Since the time of Socrates the world has been asking for the “why” behind the “what”. But even if you’ve never heard of Socrates or read any of his writings if you interact with children on a regular basis you’ve got a grip on the “why” questions that always follow the “what” instructions. Even my two-year old daughter has started pelting me with “why, Daddy?” in response to “Please sit up at the table and eat your dinner” or “Please don’t lay on top of your six-month old sister” or “Please don’t play with Mommy’s welding kit near the gas grill”. Where there’s a what there’s a why.
That’s kind of how I feel about prayer. Prayer is the “what” – the thing God has instructed us to do, but the fact that I have at least one or two (or a thousand) unanswered ones leads me to the “why” question which is “Why does God want us to pray if it only works once in a blue moon?”
I’ve come to the realization that my understanding of prayer is so skewed by our instant-gratification, results-oriented, self-centered culture that I am asking the wrong question when I ask why prayer doesn’t “work” as if it’s some kind of coin-operated vending machine. The point of prayer is not to get what we want from God, it’s to have a conversation with God. To put it simply, God wants us to pray because he wants to hear your voice as often as possible. A brilliant Jewish scholar name Abraham Joshua Heschel put it like this: “Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.”
We pray … just … because.
At the same time, prayer does “work” in the sense that God moves at the behest of his people. Jesus said it like this in John 14:14 “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” There’s a lot we could say about this verse but I want to leave you with what I think is a similar way of saying what Jesus said: “Prayer is not a thought that rambles alone in the world but an event that starts in man and ends in God. What goes on in our heart is a humble preliminary to an event in God” (Heschel).
We pray because it “works”.
This Sunday at The Bridge is devoted to prayer. May you enjoy talking to your Father and may you realize that this Sunday is a humble preliminary to an event in God! I’m with you in spirit.