Another way this question could be phrased is, “If God is sovereign, why should I pray at all?” The sentiment is not uncommon. It’s a question you must wrestle with when confronted by the overall scope of the Bible as it presents a God that is totally in control of all that he has created, such as the following passages demonstrate:
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
“Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass” (Isaiah 37:26).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).
“Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” (Acts 17:26).
In light of these passages it’s easy to understand that we might have a question or two regarding the role of prayer. What is the role of prayer in a universe that God sovereignly rules over? Consider the following example.
When someone wants to build a house, what must be done to make sure that house is built? You know how you want it to turn out, that is, you’ve blueprinted or “predetermined” how the house is going to look when completed, but is that all you’ve predetermined? Surely, if you’re a good builder (as God is) you will have also predetermined the means by which this house will be built. You will have selected materials, you will have selected a contractor and sub-contractors, interior designers, plumbers and painters to assemble your house. So, in building your house, not only have you predetermined the end, you have predetermined how to achieve that end.
God is no different. One of the means he has pre-ordained to fulfill his pre-ordained plans are the prayers of his people. The people of God, therefore, are without excuse when they refuse to pray because they expect God, in his sovereignty, to compensate for their laziness and unfaithfulness.
Now, that’s just an example that anyone could poke holes in if they tried hard enough…so let’s consider some passages of Scripture and allow them to instruct us.
Proverbs 15:8 tells us the purpose of prayer is The Delight of the LORD.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.”
God delights in the prayers of his people. There is an exchange of delight and joy when God’s people pray to him and trust him for everything. Prayer is a statement, in and of itself that we NEED God and it delights him to meet our needs, especially our greatest need, namely Himself!
Another purpose of prayer is the Delight of God’s People.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The purpose of prayer demonstrated here is that, through prayer, as we ask for God’s help, thank God, praise God, and humble ourselves before God, He might bless us with the peace of God and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, thereby removing fear and anxiety in a world over which HE IS SOVEREIGN! Praise God that we do not live in a world outside of His control! Praise the LORD! We can actually approach the throne of God in confidence, knowing his ways are perfect (Romans 11:33).
God has ordained that He serve us through prayer so that we testify to ourselves and to the world that there is no other place to run for freedom, security, salvation, comfort and grace.
46:1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.