God Already Knows
“For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Those are the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and it is His reasoning for not using “meaningless repetition (Mt. 5:7). Apparently, the Gentiles had come to a conclusion that their gods would only hear and answer their prayers if they prayed the same prayer continuously. It was like they had taken a page out of Elijah’s book and thought their god might be on a journey at any moment and one never knew exactly when the god would be around to listen. Or maybe they thought that their gods would hear the prayer but wouldn’t care until the person praying really proved they wanted their request by making the request many, many times.
Regardless of what the Gentiles’ mindset was, Jesus tells us that God isn’t like that. God doesn’t need us to mindlessly repeat ourselves. He already knows what we need.
It should be pointed out that repetition in prayer is not wrong. After all, on the night Jesus was betrayed He made the same prayer to God three times (Mt. 26:44). The problem isn’t repetition, it’s meaningless repetition. While Jesus prayed the same things three times, His prayers were fervent, His sweat became like blood, and He was in agony (Lk. 22:44). That repetition was as far from meaningless as a person can get.
So, why do we pray if God already knows what we need? He knows more than our needs, though. Much more! God is omniscient—all-knowing (I John 3:20). He knows what you want. He knows what you are going through. He knows everything. The purpose of prayer, then, cannot be to inform God. So then, why do we pray?
We can answer the question from a simplistic perspective easily enough. We pray because God has told us to (I Thes. 5:17; Lk. 18:1). God is the Lord Almighty. He does not have to explain His commands to us and they do not need to make sense to us. God told us to do something; we should do it. It really can be as simple as that.
But perhaps we can think more deeply than that and consider some reasons why we are supposed to pray to an all-knowing God. Such a command tells me…
- That God wants us to have a relationship with Him. Communication is an important part of any relationship. God communicates to us through His word. Isn’t it wonderful that the conversation is not one-sided? God has given us the privilege and blessing of being able to go directly to Him in prayer.
- That the act of praying may be beneficial to us. Anecdotally, I know this is true. I cannot count the number of times that I have been stressed going into a prayer only to have a tremendous amount of calm and comfort when I got to the “amen” of my prayer. God doesn’t need prayer. I do.
- That prayer doesn’t show God what we need, but rather who we need. God already knows what we want and what we need. But knowing all things has not kept God from testing people so that they could prove themselves. He tested Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22) and Abraham proved that He would obey even the most difficult tests. Perhaps all of life is a test to see if we will recognize our need for God and constantly turn to Him. When we have needs, do we turn to our own abilities? Do we turn to doctors? Do we turn everywhere except to the all-powerful God? God knows what we need, but do we always remember that God is whom we need? Will God be an after-thought or our first thought? How we pray and when we pray will answer that question. It is an opportunity to prove ourselves.
I suspect that the reason we should pray to an all-knowing God isn’t one of the above but all of them.
- Jared Hagan, evangelist