Challenge: Does It Make Sense to Pray for Things?

Posted: August 23, 2011 by Amy Hall in Do the Right Thing, God is Real, Weekly Challenge

For our challenge this week, here’s a question sent in by Kyle:

God tells us to pray to Him by making requests. We can pray for things. We’re also to pray that His will be done. At the garden, Jesus made a request that God would let this cup pass over Him, but He ultimately prayed that the Father’s will be done. However, since God has already planned history from beginning to end, how does it make sense to pray for things, as if our prayers make a difference? If God already planned everything and His plans can’t be thwarted, then when it comes to request-type prayer, doesn’t it make more sense to simply pray “Thy will be done” and leave it at that?

What do you think? How do you resolve this question for yourself? Give us your ideas, and we’ll hear from Brett on Thursday.

  1. Just so people know, I’m aware that there’s more to prayer than asking for things. I’m just narrowing it down in this challenge. Thanks.

    • Amy Hall says:

      Kyle, yeah, my title was misleading, so I changed it so people won’t get the wrong question out of it. Hopefully it’s clearer now.

  2. Sam Harper says:

    I heard a sermon about this recently by Brian Borgman. I got a CD for free ($5 shipping, I think) from Monergism Books. You can get it here. I highly recommend this CD. There are 62 sermons on it, and I’ve listened to the first 26 so far. They are AWESOME!!!!

    Anyway, he basically argued that God uses means to accomplish his ends, and prayers are among his means. When God intends to act, he motivates his people to pray. There’s a good example in Isaiah 37. It says in verse 21: “Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Because you have prayed to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word that the LORD has spoken against him…”‘” Then it goes into a judgment against Sennacherib. Notice that God proclaims this judgment against Sennacherib in response to Hezekiah’s prayer. But then notice what God says in verse 26: “Have you not heard? Long ago I did it, from ancient times I planned it.” So God planned the judgment long before Hezekiah prayed, yet it was because of the prayer that God did it. If God plans everything that happens in history, as Kyle says, then prayer must be part of his plan since prayer happens in history. Prayer is the means by which God accomplishes his purposes.

  3. Amy Hall says:

    Thanks, Sam! I was just coming over here to get the ball rolling since we haven’t been getting many takers. Here’s the original answer I gave to Kyle–like your answer, it also focuses on prayer as being the means God uses:

    I think a big part of the answer is that God uses certain means to accomplish His plans in order to bring Himself the most glory. When we pray for something and God gives it, He unquestionably gets the glory. This is why “we have not because we ask not,” as James 4:2 puts it. Were God to always give us what we need apart from our prayers, I guarantee you we would quickly lose sight of Who was behind those gifts. We would either take in the gifts unnoticed or, worse, conclude we are responsible for attaining them.

    So I think God uses the means of prayer because He wants us to remain dependent on Him, to remind us that we’re creatures in need and that He’s the giver, and to help us recognize His work in the world (that is, we see and know He’s working when specific prayers are answered, and we know this in a much deeper way than if He were to act behind the scenes without our thinking about it). Our prayers keep us connected with all these things and cause us to rightfully worship and appreciate Him in awe and thanks.

    When we say “Thy will be done” at the end of the prayer, that’s yet another way of recognizing our place as creatures beneath God, our fallibility even in praying for the right things, and our willingness to see Him glorified in the way He chooses.

    So our prayers really do make a difference–not only because they change us and the way we view God, but because they’re the means God uses to intervene in the world: “We have not because we ask not.” Therefore, God moves when we ask. Our prayers are part of His plan. Yes, I also think the Holy Spirit moves us to ask in accordance with God’s plan, but that’s happening behind the scenes and not something we need to figure out or try to learn to recognize. Just go ahead and pray about everything, knowing that your prayers are making a difference.

  4. Jack says:

    Hmm, interesting question and one which would indeed need a book or two to work through..I don’t have that much time so I’ll just post a few thoughts instead.

    There are many scriptures along the lines of ‘asking and receiving’ yet you only have to have one or two prayers ignored to figure out that there’s a lot more to it than that. And when we don’t get what we want then we automatically (usually) lapse straight back into the witchcraft and sorcery that we love so much. “Maybe I didn’t use the right words”? “Maybe I should have said ‘In Jesus name’ or ‘Your will be done’ after my prayer just in case God thought I was being selfish.” You know the kinds of tricks we play. And then there’s the self-deprecating route, “Maybe my sins are TOO bad and that’s why God wont answer my prayers. Maybe I’m not strong enough with the force, errm, I mean maybe I don’t have enough of that magical power called ‘faith’. I mean isn’t that how a lot of people think and act?

    So what’s the dealy then?

    I beleive that if you truly understand what it is so say that ‘Jesus is Lord’, with your life and not just your bumper sticker then you might start getting closer to your answer for if Jesus IS actually Lord, if ‘ALL things are placed under his feet’ if ‘ALL authority in heaven and Earth are given to him’, if you can see that then you can see what the apostles saw. After a while they figured it out, they understood who Jesus was and what was going on and after that revelation/realisation they could do nothing but scratch their heads and ask Jesus how they should pray. They didn’t ask because they were poor dumb fishermen as is often assumed, they had the psalms and knew them better than we do, they asked because they knew that if Jesus IS Lord then there’s nothing you CAN ask for. And if you DO ask for something to change, to be other than what it is, what you are really saying is that Jesus is NOT Lord, there is something you don’t like that’s out of his control. You are, in reality denying Christ before men with those types of prayers. So how did Jesus answer them?

    ” Our Father (not MY Father BTW) in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread,
    and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”

    Nothing in there about change this and heal that and gimme stuff and help the republicans win the next election etc, ad nauseum. Everything you need you already have, in him. And prayer involves MUCH more than merely flapping your gums. I apologise for the rushed nature of this reply, pretty busy at the moment. But in short after many years as a believer my prayers are focussed on thanks and gratefulness for what I have or ones along the lines of how Jesus instructed. It benefits greatly to take your eyes of the evil one (ourselves) for a few seconds. 🙂