Why Pray If God Already Knows What’s Going To Happen?

“Isn’t it like training for a contest that’s already over? A game that ended yesterday?”

If God already knows what’s going to happen, what’s the point of praying?”

Recall from my last post that prayer doesn’t change God’s mind. He’s unchangeable. Prayer isn’t for God. It’s for us. It molds us into his image. It helps restore us to God’s likeness, which is what this life on earth is really all about.

So let’s turn our attention to another facet of this issue. Why bother praying if God already knows what’s going to happen? First of all, we have to accept on some level that there is a mystery about all of this we’re just not going to understand this side of heaven. (Like the popularity of professional wrestling.) After all, we’re getting into the complicated relationship of grace and nature.

That being said, the short answer is this: We pray in order to release God’s grace because that’s the way he set it up. Call it cause and effect.

We all recognize that in the natural world God has set things up in a particular way. Superhero kidThere are certain rules that govern our existence. Going to the dentist is going to hurt. Trying to “fly” off your roof like Superman with nothing but the fitted sheet off of your parent’s bed tied around your neck isn’t going to end well. (Especially if they’re off your parent’s bed.) If you want to reap a harvest, everybody knows you must first so the seed.

Well, the same thing is true in the spiritual life. To reap a spiritual harvest, you must first sow the spiritual seed. Prayer is that seed. It’s the primary cause that produces the effects of grace. It sets things in motion because that’s the way God wants it to be.

Does he knows what we’re going to ask for before we do? Of course. But just like any parent, he desires we make our needs known. Remember when your mom or dad would ask, “What’s the magic word?” when you were trying to grab something? “Say ‘please!'”

Prayer isn’t magic. But it does help put things in right order. It’s an acknowledgment by us – the lowly creatures – that there is a God who made us. And he’s not just our Creator, but a divine Being – a divine Father – who is deeply interested in the affairs of our life.

Prayer seeks a power that is beyond that of men. It can obtain and achieve that which only God can give. That’s why we do it.

So that was the short answer…which means there’s a “long” answer. Perhaps we’ll dive a bit more into it next time.

God bless!

Matt

P.S. If you would like these posts delivered right to your Inbox on a weekly basis, just sign up in the form at the top right. Catholic education and inspiration has never been easier. You’ll even get one of my talks…for FREE!

Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?

When I wasn’t hurlting like a porpoise on speed down a slip-n-slide, or trying to tear the arms off of my neighbor’s Stretch Armstrong as a kid, I often played Solitaire. (“Where is this going?” you ask.)Playing Cards

Of course, Solitaire is all about getting the right cards at the right time. And when the prospect of “winning” (a strange term when you’re playing against yourself) grew dim, I would praise God. “You’re so great, God. Thank you for life. Thank you for making me a boy and not like my gross sisters.” And so on.

In my twisted little world, I thought God would respond to some “buttering up” and give me the right card. Overhearing me from the kitchen one day, my mother called out, “It doesn’t work like that, Matt!”

And before (or after) you’re finished chuckling at my expense, take a look in the mirror. We’ve all done it. When we want or need something really badly, we “ramp up” our activities vis-a-vis God. Maybe we say a few extra “Hail Mary’s” or darken the door of an adoration chapel at midnight. “Hey God! You seein’ this?” we cry? “How about helping me out?”

Computer modeling of what I'll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.
Computer modeling of what I’ll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.

The problem with this is that Scripture (Heb 13:8) and the Catechism both tell us that God is unchangeable. You could move into the adoration chapel and it wouldn’t change his mind. (Though it might get your parish membership revoked.)

His perfect will is going to be accomplished one way or the other. We can either accept it, a choice that leads to happiness, or we can reject it, a choice that leads to misery. It’s that simple.

Still, I know some of you are still asking, “If it’s ultimately going to happen one way or the other, why bother to pray?”

Yes, God is unchangeable and his will is going to be done one way or the other. But just as there are many ways to arrive at a particular destination, God’s will can can come to fruition in any number of ways. In fact, he is constantly working around our mistakes or capitalizing on our faithfulness. Prayer is part of that faithfulness.

We pray because that’s how God set it up. It’s an homage to his providence. In fact, prayer acknowledges there is a God and that we are governed by a divine Being who is deeply interested in the affairs of our life.

Just like a parent wants their child to ask nicely (“please” is the magic word, after all), our Father desires we approach him as the children we are. Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us of our place in the supernatural order. God is Father. We are children, completely and utterly dependent upon him.

There’s certainly more to say on this subject. We’ll pick it up next week. In the meantime, keep praying and trusting!

God bless!

Matt

Why God Sometimes Doesn’t Seem To Answer

Have you ever looked back on something for which you were prayingBusinessman is praying to solve the financial crisis hard and thought, “Man, am I glad that didn’t happen!”?

Whether it was desperately searching for a stylist at SuperCuts to perm your mullet before prom, or a significant other you wanted to ask out to dinner who later went on a three state crime spree…We’ve all had things (or criminals) for which we begged God that wouldn’t have been good for us…at all!

Remember that God always answers our prayers in one of three ways: “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”. Hearing nothing but crickets from heaven is especially frustrating when you’re jonesin’ hard for something. But let’s be honest, Garth Brooks knew exactly what he was talking about back in the 90s when he sang “sometimes  I thank God for unaaaannnswered prayers.” (Love that song.)

Remember that as your Father, God always has your best interest at heart. And that doesn’t mean just the “here and now.” Rather, like any good parent his biggest concern is for your eternal well-being. So if you’re currently praying for something, remember that there is a distinct possibility that the best answer may be no answer.

One way or the other, keep praying, my friends! God bless you.

Matt