I was sitting on the steps of my college chapel, talking with one of the ministry leaders I served under. As I wrestled with new understandings about God’s sovereignty, I hit the wall in my prayer life.
“If God is sovereign, why should we pray? If God is in control, and if he will do what he sovereignly wills, why bother asking for anything?”
It’s a fair question. I don’t remember details about what I was told that day, but if I could go back and talk to myself, here are a few things I’d say.
We Pray BECAUSE God is Sovereign
If God wasn’t sovereign, what would be the use in praying? Would prayer have any power, or would God think, “Oh man, that’s a great request… I just wish I had the ability to grant it!”
Of course not! Because God is sovereign, we pray and plead with him to grant our requests like a child with his or her father.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
Because salvation is a gift of the Holy Spirit, we pray for the Giver to give it. If God was not sovereign over salvation, why pray for others to be given the gift of faith and for the minds and hearts to be awakened to the love of God through Jesus Christ?
We Pray Because we are God-Dependant
Similarly, we pray as an acknowledgement that we are not independent creatures; we are co-dependant on God who provides. In our relationship with God, we are children… not slaves. And so we come to him with requests, prayers, and offerings of thanksgiving and praise as a natural overflow of our relationship.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:11 ESV
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?”
Isaiah 45:9 ESV
Rather coming before God to command him (like the clay shouting at the potter in Isaiah 45:9), we pray because we trust God. Prayer is at the core of the Christian’s relationship with God, because it builds faith (trusting him, not ourselves, to accomplish his purposes) and it strengthens faith (reminding us from where our strength comes). If we were dependent on our own power and provision, we would not pray.
Prayer Isn’t About Getting What You Want
This is one of the greatest lies about prayer: We pray to get what we want. And we so easily slip into this. But if we only come to God with a long list of things we want him to do, then we’ve turned him into the Genie from Aladdin, and we simply hope we have another wish left in the bank.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
As Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, we come to him with fear and trembling (because he is Holy) but also with confidence (because we are children of God). Prayer is about expressing faith and worship and gratitude to our Holy God who has chosen to adopt us as sons and daughters. Through prayer, we receive mercy and grace.
Because God is sovereign… we pray all the more fervently. If God was not sovereign, he would not be worthy of our prayers.