"Why pray? What is the point of prayer when God knows the future and is already in control of everything. If we cannot change God's mind, why should we pray?"

Why pray? Why pray when God is already in perfect control of everything? Why pray when God knows what we are going to ask before we ask it?

Prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38). We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7).

Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also.

God intends for prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations:

a) Preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13)

b) Overcoming demonic barriers in lives (Matthew 17:14-21)

c) The gathering of workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2)

d) The gaining of strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41)

e) The means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19)

We have God's promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we don't receive specifically what
we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27).

He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15).

Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God's will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.

In situations for which we do not know specifically what God's will is, prayer is a means of discerning God’s will. If Peter had not asked for Jesus to call for him to come out of the boat and onto the water, he would have missed that opportunity (Matthew 14:28-29). If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside of Jericho would not have called out to Christ, he would have still been blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that often we go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. It is the same with prayer: we will never see the results of answered prayer until we pray.

A lack of prayer demonstrates the a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word, and will bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others' lives. Because it is our means of "plugging into" God's power, it is our means of defeating a foe and his army (Satan and his army) that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a High Priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer.

"Who are we to pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?"

All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are One. To the Father we pray with the Psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:2). To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus assured his disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23). Similarly, we are told to pray to the Holy Spirit and in His power. Paul asked the Spirit to join the hearts of the Corinthian believers together (2 Corinthians 13:13). In addition, the Spirit helps us to pray, even when we don’t know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 1:20). Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.

Equally important is who we are not to pray to. Some non-Christian religions encourage their adherents to pray to a pantheon of gods, dead relatives, saints, and spirits. Roman Catholics are taught to pray to Mary and various saints such as Peter. Such prayers are not scriptural and are, in fact, an insult to our heavenly Father and against His expressed will. To understand why, we need only look at the nature of prayer. Prayer has several elements and if we look at just two of them—praise and thanksgiving—we can see that prayer is, at its very core, worship. When we praise God, we are worshipping Him for His attributes and His work in our lives and in the world. When we offer prayers of thanksgiving, we are worshipping His goodness, mercy, and loving-kindness to us. Worship gives glory to God, the only One who deserves to be glorified. The problem with praying to anyone other than God is that He is a jealous God who has declared He will share His glory with no one. In fact, to do so is nothing less than idolatry. "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Other elements are prayer—such as repentance, confession and petition—are also forms of worship. We repent knowing that God is a forgiving and loving God and He has provided a means of forgiveness in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. We confess our sins because we know “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we worship Him for it. We come to Him with our petitions and intercessions because we know He loves us and hears us, and we worship Him for His mercy and kindness in being willing to hear and answer. When we consider all this, it’s easy to see that praying to someone other than our triune God is unthinkable because prayer is a form of worship, and worship is reserved for God and God alone.

"What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?"

Prayer in Jesus’ name is taught in John 14:13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Some mistakenly apply this verse by believing that saying “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer results in God always granting what is asked for. This is essentially treating the words “in Jesus’ name” as a magic formula. This is absolutely unbiblical!

Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus' name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify Jesus.

Saying, “In Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer is not a magic formula. If what you asked for or said in prayer was not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying “In Jesus’ name” is meaningless. Genuinely praying in Jesus' name and for His glory is what is important, not attaching certain words to the end of a prayer. It is not the words in the prayer that matter, but the purpose behind the prayer. Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name.

"How should a Christian view prayer in public schools?"

Prayer in public schools is a delicate, sensitive issue. In a perfect situation, all people would graciously and humbly acknowledge the biblical view of God and His control and rulership over the entire world. In this case, there would be prayer in all public facilities and places. As Psalm 33:12 states, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,..." Praise the Lord that when Jesus returns to reign over this earth, this will be the case.

However, although our country was founded upon biblical principles and the culture was directed by the Judeo-Christian ethic for the first 150+ years, the US is currently not a Christian nation. We are marked by great diversity of opinion and religion. One of the absolute blessings of this country is the government-mandated freedom of expression and religion. There are so many countries in this world where the government mandates the practice of one religion or outlaws the practice of another. Our country may one day outlaw Christianity, but it hasn't and for this we should be thankful. In this diverse, tolerant, freedom-based country, one of the sticky issues regarding formalized, school-sponsored religious events is that if the school sponsors Christian events, they have to sponsor events from all religions. It is easy to say that we want prayer in schools until we realize that those prayers may not just include Christian prayers. This is definitely an issue to think about as we develop our opinions regarding this issue.

How should a Christian view prayer in public schools? 1. According to Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 2, we are to submit to and pray for all authority. An application of this would be to pray that we as a culture return to our Christian heritage through revival and salvation of our country.

Although Christian-based prayer is not sponsored in public schools, Christian kids can and should pray while attending school and pray for other kids, teachers and administrators. The believing children should view their schools as a field for evangelism and receive training from parents and churches for this purpose.

Christian parents of immature Christian kids or unbelieving kids may want to consider some alternatives to sending their children to public school. Perhaps home-schooling or a Private Christian School would be a more appropriate choice for kids who don't view the public school as a field for evangelism.

One thing we as Christians shouldn't do is look to government-sponsored organizations, such as the public schools, to reinforce our Christian values and beliefs. The Bible tells us that the world, including government, is opposed to things of God. If our hope for our country is based upon electing the right officials, more than likely, we will be disappointed. Our hope for our country is based upon God's spiritual intervention through proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost in all places...including the public schools.

"What does it mean to pray without ceasing?"

Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing,” can be very confusing. Obviously, it cannot mean we are to be in a head-bowed, eyes-closed posture all day long. Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions.

When our thoughts turn to worry, fear, discouragement and anger, we are to consciously and quickly turn every thought into prayer and every prayer into thanksgiving. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commands us to stop being anxious and instead, "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (4:6). He taught the believers at Colosse to "devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to see prayer as a weapon to use in fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:18). The famous 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, described the Christian's prayer life, saying it is "Like the old knights, always in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances raised to unhorse an adversary, but always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them . . . Those grim warriors often slept in their armor; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God.”

As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, to every anxious thought, to every undesired task that God commands. John MacArthur warns that a lack of prayer will cause us to stop depending on God's grace and depend on ourselves instead. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, dependence upon and communion with the Father.

For Christians, prayer is like breathing. You don't have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That's why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we're born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God's presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer. Only then can we survive in the darkness of the world.

Unfortunately, many believers hold their spiritual breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, to be fully functional.

Because ours is such a free and prosperous society, it is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on—instead of depending on—God's grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual blessings. Having become so dependent on their physical resources, they feel little need for spiritual resources. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. Christians can actually behave like practical humanists, living as if God were not necessary. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing, as will His empowerment. Because of this great and common danger, Paul urged believers to "pray at all times" (Ephesians 6:18) and to "devote yourselves to prayer" (Colossians 4:2). Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.

The "Sinner’s Prayer"—To Pray or Not To Pray?

The question often arises about what a Christian should do if someone is repentant. Should we lead him in what’s commonly called a "sinner’s prayer" or simply instruct him to seek after God? Perhaps the answer comes by looking to the natural realm.

As long as there are no complications when a child is born, all the doctor needs to do is guide the head. The same applies spiritually. When someone is "born of God," all we need to do is guide the head—make sure that they understand what they are doing. Philip the evangelist did this with the Ethiopian eunuch. He asked him, "Do you understand what you read?" (Acts 8:30). In the parable of the sower, the true convert (the "good soil" hearer) is he who hears "and understands." This understanding comes by the Law in the hand of the Spirit (Romans 7:7). If a sinner is ready for the Savior, it is because he has been drawn by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). This is why we must be careful to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work and not rush in where angels fear to tread.

Praying a sinner’s prayer with someone who isn’t genuinely repentant may leave you with a stillborn in your hands. Therefore, rather than lead him in a prayer of repentance, it is wise to encourage him to pray himself. When Nathan confronted David about his sin, he didn’t lead the king in a prayer of repentance.

If a man committed adultery, and his wife is willing to take him back, should you have to write out an apology for him to read to her? No. Sorrow for his betrayal of her trust should spill from his lips. She doesn’t want eloquent words, but simply sorrow of heart. The same applies to a prayer of repentance. The words aren’t as important as the presence of "godly sorrow." The sinner should be told to repent—to confess and forsake his sins. He could do this as a whispered prayer, then you could pray for him. If he’s not sure what to say, perhaps David’s prayer of repentance (Psalm 51) could be used as a model, but his own words are more desirable.

Two Prayers

“DEAR GOD, I have sinned against You by breaking Your Commandments. Despite the conscience You gave me, I have looked with lust and therefore committed adultery in my heart. I have lied, stolen, failed to love You, failed to love my neighbor as myself, and failed to keep the Sabbath holy. I have been covetous, harbored hatred in my heart and therefore been guilty of murder in Your sight. I have used Your holy name in vain, have made a god to suit myself, and because of the nature of my sin, I have dishonored my parents. If I stood before You in Your burning holiness on Judgment Day, if every secret sin I have committed and every idle word I have spoken came out as evidence of my crimes against You, I would be utterly guilty, and justly deserve hell. I am unspeakably thankful that Jesus took my place by suffering and dying on the cross. He was bruised for my iniquities. He paid my fine so that I could leave the courtroom. He revealed how much You love me. I believe that He then rose from the dead (according to the Scriptures). I now confess and forsake my sin and yield myself to Him to be my Lord and Savior. I will no longer live for myself. I present my body, soul, and spirit to You as a living sacrifice, to serve You in the furtherance of Your Kingdom. I will read Your Word daily and obey what I read. It is solely because of Calvary’s cross that I will live forever. I am eternally Yours. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

“Choose you this day whom you will serve..."

“SATAN, the Bible tells me that you are the god of this world. You are the father of lies. You deceive the nations and blind the minds of those who do not believe. God warns that I cannot enter His Kingdom because I have lied, stolen, looked with lust and therefore committed adultery in my heart. I have harbored hatred, which the Bible says is the same as murder. I have blasphemed, refused to put God first, violated the Sabbath, coveted other people’s goods, dishonored my parents, and have been guilty of the sin of idolatry—I even made a god to suit myself. I did all this despite the presence of my conscience. I know that it was God who gave me life. I have seen the splendor of a sunrise. I have heard the sounds of nature. I have enjoyed pleasures of an incredible array of food, all of which came from His generous hand. I realize that if I die in my sins I will never know pleasure again. I know that Jesus Christ shed His life’s blood for my sins and rose again to destroy the power of death, but today I refuse to confess and forsake my sins. On the Day of Judgment, if I am cast into the Lake of Fire I will have no one to blame but myself. It is not God’s will that I perish. He commended His love toward me through the death of His Son, who came to give me life. It was you who came to kill, steal, and destroy. You are my spiritual father. I choose to continue to serve you and do your will. This is because I love the darkness and hate the light. If I do not come to my senses, I will be eternally yours. Amen.”