Why should we pray? God already knows our hearts. He already knows our desires. So why pray? We could easily say it is because the Bible commands it. Paul goes as far as to say, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)—that is reason enough. But let’s explore a few other reasons why we should pray.
1. We pray because we love:
A relationship of love is one of enjoying each other. If I say “I love my wife” but never speak to her, likely, I don’t love her. If I love her, then I will want to talk with her, spend time with her, and desire her. This is why we see Jesus in passages like Mark 1, “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” He loves the Father. The Father loves Him, so He wanted to spend time talking with Him even before the day started.
2. We pray out of gratitude:
James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Paul says in Philippians that we are to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Like the one leper who returned to Jesus, we are to return to God time and again with thanksgiving. All that we have been given, all that we have received, is a gift from His hands. Prayer demonstrates and provides a vehicle for our offering gratitude.
3. We pray because we want to know God more fully:
There is nothing more lovely, nothing greater our hearts can seek, and nothing more fulfilling than God Himself. And as we speak with Him, we get to know Him more. As the Psalmist says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). We want to know Him. We want to know God in all His glory. If that is the case, we will want to talk with Him more like a young woman dating and trying to get to know a young man.
4. We pray to know our own hearts more fully:
I think of Habakkuk’s words, “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). There is a real benefit in coming before the Lord in silence. We indeed get to know Him more fully in prayer, but we also get to know ourselves more fully. We often pray and are convicted by some sin that we didn’t know was present before. We hear it uttered from our lips or find our minds entangled by it as we approach Him in prayer. Like Peter on the rooftop, we are made aware that what we have believed, practiced, dreamed, or sought is unholy. Prayer lays open our hearts not only before God but before ourselves. God already knows what is in them, and we often do not.
5. We pray to be conformed to His Image:
Some have said that prayer’s purpose is not so that we might change God but so that God might change us. And there is much truth in this. Calvin said we pray in Jesus’ name so “that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our desires before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.” In prayer, our hearts are shaped and molded, our affections are stirred, and our minds are transformed. The prayer closet is the academy of righteousness. One may enter as a truant and emerge a cadet.
6. We pray to acknowledge our dependence upon Him:
We are not independent beings. As Paul preached at the Areopagus, “In him, we live and move and have our being.” We are and can be nothing apart from Him. Prayer recognizes that. Ursinus once commented, “Prayer is as necessary for us as it is necessary for a beggar to ask alms.” A beggar is, by definition, one who asks for alms. We are people, human beings, created in His image; by very definition, we are dependent and are to pray.
7. We pray to receive from Him:
James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him” (James 1:5). We ask to receive. Jesus follows His teaching of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 with the story of a man awoken from bed by a friend who desires three loaves of bread. And Jesus says, “How much more the Father? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” This is all in the context of the Lord’s Prayer, which is filled with asking to receive. We do pray to receive. And we have a Heavenly Father who loves to give. He is the giver of all good gifts. If everything good comes from Him, then in prayer, we rightfully seek and ask of Him.
8. We pray because God chooses to use means:
Many say, “Why pray if God already predestines all things? Why pray for someone’s conversion, pray that God would heal my body, and pray for anything?” Because God chooses to use means. He uses rain to make the grass grow. He uses the sun to light the world. He uses our prayers to accomplish His purposes. It is one of the most amazing and humbling realities in the universe, but it is true. God chooses to use us in accomplishing His purposes. Our prayers may be the means He uses to save our children, provide health to the person on the prayer list, or maintain unity in our local church. James says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). We have no clue this side of heaven what our prayers are accomplishing for the sake of the Kingdom, our church, our families, or our person. We would be overwhelmed in the present if we knew how purposeful, meaningful, and essential God has made our prayers. It is humbling. And it is exciting.
9. We pray that God might receive glory.
When the lame man is healed in Acts 3 by the prayer of Peter, his response is to rise, leap in joy, and praise God. When God answers our prayers, we offer praise. God receives glory as men receive from Him and respond rightly.
Prayer is a gift from a heavenly Father who loves to hear from His children. There are countless reasons to pray. Let’s be a people of prayer. Never will one minute in prayer closets be a minute wasted or later regretted.
Jason is an ordained pastor in the PCA. He is an Assistant Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. Jason is a regular blogger on the Gospel Coalition and Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals websites. He is also the author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home. He is married to Leah and they are blessed with two wonderful children, Gracen and Ethan. When he isn’t pastoring or writing, Jason enjoys spending time with his family, laughing, watching a good Chicago Bears’ game (as rare as they are), and feasting upon Chicago-style pizza. He is also a man marked by great faith and hope as he awaits the realization of a Cubs’ World Series championship within his lifetime.