Why pray if God is all-knowing?
Ask a Pastor
“Why do we need to pray when God already knows what we are going to say?” – Katrine Numme, Everett, Wash.
Anne: I love this question. Martin Luther acknowledges your question in his explanation of The Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism. About the petition where we pray for daily bread, he writes: “In fact, God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.” God will care for us whether we pray or not, but we pray that God will use our prayers to make us mindful and thankful for that care.
My favorite answer to your question comes from the Old Testament scholar Terrence Fretheim. He talks about prayer as a conversation we have with our heavenly parent. When our kids give us the silent treatment, we still love them, and we still work diligently to protect them and care for them. But it is hard on the relationship and hard to do everything we want to do for them when they refuse to talk to us. When we give God the silent treatment, God still loves us, and God still works diligently to care for us. But the relationship does suffer without those daily conversations.
Kelly: This is a great question. Your question seems to assume that the reason we pray is to get what we want. I believe that when we pray we are practicing two disciplines. The first discipline is that God exists and God cares about and for us. When we pray we exercise our belief that we are not alone and God is with us. God cares for and about us.
The second thing we practice when we pray is hope. When we pray we invest our hope in God who is near to us in our time of prayer. The more we pray the less it becomes about what we want and the more it becomes about the nearness of God.
Finally, I believe prayer is not something we need to do – prayer is something we get to do. In our time of prayer we get to be intimate with God. Prayer is the constant reminder that we are not alone. As Christians, when we pray we practice our belief that we are not alone and God is with us. Often our focus is on the object of our prayer, but what we desire is to know is that God is really there – and cares.
When I was a child I would often get into trouble and I had a special place where I would go to pray. In my prayer I would often try to cut a deal with God. Here I am today, more than 50 years later and I have no idea what I was praying about then, but it was an intimate relationship with God.
Rosanne: Of all the creatures that God created, humans are the only creatures who have the ability to directly address God through our prayers, our praise and our thanksgivings. Thus we have been invited by God to make our requests known, to pray. Because of this invitation, we can assume that God listens to our prayers and that our prayers can even change the heart and mind of God at times. Any concerns we might have about God being “all-knowing” with regard to our prayers might best be left to some theological seminar in heaven!
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