There are three simple answers to the question ‘Why pray?’
God commands us to pray
As Christians we should pray because God, our Creator, our Sovereign Lord and our Redeemer, commands us to pray. As Christians we have repented of our rebellion and are committed to obey God. And he commands us to pray.
In the Old Testament we read repeatedly that:
God commands us to praise and worship him.
God commands us to call upon his name.
God commands us to seek his face.
In the New Testament we find:
General commands and encouragement to pray [Luke 18:1-8; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 5:19; 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1Thessalonians 5:17,18].
Commands to pray for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom through the proclamation of the Word: [Matthew 9:37; Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3,4; 2Thessalonians 3:1].
Commands to pray in the context of trouble, temptation or suffering [James 5:13-16; 1Peter 5:7; 1John 5:16].
Why pray? Because prayer is an expression of obedience to God.
We are human
Like the whole of creation humans are dependent on God for their physical life and sustenance. In addition, on a different level, the level of our human spirituality, our dependence consists of two further dominant aspects:
Because we are dependant creatures by virtue of creation, it is part of our God-created nature to commune and to communicate with him. This is part of the meaning of being created in God’s image – an image is totally dependent on the reality it reflects. We are not made for independent existence – without relationship/communion with God we are incomplete and adrift, disconnected from him who alone gives ultimate meaning, identity and purpose to us. It is only in relationship with him that we can be what he created us to be.
Because we are sinful creatures by virtue of the fall, we are therefore totally dependent on the mercy of God to be reinstated into, and to live in, that relationship/communion with him which is called ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’. Apart from this re-union with God in Christ, we are ‘dead’, we are ‘powerless’, we are nothing.
Why pray? Because we are human and therefore dependent on God.
Jesus Christ, the perfect human, who lived his whole life the way God intended for human life, prayed. Prayer, communion with God, conversation with God, is therefore part of the human life for which we were created.
Although much of our present praying arises from our own sinfulness and from the sin and suffering that entered the world in Genesis 3, these aspects of prayer are not the original role of prayer. Jesus’ unimpeded relationship with the Father, and Jesus’ perfect communion with the Father, demonstrates real prayer, prayer as it was meant to be, prayer as it was, before sin entered the world.
Jesus desires that we his followers enjoy and participate in a similar unimpeded and joyful relationship with the Father:
In John 15, where Jesus stresses the essential union between himself and those who acknowledge him, Jesus defined this union as living (remaining) in his love just as he lived in his Father’s love. The outcome of this unbreakable communion is fullness of joy.
In discussing prayer Jesus said ‘The Father himself loves you because you have loved me ...’ [John 16:27].
This reason for praying takes us right into the heart of the Father, and exposes the deep grief that he feels when our backs are turned to him and our lips silent in his presence.
Jeremiah 3:19 reports this succinctly – ‘I thought you would call me “Father”.’
Only Jesus, the one true human, did that perfectly – lived as the perfect Son of the perfect, loving Father. It is this to which he calls us. It is this that he desires for us. It is this for which he saved us. For this reason, one aspect of our many faceted salvation is restoration of our access to the Father [Ephesians; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22].
Why pray? Because God loves us. Because he created us to call him ‘Father’.
© Rosemary Bardsley 2017