Why pray when God already knows everything?
Self promotion, vain repetition, empty rewards, verbose pleading…such is the description of those whom we are to learn from; namely, the Hypocrite and the Heathen. When Jesus sought to teach us about prayer He did so on the canvas of sinful and self centered behaviors. In order to bring to pristine clarity what the genuine Christ follower is to look like regarding prayer Jesus continues His stinging comparison of those who were considered "religious leaders" in His day and the authentic Kingdom Citizen.
No doubt, when reflecting in the mirror of truth we may find ourselves standing in the busy synagogues and streets of our towns hoping to be seen or heard as one who is truly spiritual. No doubt if we were to hear ourselves as our Father does we may hear the feverish pleas of one who is quite sure he knows best and therefore spends endless breaths trying to convince God of just that. We would do well to learn from the misdirected behavior of those whom Jesus speaks of… truth be known, we all too often share many of the same self-promoting tendencies.
When we pray, says Jesus, we should do so as one to a Father, but not merely a Father. The Father whom Jesus refers to is one who already knows the needs of his children before even a single syllable is uttered! Before the words, "Dear Lord" leave the tongue; the Father already knows the deepest and most intimate needs of your life. However, this begs the question, "Why pray if my Father already knows my needs?" The simple answer is that we are commanded to pray throughout scripture. Nevertheless, far too few of us operate on a "God said it, that settles it" mentality.Therefore, God, in gracious condescension has provided more than sufficient reason to pray to Him.The key to understanding this is in the phrase, "your Father who is in Heaven".
When we consider the directive to refer to the God of Heaven as "Father" it begs several questions. for instance, what right do we possess to refer to the creator of the universe as Father? What right do we possess to speak in familial terms to a God of no beginning and no end who created the celestial bodies with just the spoken word? What right do we, a sinful and undone people, possess to call upon the most holy, unseen, and sovereign God with such an intimate title as "Father"? The unequivocal answer to such questions is that we have no "right" at all; rather, we are the possessors a great and undeserved privilege that was bestowed to us by one who paid dearly. My access to God through an avenue of paternal relationship is made possible solely by the sacrifice of the only begotten Son.
Just thinking about the love the Father has shown to us is incomprehensible. That we should be called children of God is simply beyond reason. This is especially trues when we consider the fact that more often than not we act more like those who are guilty of cosmic treason than those who are sons and daughters of God. Naturally, this is inconceivable to the lost world because they have exchanged the truth of God for a cheap lie. Therefore,instead of pouring their lives out in worship of the Creator they pour out the substance of their lives to things far less worthy. Yet, for those who have placed their unwavering trust in the Son, an unimaginable relationship with the Father is made possible!(John 1:12 paraphrase)
On this basis alone can we approach God the father. Nevertheless, let us not think that in making such a relationship possible the the Father has somehow relinquished His divine attributes or adjusted His holy expectations.This is made unmistakably clear in the next phrase of Jesus instruction on prayer. Not only are we to call out to our "Father" but our "Father in Heaven". In this single phrase we find a marriage of intimacy and transcendence, the love and tenderness of our Father on one hand and the surpassing greatness of one who sleeps not on the other. For such a marriage of the comprehensible and the inconceivable to be possible it would require that the Father have an inestimable delight in relationship.This is not to say that He needs a relationship with us but rather He delights in it. (Psalm 149:4) Furthermore, as Proverbs 15:8 reminds us, although the Lord despises the sacrifices of the wicked, He delights in the prayers of the upright.
Therefore, the answer to the question before us, "Why pray to a God who knows all my needs" seems to be somewhat clear. What more reason to pray do we need than the knowledge of our own sinful, broken, helpless, and hopeless estate and the greater knowledge that we have been purchased by the blood of the Son of God. It is because of this that we have been brought into the family of God as a joint heir with Christ. What more reason to pray is needed that the knowledge that our all knowing Father, who has made possible a life as a son and daughter, delights in hearing our voice as it acknowledges in deep humility our dependence, gratitude, and longing for His will in our lives.
As one author has so poignantly stated,"Your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask Him." Common-sense says, "Then why ask Him?" Prayer is not getting things from God, that is a most initial stage; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God; I tell Him what I know He knows in order that I may get to know it as He does. Jesus says, "Pray because you have a Father, not because it quietens you, and give Him time to answer." If the life of Jesus is formed in me by regeneration and I am drawing my breath in the fear of the Lord, the Son of God will press forward in front of my common-sense and change my attitude to things." 1
We pray because that's what a child does. We talk to our Father not simply because we can but we must. We pour our hearts out to our father because when we do so it is a delight to His ears. We pray because in doing so it is a humble affirmation of our complete dependance on Him. We call out to Him in our distress not for the purpose of enlightening Him but for the purpose of acknowledging Him.We ask for those things which we feel we need but we do so with an awareness that the one to whom we pray would never give us the rocks of our blinding pleasure when what we truly need is the bread of his loving provision. Simply said, we pray to our Father in Heaven because He is our Father and we, the orphans of Eden, have been adopted as His sons and daughters!
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)2
1. Chambers, O. (1996, c1960). Studies in the sermon on the mount. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott.
2. New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation