have a much greater need for prayer since we need to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you” (1 Pet 4:7).
Praying in His Will
Paul tells us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16-18) and to pray to the Father that His “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We know that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) so we have direct access to the throne room of heaven (Heb 4:16). God actually desires to hear us but so was the psalmist’s desire to pray to God as he wrote “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). How will we know God hears us? We can have “confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14). We know that God’s will is found within the Scriptures so the more you are in the Word of God, the more you will know the will of God. It is His will that we pray and that Jesus be glorified and that God desires that all men and women be saved (1 Tim 2:4) so we can pray for these things and know that they are God’s will. Praying to God for more laborers to enter into the harvest of human souls is clearly the will of God because Jesus once said “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2b).
The Purpose of Prayer
Part of knowing the will of God is to know the Scriptures and we can know not only what to pray for but the purpose of our prayer. One example is 1st Thessalonians 5:18 which say we’re to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When our will becomes aligned with God’s will, then we can find our purpose in life is His purpose for us. Some of this purpose is the need to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) so that we might be cleansed and have a good conscience before God. There is no better feeling than to come clean before God since He already knows about our sins anyway. To confess them means to agree with God about them. I always felt better when I had offended my friend to go to him and admit to him that I was wrong and confess my fault or sin before him. A clean conscience is a clear conscience. There is nothing that inhibits the mind more than unconfessed sin and guilt. To have a clean slate is to be in fellowship with Him. No child of God can lose their relationship with God but unconfessed sin can have us lose our fellowship with Him.
If I don’t pray, then I am cut off from my only true source of help. I need God and my prayers to Him acknowledge this fact. The longer I am out of prayer, the more I feel out of fellowship with Him. Why not pray to Him more consistently, pour out your heart to Him earnestly, tell Him about all of your burdens and then cast every single one of them upon Him because for “he cares about what happens to you” (1 Pet 4:7b).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.
Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.
“Ask, and you will receive…” (John 16:24). We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things. Yet a child exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask! Our Lord said, “…unless you…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3). Ask and God will do. Give Jesus Christ the opportunity and the room to work. The problem is that no one will ever do this until he is at his wits’ end. When a person is at his wits’ end, it no longer seems to be a cowardly thing to pray; in fact, it is the only way he can get in touch with the truth and the reality of God Himself. Be yourself before God and present Him with your problems— the very things that have brought you to your wits’ end. But as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything.
To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.
Dr. Hammudah Abdalati
Prayer constitutes one pillar of Islam and is considered the foundation of religion.
Any Muslim who fails to observe his prayers and has no reasonable excuse is committing a grave offense and a heinous sin. This offense is so grave because it is not only against God, which is bad enough, but is also against the very nature of man.
It is an instinct of man to be inclined to adore the great beings, and to aspire to lofty goals. The greatest being and the loftiest goal of all is God. The best way to cultivate in man a sound personality and actualize his aspirations in a mature course of development is the Islamic prayer. To neglect prayer is to oppress the good qualities in human nature and unjustifiably deny it the right to adore and love, the right to aspire and ascend, and the right to excel in goodness and achieve noble aims. Such oppression and denial constitute a very serious and destructive offense. Here lies the significance and vitality of prayer in the life of man.
It should always be borne in mind that God does not need man’s prayer, because He is free of all needs. He is only interested in our prosperity and well-being in every sense.
When He emphasizes the necessity of prayer and charges us with any duty, He means to help us; because whatever good we do is for our own benefit, and whatever offence we commit is against our own souls. Here, too, man is the center of gravity, and his common interest is the main concern.
The benefit which man can derive from the Islamic prayer is immeasurable and the blessing of prayer is beyond imagination. This is not just a ‘theory’ or conventional assumption; it is a fascinating fact and a spiritual experience. Here is an explanation of the effectiveness of the Islamic prayer:
1. It strengthens the belief in the existence and goodness of God and transmits this belief into the innermost recesses of man’ s heart.
2. It enlivens this belief and makes it constructive in the practical course of life.
3. It helps man to realize his natural and instinctive aspirations to greatness and high morality, to excellence and virtuous growth.
4. It purifies the heart and develops the mind, cultivates the conscience and comforts the soul.
5. It fosters the good and decent elements in man and suppresses the evil and indecent inclinations.
When we analyze the Islamic prayer and study its unique nature, it will reveal to us that it is not merely a physical motion or a void recital of the Holy Book; the Qur’an. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined.
It is an exclusively Islamic experience where every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of God. It is difficult for anyone to impart in words the full meaning of the Islamic prayer yet it can be said that it is:
1. A lesson in discipline and willpower;
2. A practice in devotion to God and all worthy objectives;
3. A vigilant reminder of God and constant revelation of His Goodness;
4. A seed of spiritual cultivation and moral soundness;
5. A guide to the most upright way of life;
6. A safeguard against indecency and evil, against wrong deviation and stray;
7. A demonstration of true equality, solid unity, and brotherhood;
8. An expression of thankfulness to God and appreciation of Him;
9. A course of inner peace and stability;
10. An abundant source of patience and courage, of hope and confidence
This is the Islamic prayer, and that is what it can do for man. The best testimony to this statement is to experience the prayer and avail oneself of its spiritual joys. Then one will know what it really means.
The article is an excerpt from a book by the author titled ‘Islam in Focus’.
The third Sunday school lesson of a series that introduces children to the purposes of prayer.
Christian Living, Confession, Fellowship, Graditude, Praise, Prayer
AS KIDS ARRIVE (10 minutes)
What’s My Purpose? (Activity) Click here
As the children arrive give them a copy of the handout. The handout has pictures of several different things. Below each item is space for them to write what they think the purpose of the item is. Ask them to share the answers they came up with for prayer (the praying hands). List these on the board.
OPENING PRAYER AND PRAISE (5 minutes)
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MEMORY WORK (12 minutes)
“May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
Psalm 141:2 NIV
Before class write each word of the verse on separate index cards. Say the verse together as a group several times. Divide the kids into two teams and have a race to see which team can put the verse in the correct order in the shortest amount of time.
SCRIPTURE READING AND DISCUSSION (15 minutes)
In the last two weeks we will learned that prayer is communicating or talking with God and that we should pray earnestly and not half heartily. Today we will discuss the purpose of prayer or in other words what do I pray for? The word ACTS will help you remember what to pray for.
A = Adoration
Adore God, love Him and praise Him for who He is.
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11
C = Confession
Admit your sins to God, ask for His forgiveness through faith that Jesus died for our sins.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
T = Thanksgiving
Thank God for answered prayers, for the good things He has done in your life. For growth.
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
S = Supplication
Pray for your family and friends, for those who are sick or sad. Pray for those who are not Christians yet. Pray for your own spiritual growth and any other needs that you may have.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
1) What is a good word to remember when you’re trying to remember the purpose of prayer? (ACTS)
2) What does the letter A in the word acts remind us to pray for? (Adoration)
3) What does the letter C in the word acts remind us to pray for? (Confession)
4) What does the letter T in the word acts remind us to pray for? (Thanksgiving)
5) What does the letter S in the word acts remind us to pray for? (Supplication)
CLASS EXERCISE (15 minutes)
Purpose of Prayer (Activity) Click here
APPLICATION (12 minutes)
Today we learned the purpose of prayer. A neat way to remember the purpose of prayer, is to remember the word ACTS. We can pray for A – Adoration of God, C – Confession, T – Thanksgiving and S – Supplication. We also learned that God wants to be involved in our lives on a daily basis, so we need to pray, read our Bibles and acknowledge that the world we live in was created by God. Look around you, see the beauty, and be thankful.
Spend some time practicing prayer. Assign one of the letters of ACTS to four different and willing children. One can give a prayer of adoration, how great is our God. A second child can give a prayer asking God to forgive everyone when they sin. The next child can give a prayer of thankfulness for all the blessings God gives. Finally, the fourth child can pray for someone in the church who needs special comfort, healing, or wisdom.
Choose another exciting lesson plan from the Kid’s Sunday School Place.
CLOSING PRAYER (2 minutes)
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TAKE HOME PAGE
Give one copy to each child at the end of the class to take home. Click here for NIV or KJV