Summary: God chooses to answer me not because I have needs, but because I bring those needs to Him rather than try to meet them in my own strength. And He is not all that keen on repetition.
Matthew 6 – Part 3 - WHY PRAY IF GOD ALREADY KNOWS MY NEEDS?
So what is the use of praying if God already knows what I need? Matthew 6:7 and 8 says “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for YOUR FATHER KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED EVEN BEFORE YOU ASK HIM!”
That seems to say, “Don’t keep repeating your needs over and over again as if God doesn’t know about them.” or “Don’t formularise how you pray”.
Learning things by rote can have it’s flaws. My grandson has learned our national anthem off by heart but he obviously doesn’t really understand what he is singing. When he gets to the part that says “wealth for toil” he says “wealth for toilet” because “toil” is not yet a word he understands. God wants me to keep it simple in my prayers. Not something I parrot off without thought, but meaningful interaction with Him.
I’ve got to admit that my prayers are sometimes meaningless drivel. I start off praying and then get distracted. If I had a conversation like that to anyone else, they’d think I was senile already. I know senility isn’t the problem because I’ve always had the tendency to get distracted when I pray.
So let’s get this straight. God already knows my needs, but He wants me to pray anyway. So prayer is not so much for God’s benefit, but for mine. I verbalise in prayer the things I need. God chooses to answer me not because I have needs, but because I bring those needs to Him rather than try to meet them in my own strength. And He is not all that keen on repetition.
Jesus is teaching His disciples on the mountain lessons on leadership, and so prayer is important. Although He says meaningless repetition is useless in prayer, He goes on to give a basic formula for prayer which many people use repetitively! The Lord’s Prayer is a great prayer, but if I am not to repeat it over and over again, what is the point of giving it to me? Jesus seems to be saying, “I’ll give you some principles, but that doesn’t mean you can just rattle them off without actively engaging in a conversation with God”. He forces me to develop my relationship with God. I guess when God hears the Lord’s Prayer yet another time he by-passes the words and looks for the heart. I already knew this, Lord. I can just imagine You sitting in heaven saying, “Oh no! Here he goes again with the Lord’s prayer thing. Can’t he just talk to Me? What’s with the “pray like a robot” response everytime he wants to come into My presence?” If God got bored, it would be with that prayer, I’m sure.
The Lord’s Prayer, sometimes called “The Disciples Prayer” has to be just a guide for prayer, some basic things I need to include in the multivaried way that I pray.
So Lord, You want me to pray from the heart, not simply to parrot off a prayer as a formula for getting heard. I can understand that.
I loved being invited to the prayer meeting before Church when I first came to know Jesus personally. We would pray around in a circle one at a time. It was great and I learned the many ways that people prayed, some long and fancy with “Thees” and “Thys” all through them and others just like a conversation with a friend. I loved it all. Some people were there to impress other people or because they just loved to pray in public I’m sure, but mostly it was just talking to God. It was great.
I love the fact that Jesus expects us to pray. He says “When you pray...” The expectation is that believers pray. That just goes with the territory. We take time to pray. We get alone and get with God, undisturbed by trying to make an impression on others and we pray (Matthew 6:6). Jesus chose the morning to be alone with God.
Mark 1:35 (NASB) says “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Once at least it was all night. Luke 6:12 (NASB) “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”
Many Christians seem to “pray on the run”. We all have the same amount of time. I think that the discipline of finding a quiet place at the beginning of the day is a great time to pray and read my Bible. I am TOO BUSY NOT TO PRAY as Bill Hybels puts it. Time isn’t the problem. It’s making prayer a priority that is my problem at times. But then, when I am alone with God early in the morning, I feel much more able to cope with what happens during my day. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”