Chapter 1

Why Pray?

Most people thinking about prayer eventually ask, “Why pray at all?” Is the basic purpose of prayer to get things from God? Certainly the Bible assures us that God hears us and gives us what we need. But is that the basic reason Jesus taught us to pray?

George MacDonald offered this rationale for prayer:

What if God knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God’s idea of prayer is a supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of Himself? . . . Hunger may drive the runaway child home, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his parents more than his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need. Prayer is the beginning of that communion, of talking with God, a coming-to-one with Him, which is the sole end of prayer, yea, of existence itself. . . . We must ask that we may receive, but that we should receive what we ask in respect to our lower needs is not God’s end in making us pray. He could give us everything without that. To bring His child to His knee, God withholds that men may ask.

When we pray, we often concentrate on the gifts in God’s hand and ignore the hand of God Himself. We pray fervently for the new job or for the return of health. When we gain the prize, we are delighted. And then we have little more to do with God. If we are only after the gifts, God’s hand serves only as a way to pay the rent, heal the sickness, or get through the crisis. After the need has been met, the hand itself means little to us.

While God in His grace does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that; He offers us Himself. Those who are satisfied merely with the trinkets in the Father’s hand miss the best reward of prayer—the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe.