Many of those who seek to be faithful believers in Christianity are challenged by one basic question: if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, why do we need to ask Him for our needs?
One of the most difficult theological issues is the whole idea of petitionary prayer — trying to understand how our personal prayers in which we lay out our needs and wants to God shape our individual lives as well as shape our present reality and the world around us.
In other words, how exactly do our prayers matter?
In scripture, we hear examples illustrating the power of pleading with God. In the story from Genesis we see Abraham bartering with God to see if he can get the best deal possible. Abraham is wise enough to not ask for everything all at once, as if he’s using his charm to coax God’s mercy out of him. God goes along with each of his requests.
And in the Gospel passage from Luke — Jesus tells a story about a man banging on his friend’s door at midnight trying to get some bread for an unexpected guest. The friend initially refuses, but then gets worn down from the persistence of the man and gives in.
Jesus, after relating that story, utters these famous words,“ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Must we beg God to get His blessings? When people make the complaint to me that they can’t accept a God who has to be entertained by or who demands or who needs our prayers before he will act on our behalf. I completely affirm their rejection of that sort of God. I tell them that I totally understand why they find that offensive or childish or inexplicable or an impoverished understanding. That sort of God seems to be beneath who believe our God to be. I understand this and yet I pray on a daily basis anyway.
And maybe that’s all we need to take from these stories. Maybe it really has nothing to do with us understanding it. An authentic spiritual life is about none of those things. It’s about a relationship supported and strengthened and transformed in part by a holy conversation — what we call the divine conversation.
This is a conversation that has no beginning and no ending, but rather is one that has been continual from the very dawn of time. This sacred conversation enables channels of grace to remain open within every single person, a kind of listening and speaking that helps each of us remain open to an outpouring of God’s life which has the power to change absolutely everything.
In my view, we need to bring our needs to our God because we believe he loves us more than we can imagine because we trust in his wisdom and power. We are dependent upon him for every good thing and we are in his hands every second of every day. Most of all because we are changed simply through the act of asking.
We ask, seek and knock simply because God asks us to, simply because he desires this of us, simply because it opens us up to every good thing he wants for us.
In the end, it’s really not about knowing the why. It’s not about getting it or knowing how everything works. It’s really all about keeping us in right relationship with our incredible, loving, generous and compassionate God.