Imagine being able to call your friend without having to find a phone, or dial a number, or even utter a word out loud. That is the beauty of prayer. God, who is not only our friend but also our all-powerful and all-loving Creator, is ready to listen 24/7. He promises to listen. And not only that, he wants us to pray to him, and he wants us to pray to him often.
God Wants Us to Pray
God tells us to pray to him. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3). God also gives us many examples to follow of people who prayed and trusted in prayer (e.g., Genesis 18:22-33; 1 Kings 18:25-39; Daniel 9). Jesus encourages us to pray (Matthew 7:7-11) and even showed us how to pray using a prayer Christians call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15). Jesus himself prayed many times (e.g., Matthew 14:22-24, 26:36-44; Luke 6:12-16). The apostle Paul also tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God is not shy about telling us to pray to him.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
The Lord’s Prayer
If God wants us to pray, what should we pray? One thing God wants us to include in our prayers is requests. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). God knows what we’ll ask for before we even ask it (Matthew 6:8), and he promises to do what is best for us (Romans 8:28), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray. In fact, God loves to weave our prayers into his perfect plan for us. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). This doesn’t mean that if we ask for a million dollars he’ll give it to us. It means that we have been made righteous through faith (see Justified by Grace through Faith), and so we can confidently approach God in prayer with requests that spring forth from that faith. Our faith in God’s promises leads us to ask for what God has promised to us. And for those times when we have no direct promise from God, we express our preferences but then ask God to do what he knows is best. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). God listens to and loves our God-pleasing requests, whether we offer them for ourselves or for others.
Thanks and Praise
However, prayer is not just about making requests. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). We also pray in order to give thanks to God. This was something the apostle Paul did quite often. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16). “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Colossians 1:3). Giving thanks to God and praising him for all of the blessings he gives us, especially the people he has put in our lives, is certainly something God encourages us to do as well.
God is pretty clear when he invites us to pray. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). And being able to call upon our God every second of every day is truly another way he loves to bless us. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). If we sinful human beings love to give good gifts to those we love, then our good God in heaven certainly does as well (see: Jesus). And that is why God gives us prayer.