Why is Prayer Necessary?
It’s true that God already knows your needs, as well as everything about your life (Matthew 6:8). But because of limitations he’s placed on Himself from interfering with man’s free will, He needs for you to pray and invite His help to intervene in your life’s affairs. This is in-part what Jesus meant when He told His followers that they should pray that the“Father’s will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven” (Luke 11:2).
The way God interacts with mankind is different than His other natural laws, which carry out His will and purposes regardless of man’s choices. For instance, it’s not necessary to pray for the earth to continue spinning on its axis, or to ask God to provide gravity, or air to breath. Long ago, God established these, and many other laws and patterns, which continue to function without our prayers or asking the Lord for assistance.
In addition, there are also many blessings that the Lord brings into the lives of His followers without them specifically asking. This is primarily because they’ve surrendered their lives to His will, and have already invited His participation in their lives by seeking to please Him and honor His principles (Proverbs 16:7, Psalms 37:4, Matthew 6:33).
However, when faced with a need for God’s intervention or assistance in the various problems or circumstances of life, we must pray in faith and ask Him for His help. As James wrote, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). When we pray, we can be assured that He is ready to hear and respond to the requests of His Children who call upon Him in Faith. Even as David wrote, “Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me” (Psalms 86:6-7).
The Necessity of prayer is one of the most common themes of numerous Christian leaders down through the centuries, such as Charles Spurgeon, one of history’s greatest preachers. He said “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom. If you may have everything by asking in His Name, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is.”1
Another more contemporary author and popular teacher on the subject of prayer, Stormie Omartian, also emphasized the need for prayer in her writings. In a book she co-authored with Jack Hayford,The Power of Praying Together, she wrote, “Some people believe that God is going to do whatever He is going to do no matter what, so there is no reason to pray. But the truth is there are things God will not do on earth except in answer to prayer.”2
John Wesley, the famed founder of the Methodists, also taught and wrote much about the need for prayer. In his day, many failed to see prayer as a necessity, due to distorted teachings of predestination which misled people into thinking that their will was of no consequence. In their view, all events were predetermined and thus inevitable... so what would be the point of praying?
Such thinking is, of course, a twisted interpretation of Paul’s teaching of God’s prepared plan for those whom He “foreknows” (Romans 8:28-29, Ephesians 1:5,11). This doesn’t mean that man’s fate has been predetermined against his will (a misguided belief known as fatalism). But rather, it simply means that God already “knows” the circumstances that man will face, the choices he will make... and has prepared a plan for Him accordingly. God also already knows the prayers you will pray, and is eager to bring His will and blessing into your life.
Wesley believed that God does nothing in man’s affairs without prayer, and even went as far to argue that persons could not be converted to Christ without the prayers of someone, somewhere. He wrote, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer; and even they who have been converted to God, without praying for it themselves (which is exceeding rare), were not without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the effect of a new prayer.”3
E.M. Bounds was another of history’s great teachers and writers regarding prayer. He wrote, “God has of his own motion placed himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated himself to answer the prayers of men. He has ordained prayer as a means whereby he will do things through men as they pray, which he would not otherwise do. If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs, and prevents him from working.”4
Consider something else. If prayer is necessary for God to intervene in our behalf, just imagine how many things have been attempted, even in His name for His purposes, without praying or seeking God. As amazing as this may sound, many churches actually attempt to do God’s work without consulting Him or asking for His help. Sermons have been preached, classes taught, songs sung without seeking much if any of His guidance or blessing. So should it be a surprise if such attempts fail?
And even if some type of success is attained through man’s efforts, what kind of true spiritual achievements can we hope to achieve for God, without His guidance or involvement? It reminds me of what Paul said about the temporal labors of man that will not endure(1 Corinthians 3:15), or those ministers who will appear before the Lord’s Judgment, claiming many wonderful works they did in His name. Yet He will declare He never knew them(Matthew 7:22-23).
What we can conclude is, there’s no assurance that God will intervene in the affairs of man apart from prayer. And without His intervention, we are helpless to save ourselves, or to overcome the wicked devices of Satan. Neither can we change our own lives, our circumstances, or our world in any lasting or meaningful way. As Jesus said, “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Prayer is the means to acquire God’s help, his blessings, and intervention... that He may manifest His will on the earth, as it is in Heaven. Without Him, we cannot accomplish anything lasting or meaningful. But with Him, we can achieve great things in His name, “...with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Remember this, “Without Him, you can do nothing... without prayer, He can do nothing.”
1 Ask and Have, Sermon Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington London, C. H. Spurgeon, 1882