Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

What is the Purpose of Prayer?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

It is not to get what we want, but what God wants.

It is not to convince God to change his mind, but for him to change our minds.

It is not to have our will done in heaven, but for God to have his will done on earth.

Prayer is the means by which we praise God for who he is, ask him for forgiveness, and thank him for everything he’s given us.

We are to bring all of our concerns to him, but we know that what we want is not always best for us or for anyone else.  That’s why Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours,” when he was praying to the Father.

As my wife likes to say, God is not a genie in a bottle.  He doesn’t operate by our commands.  He has a long-term plan for the earth and all its inhabitants.

When we pray, we’re not trying to change his plans.  He is changing ours.


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  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Roberta,
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    Thanks,
    BP

  • mike lowry

    why pray for healing? If my friend is dying God’s plan is set for my friend for God’s glory. If he lives or dies. It’s according to God’s will. Me praying won’t change that. So why pray for healing? Same as when i’m in the mission field giving the Gospel to muslims. People back home are afraid for my safety. They asked if i pray for safety. I said i pray that no matter i live or die it’s God’s will and that i pray that i glorify God in all i do. Should i pray for safety? If it’s God’s will for me to die then why pray for safety?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Mike,
    We are to pray about all kinds of thing, including our safety, because God commands it. Obviously God’s will is always accomplished in every circumstance because He is sovereign, but we do not know what his will is most of the time (regarding amoral events). God does not tell us about our immediate future, only our ultimate future. So, since we don’t know what his will is, we continue to pray because it draws us closer to Him, it builds our relationship to Him, it helps us to rely on Him, and makes us more like Him. The danger we Christians get into is thinking that we can manipulate God by prayer, that if we just pray in a certain kind of way or a certain number of times that God will finally do what we want.

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Alex G

    Bill, where do you find in the scriptures that God commands us to pray for our safety?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Alex,
    I think Matt. 6:9-13 can support this claim – “Deliver us from evil.” There is also 2 Thess. 3:2 – “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.” There are also examples in the Book of Acts (Acts 12, 16) where the church is praying for Paul and Peter when they are imprisoned.

  • Alex

    In these cases it is people asking not for individual deliverance, but for the sake of themselves and others, and I think we should pray for others or ourselves as a group because we do not know the situation of anybody else but our selves. Asking for safety is just showing that we do have fear, is it not? Why would we ask for safety from somebody we should not fear? Luke clearly said “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I am not saying that it is wrong to pray for safety, we know Jesus prayed for a different way but more than anything He understood that God’s will was more important.I think you can agree that we pray more about the things we are concerned for more, so personally it seems like if we ask for safety more than for Gods will to take place in our lives, then we are showing God what is more important. So often we find happiness in the comfort of our lives, but Peter wrote in his first letter that we are blessed when we are reproached for God’s sake, and that is what true happiness lies in.

  • Bill Pratt

    Alex,
    I agree. Praying for our own physical safety should not be the subject we major on when speaking to God. We would do better to focus on God’s will.

  • Bill

    Bill, your words of caution about manipulation are wise. James says (Js. 4) that we do not get what we ask for because we ask with the wrong motives. That being said James also says that we do not have because we do not ask. I think your comments about being God focused are wise, however I think your legitimate points have rounded off the rough edges of the Bible’s teaching on prayer. Saying that prayer is about changing us and not changing God does not fully deal with the complexities of sovereignty and free will. Now I am sure you know this, but your absolute statements seem to sacrifice mystery on the altar of simplicity. I think that Jesus can genuinely petition God, struggle with the implications of his requests, and ultimately submit to God. In my opinion saying that prayer is just about me changing to accept God’s will can produce give the wrong impression about prayer. I see it as a much more dynamic exchange.

  • Jared

    Mike here is something that I think can be a help for you.

    This is a video that helped me and I think it can help you too.

  • patricia

    I was asked what is prayer really about and told to read the old

    Testament

    , can you help me??

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    If you want a more detailed response than my blog post, I would recommend buying Peter Kreeft’s book Prayer for Beginners. It will help you tremendously.

  • Christthesaviour49

    This is hilarious. Why are you apologists so eager to be god’s bitch? He’s got you by the fucking choke collar and you grovel and claim “it’s all part of his plan” as he cracks the whip at you. You’re like a beaten housewife claiming that your drunk, power-hungry husband “does it because he loves me”.

  • John

    1. Why does God command us to pray for our safety when, ultimately if God is in control of everything, He decides our safety?

    2. Why does Jesus tell people that whatever we ask for will be given to us when God clearly does not answer yes to all of our requests?

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