A gracEmail subscriber writes, “Would you please comment on the purpose of prayer. If God is in control, as I believe he is, should we make specific requests of him? Is it arrogant of us to suggest to the Creator what he should do? I have struggled with this for a very long time.”
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Indeed, “Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). If God were a self-serving despot, that announcement should instill terror and send us scurrying for cover. However, as the same Psalm notes, “the LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless us” (v. 12). Those who reverence God may put their trust in him, for “he is their help and their shield” and “he will bless” them abundantly (v. 11, 13). This God who is sovereign ruler of heaven and earth is mighty “for” us (Isa. 40; Rom. 8). He works everything together for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). Nothing in the universe can separate us from God’s love — for nothing exists which he did not make and over which he is not sovereign (Rom. 8:39).
When we bring our requests to God, we express our dependence on him, our need of him, our gratitude to him and our love for him. Hopefully, we also present ourselves to him for his service. (Sometimes we participate in God’s answer to our own prayers!) Certainly we do not “suggest what he should do” in any presumptuous way. God does not need anyone’s counsel (Isa. 40:13-14; Rom. 11:34). God might say “No” to some of our requests — sometimes because our motives are selfish (James 4:3). But let it never be said that we lacked any gift from the Father simply because we failed to ask (James 4:2).
We pray because God invites us to pray. If he did not invite us, we should not dare to do it. But he takes note of us, and he invites us to come to him, bringing our praise and thanksgiving, our confession of sins, our supplications for others, our own perceived needs — all things great and small. Because God has invited us to pray, “let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).