If God Knows Our Needs, Why Pray?

Have you subscribed to the Ligonier Ministries’ daily blog entitled, “Renewing Your Mind?” If not, may I suggest that you do so? You’ll be blessed every day by podcasts of R.C. Sproul's lectures and sermons. Subscribe at daily@renewingyourmind.org.

A recent edition of “Renewing Your Mind” was entitled “If God Knows Our Needs, Why Pray?”

The topic was especially interesting to me because I’ve had several acquaintances actually ask me that exact question. I did my best at answering them, but I also knew that R.C. would have a memorable response that would be fun to share.

One of the first things R.C. did was acknowledge that this was an often asked question, and as proof, he quoted John Calvin. In The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin took up the question of, “Is prayer…superfluous?” (pg. 851). And his answer was “No, but, someone will say, does God not know, even without being reminded, both in what respect we are troubled and what is expedient for us, so that it may seem superfluous that He should be stirred up by our prayers-as if He were drowsily blinking or even sleeping until aroused by our voice?” (Who says that Calvin didn’t have a sense of humor?)

Calvin’s position was that prayer is not for God’s sake (meaning that God doesn’t require our prayers to make Him aware of our needs). Prayer is for our sake (to keep us intimate with God and to recognize the good that He has done for us). He adds that prayer is a duty that will keep our faith from being sloppy or sluggish as we lay our desires before God.

Dr. Sproul continued his answer to the question about prayer with more wisdom from John Calvin. Sproul said the Calvin gave six reasons why even though God knows our every thought, it is still His will that we pray.

First, because God wants us to be fired with a burning desire to seek, love, and serve God because we know Him as our sacred anchor. Second, that we may understand that there is no desire of our hearts that we should be ashamed to make known unto God. Third, that we would receive the benefits of being truly grateful, and thankful that the blessings we receive are from God’s hand. Fourth, that having obtained what we are seeking, and being convinced that He has answered our prayers, we should appreciate His loving kindness more adoringly. Fifth, that we will embrace with greater delight those things that we know have been obtained as a result of our prayers. Finally, that experience may strengthen our certainty that God’s providence is always correct. That He never fails to keep His promises in His perfect time.

The podcast concluded with Sproul using the familiar ACTS acronym, which many use to guide their prayers, as a way of explaining why we are to pray even though we know that God already knows our thoughts and needs. Here’s the Cliffs’ Notes version of what R.C. said:

“A,” reminds us to begin our prayers with adoration. R.C. said that God doesn’t need our adoration, but we need to adore God to fulfill our created purpose. We were created to glorify God.

“C,” confession is the next element of prayer. Here again, Sproul states clearly that God knows all the sins we commit, so He doesn’t need us to confess in order to be made aware of our transgressions. But, out of love, He wants us to cleanse our minds and our spirits with sincere confession. Even the secular world recognizes that “confession is good for the soul.”

“T,” is the letter that leads us into thanksgiving. God doesn’t need to hear our expression of gratitude, but we need to express our thanksgiving. That’s why Paul tells us that when we make our requests to the Father, they’re to be made in thanksgiving—this is how our relationship is deepened.

“S,” Now we come to supplication. Does our supplication bring about or cause God to change His mind? Do our prayers get God to do something that He hadn’t planned? Dr. Sproul’s response was, “Absolutely not. God has an agenda, and that will not be changed, but remember that His providential goal—the end that He has decreed, He has decreed to bring about through means; and our prayers are included among God’s providential plans for the destiny of His world.” (In layman’s terms) God may choose to use our prayer as the means through which He brings His will to fruition.

So why pray when God’s immutable agenda was formed before the foundation of the earth? Because God in His infinite wisdom and love has commanded us to work, and to make plans, and to offer earnest prayers to Him. Through His unique providence, He has made it so that our labor (which is real); our plans (which are important); and our prayers (which are significant) are the very things that the Creator of the universe uses to bring about our “predestined destiny.”

Written by Jim De Horn