Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Why pray? Part 1: What difference does it make?

If God is Good, Why Pray?

Why Pray?

Does prayer change God? Or me? Or circumstances?

I get demotivated when I feel like what I’m doing isn’t making a difference. That’s probably why I really struggle with housework so much.

It’s also one of the main reasons I have a blog.

No one can draw on it, no one can puke on it, no one can unpack it, no one can do anything to it, it’s just there.

Unlike the laundry pile that never seems to reach its end.

Not feeling like I was making a difference was part of the reason why I really struggled with the whole idea of prayer for a while. In short, why pray?

My logic was this: God is all good. So if he’s all good, he’s always doing everything he can to ensure the greatest good and the least evil. So when I pray, what am I really doing? Am I trying to twist his arm to get him to do something he didn’t want to do in the first place? Who am I to think I know better than him?

If he’s all good and he’s all wise and he didn’t already want to do that thing I’m asking him to do, and I’m still asking him to do it, then that’s a bit stupid. It’s clearly not the best thing.

But, if I’m only asking him to do what he already wants to do anyway, then why ask, why pray? Surely he would do it, whether I pray or not, because that’s what he wants to do.

I give food to my kids without them needing to ask because that's what parents do. Being kids, they ask me for food anyway, but I do have a plan to give them food on a daily basis. Genuine. A number of times a day even. (Totally winning at parenting, I know)

If God is good then I assume he never refrains from doing the best thing. So then why must I ask? It’s not like he forgot and needs to be reminded. It’s not like he doesn’t know what I need.

If it isn’t good then hopefully he won’t give it to us even if we do ask. So what do we do?

Either way praying seemed pointless - whether I was praying in accordance with God’s will or not, I didn’t feel like my prayers made a difference and that, like I said, demotivated me and sucked the life out of prayer for me.

Amidst all these questions, we have the Bible. In it we are commanded to pray; expected to pray. Jesus says, "When you pray." Prayer is assumed.

When I felt like there was no purpose to prayer other than to tick the prayer box, I trusted that there had to be a purpose.

Some say God knew what he was going to do all along, and so prayer doesn't change him, it is meant to change me.

Another possibility is that God merely lets us think that our prayers are being answered while doing what he intended to do all along - he is just testing us.

He says that he is going to do X and unless we pray, when he’s actually intending to do Y all along. Then we pray, and he does Y and gets his desired outcome anyway. But if he ends up doing what he was intending to do all along, then did I really have a choice whether or not to pray? And did my prayer actually make a difference? And if I did have a choice and I didn’t pray, then he wouldn’t get the outcome he wanted. It felt like a case of she knows that he knows that she knows that he knows and it’s all just a test or whatever. So that got my brain all stuck again. I remember driving home and thinking, “I just can’t do this. I can’t. It just doesn’t work. If this is how it’s going to be, I’m out.”

I suppose you could call it a crisis of faith because it was a make or break moment for me.

The idea that God lets us think that our prayers make a difference, or that prayer is to change me, not to actually change the circumstance feels patronising and humiliating. To be told that something can make a difference, because that’s what the word tells us, but actually it doesn’t really make a difference, in actual real life - I couldn’t deal with that.

It’s not that my theology is based on what I find acceptable about God’s character or not.

It’s not as though I just chose to reject prayer because I wasn’t happy about it worked. I felt like this view of prayer only serves to diminish God’s relationship with us. If we don’t genuinely have agency or some kind of say-so in our relationship, is it even worth it?

About the whole idea that prayer primarily changes us, it doesn’t actually change circumstances, my reply would be that Jesus said to tell the mountain to move and it would move. He didn’t say our attitude to the mountain would change, or our perception of the mountain would change, or that our feelings about the mountain would change, He said the mountain will move.

He assures us that things change when we pray.

He also taught us in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray that God’s will be done on earth: “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done.”

That would assume that there are elements on this earth that are not in line with God’s kingdom, that are not in line with God’s will - otherwise why would he command us, in his summary of how to pray, to ask for his will to be done and his kingdom to come?

It only makes sense if there are some things that are not in line with his will and his kingdom and it’s our job to partner with him and pray those things into being.

It only makes sense if it actually makes a difference.
If it doesn’t make a difference, then why pray?

To catch Part 2: Does God change his mind? where I find some real & satisfying answers to my questions, please do subscribe using the 'Follow by email' box!
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Have you ever asked these questions? How did you feel about the answers you were given?Did you have any, 'Yes, but what about...?' moments while reading? Please share in the comment section.

You can listen to all three parts of the series as an audio teaching using the link below:


  1. I like the way you are reasoning through this idea of prayer. It is good to think things through and search it out. My basis for prayer has developed over the years from being something God commanded, "Pray without ceasing", to being what is is today which is a relationship. You feed your kids even though they don't ask, but you also want to develop a life long relationship with them. It is a conversation that is accessible to me whenever I take a moment to connect. - Amy

    1. It so wonderful when we come into the revelation of relationship!

  2. Prayer was a confusion for me until I realized God's desire for me to choose Him. To want to seek Him. To build a relationship with Him and then to experience Him in return. That has made all the difference in praying. I also enjoy praying in a journal like I'm writing to my friend - telling Him how much I love and miss Him, what I am grateful for, and asking advice in how I could be doing life better.

    1. It's so lovely that you can have that intimacy... though I'm interested as to why you say you miss him?

  3. Prayer changes us is what I have heard. I'm so glad we have a Father that we can pray to!

    1. What do you think is the function of prayer? Do you feel it is to change us?