3405971322_23eae03cac

Why Does God Need Prayer?

Greg Loves Questions. In his best selling book Letters from a Skeptic, he responds to questions from his father, who was then an atheist. Tomorrow Greg will be hosting a AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.  We hope you can join us!

Here is an adaptation of one of Greg’s responses to a question from his father: Why would an all-powerful God need prayer? 

***

The main purpose of talking to God (that’s all prayer really is) has little to do with asking for things. It’s to build a faith-filled, loving relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. What kind of relationship would I have with Shelley (my wife) if the only time we ever talked was to make requests of each other? Not much of one, I suspect. And so it is with God. The main function of prayer is simply to be with someone you love: to talk, to listen, or to simply “commune” with your Creator.

Asking for things—what’s called “petitionary prayer”—is simply one minor aspect of this total relationship. It’s not that God needs our petitions to be informed or empowered to do anything. He’s already as good, as concerned, as informed, as powerful as He can be. But because a loving relationship with Him is His highest agenda for us, He constructs the order of things such that a loving relationship with Him will be facilitated. And thus He ordains that some things will only be done through prayer.

Because God has love as His highest agenda, He gives us some say-so in the universe. We must have this if we are to be self-determining persons, and He must have self-determining persons in His creation if He wants to love to be creation’s goal. We humans have a good deal of power to determine the outcome of things, to have some say-so in our little corner of the universe.

Petitionary prayer is simply the spiritual aspect of the “power to influence” that God gives us. In the same way that God ordains that He will not do everything He’d like to do on a physical level—in order to give us freedom—so too He ordains things so that He will not always do what He’d like to do on a spiritual level. And he gives us this spiritual say-so for the same reason He gives us say-so on a physical level: to facilitate our freedom, our personhood, and thus a real, loving relationship with Him.

A genuine relationship, I believe, can only occur where there is personal interaction between two persons, where there is give-and-take between both parties. In other words, any genuine relationship requires that both parties are to some extent empowered over and against the other. This is as true in our relationship with God as it is in our relationship with other people. God doesn’t want to be the only one calling the shots. Monopoly by one person—even if that “person” is God—always squashes the personhood of others. So God ordains things so that we are to some degree empowered in our relationship with Him. He ordains things so that we can actually influence the Creator, not because He needs us, but because He wants us. And petitionary prayer, in my view, is the principle means of this human-to-divine influence.

Image by babasteve via Flickr

Related Reading

Grieving with the God who Pulled the Trigger?

Lawrence Krauss recently wrote a thought-provoking, soul-searching essay for CNN Opinion entitled, “Why must a nation grieve with God?” Krauss was disturbed by a comment made by President Obama at a memorial service for the victims of the tragedy at Newtown CT.  Commenting on Jesus’ statement to “Let the little children come to me,” Obama opined:…

How do you respond to Judges 9:23?

“…God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Schechem; and the lords of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.” (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14; 1 Kings 22:19–23). Some compatibilists cite this passage to support the view that evil spirits always carry out the Lord’s will (though they contend that God is good for willing…

Bowing to the American Flag. Literally.

Kurt Willems shared this interesting item he found on Amazon. In the product description it admonishes us to: Submit yourself to the Prayer Bench and open up your life to receive more of God. Hmmmmmm. How about we just submit ourselves to God?

What is the significance of Ezekiel 12:1–3?

The Lord has Ezekiel symbolically enact Israel’s exile as a warning and remarks, “Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house” (vs. 3). Though Israel repeatedly surprised God by their persistent rebellion, he nevertheless continued to hold out hope and thus to strive with them to participate in a covenant relationship with him.…

Topics:

What is the significance of Acts 15:7?

At the Jerusalem council, “Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles should hear the message of the good news…’” The tense of the verb that locates God’s “choice” in “the…

Topics:

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 9:13–14, 18–20, 25?

The Lord tells Moses “Let me alone that I may destroy them [the Israelites] and blot out their name from under heaven…” (vs. 14). Moses later says to the Israelites, “the Lord intended to destroy you” (vs. 25). Moses interceded for forty days and then tells the Israelites, “the Lord listened to me…” (vs. 19).…

Topics: