I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray, far from it. But prayer as understood by pretty much every Christian in the world is simply irrational.
The average prayer goes something like this “Lord, I’m sick (1), I know You love me (2), so please make me better! (3)”
Let’s break that down by the number next to each part of the prayer above; (1) Prayer informs God that a problem exists; (2) why it needs to be addressed; and (3) what you think should be done about it. Right?
But if you if you really think about it, every part of that is crazy. Because that prayer, like most today, assumes that God doesn’t know (1); doesn’t care (2); or isn’t competent (3). Let’s look at them one at a time:
- If God is indeed all-knowing, then surely He knows we need these things (Luke 12:30). So why does He need you to tell Him? Does this part of the prayer really make sense?
- If God is indeed love, “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), then surely God is already concerned about the problem. And you, or a thousand people like you, begging Him to address it can’t possibly compare to His own love for His children… can it?
- If God’s thoughts really are “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are… my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9), then what could you possibly add to God’s decision-making process?
Really, what are you bringing to the table here? Do you know ANYTHING about the bigger picture here? So why would God ever listen to you?
Scratch that… why would you want Him to listen to you?
Slow down, stop hyperventilating in shock, and think this through.
God knew, long before you did, that this person was sick; God loves them enough to die for them – something you probably wouldn’t do. And God is the only person who actually can fix them.
So why pray at all?
If God wanted hospitals emptied… then wouldn’t they already BE emptied? Would He really be waiting around for you to ask?
If God wanted righteous leaders over your country or church, wouldn’t they already be there? (1 Samuel 12:14-15, 25; Daniel 4:17).
If God wanted our troops protected, God would do it (Psalm 33:16, Proverbs 21:31, etc.). And He would do it whether you asked Him to do it or not.
Again: I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray. The Bible is full of examples and commands to pray. But prayer as practiced today makes absolutely no sense at all.
So what does?
Many people would say they pray to “get to know God better”, or “to visit with my Father”, or “to spend time with God”.
So let’s say you and I are on a road trip. And for 400 miles you don’t shut up about every trivial event in your life, your hopes and dreams, your fears and failures. At the end of that trip… can you really say that YOU know ME better?
Likewise, prayer does nothing to help you get to know God better; it’s just free therapy. Talk to God, talk to your cat, talk to a psychiatrist; as far as knowing the other person better, it’s all the same. Because that’s not what prayer is for!
God is our Father; and “pray” is just an archaic English word meaning “ask”. So if you want to truly understand what prayer is for, think about what you might ask your human father for.
As a child, did you ask your father to put food on the table? Of course not! What father would have to be told to FEED his children??
Did you ask him to clothe you? Give you a place to live? Of course not! If it was at all possible, your father would have done those things for you… before you were old enough to talk!
Did you ask him to protect you from bad influences? To teach you to be a better person? To correct you when you were wrong? To take you to the doctor when you were sick, to save up for your college fund, to build an inheritance for you?
Of course not; if he were a good father, and if it were at all possible, he would have done all of these things before you asked; and he would have done them even if you had NEVER asked!
And he probably would be insulted that you thought you HAD to ask in the first place!
Ironically, most Christians would tell you that “prayer shows faith in God”. But if someone asks you to take care of their cat while they’re out of town, and then texts you every hour to remind you to feed it, clean the litter box, and generally make sure it’s alright… wouldn’t that annoy you?
Their constant badgering doesn’t show faith in you; the exact opposite, in fact! It proves they think you don’t know how to do what you agreed to do, don’t care about their pet, or are just not competent to care for it!
Matthew 6:7-8 NKJV And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Likewise, prayer does not show faith in God. In fact, it shows the precise opposite: your fear that God isn’t going to save you. And sadly, most prayers stem from the fear that God doesn’t know about you, doesn’t care about you, or is incapable of saving you!
Take a common prayer like “Lord, watch over everyone on their way home from church”. Did God not already promise that in places like Psalm 91:12 and Matthew 28:20? Has He forgotten to watch over you? So what possible point could there be in reminding Him to do what He’s already supposed to do??
I know that’s terribly disturbing; but be honest:
Why tell God your problems, unless you thought He didn’t know?
Why remind God of His promises, unless you think He forgot them?
Why tell God how to fix things, unless you didn’t think He can’t figure it out on His own?
I feel like I need to say once more that this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray – although you should probably pray a lot less. But you need to pray correctly, in a way that makes sense!
95% or more of all prayers people make to God are about things they would never think to ask their human father for when they were children!
If you could have that kind of faith in your FALLIBLE, HUMAN father, the FAITH to not bother to ask him for things you KNOW he will provide…
Why can’t you show that kind of faith in GOD?
The world’s religions and the Christian religion look at prayer the same; Christian and heathen alike, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:7). As if God was eager to hear their repetitive prayers droning on in archaic languages (Latin, KJV English, Hebrew, Greek, Sanskrit, etc.).
As if God looked forward to endless and practically identical prayers repeated daily and hourly across the world about blessings and help and watch over and guide and thanks and praise and holy name and bless this food and make it nourishing and thank you for it amen until God feels the same way about them as you feel about this sentence… like it needs to stop (Isaiah 1:12-15).
These are not my opinions; these are things that have been in your Bible all along, things most people just read right past without thinking about it.
Matthew 6:25 NKJV “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on…
Most prayers are about jobs, health, guidance, protection… something you need. Now there are certainly times when we might wonder how we’re going to get out of this problem. And there are certainly times we might be very afraid for our future. But that is, by definition a lack of faith – faith in God’s awareness, His ability, and His willingness.
Matthew 6:31-32 NKJV“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
No one who truly believes these words will ever again ask God for food, water, clothes, or the jobs, money, and skills it takes to get them.
That doesn’t mean it’s a sin to ask! You might; I might… but the fact that we ask proves we doubt that God will do it by Himself, as He promised He would! It proves we think He has forgotten about us, about His promise!
Don’t pretend you don’t doubt if you do; if you doubt, ASK! Let God show that He can and will do it! But don’t say this shows faith, when anyone can see it shows the opposite. And certainly don’t think that God wants you to nag Him to do what He already intended to do!
So why pray at all? As always, listen to the Bible… it’s been telling you all along!
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
If you’re afraid God has forgotten you, by all means, pray for your needs. It doesn’t show faith, but then you may not have faith and there’s no shame in facing that fact – and starting here, to build faith.
But prayer’s primary purpose is to give you things you desire. Not need – desire. There’s a difference. You never asked your father for food as a child; you asked for a bike. Not for a roof over your head; but for a car.
Things you wanted, wanted so bad they might have felt like needs… but not needs (1 Timothy 6:8). If you WANT something from God, ask; if you’re in His good graces, and it doesn’t interfere with His plans for you, why wouldn’t He give it to you?
1 John 3:21-22 NKJV Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
But these are wants, not needs. We might want a wife; or a child; or to know the answer to a certain problem. Wants. God wants us to be as happy as is possible in this life – without compromising His other purposes.
James 4:3 NKJV You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Do you really want a new car? Or do you just want to show off a new car to your friends? There’s a difference; one is fine, one is not. One prayer God might answer; the other He certainly won’t.
Matthew 6:31-32 NKJV But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
But what if you don’t seek first the Kingdom of God? What if you don’t “do those things that are pleasing in His sight”? Then it stands to reason that these things wouldn’t be added to you!
And, as with your human father, the solution isn’t to ask again and again and again… the solution is to be a better child, so your father can again bless you – instead of sending you to bed hungry, grounding you, and taking your toys away!
Because every child knows, when your father is mad at you is not the time to ask him for things!
1 John 5:16 NKJV If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do NOT say that he should pray about that.
Can you imagine saying to your brother “no, I won’t pray for you”? Even under the most extreme circumstances, for the worst sins? If not, then there is a great deal about prayer you don’t understand.
Imagine what would happen if a Christian were asked “pray for me!” and he responded “why should I?”
Can you imagine the shock and scorn he would be faced with? Yet the Bible commands us to do that. We aren’t supposed to pray for everyone!
Christians today feel it is their duty to beg, bribe, and plead with God about every stranger’s problems. But as always… Does God not know? Does He not care? Does He not have a plan? (Matthew 5:45).
If someone is hungry and cold, it is because God chose not to provide these things. And if God has not blessed someone with food then by all means – give them food (Romans 12:20). But before you ask GOD to feed them and bless them… ask yourself if this is your problem?
Proverbs 26:17 NKJV He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.
Let’s consider your human brother and father again, to better understand how this works. If your brother steals a car, he deserves to be punished by your father. Surely you agree?
Now if your brother comes to you and says “this punishment sucks, talk to Dad and try and get him to lighten up”, what should you do?
This is a serious crime, and for the sake of everyone – including your brother – he needs to learn that this isn’t acceptable. And while you may feel sorry for your grounded brother, that doesn’t meant he should get off so easy! (Hebrews 12:17).
You may hope for his sake this is over soon… but to ask your father for leniency, you would need a very good reason, something like “Dad, I’m sure he’s learned his lesson”; “Dad, it was really my fault”; “Dad, the punishment is unfair, no one should suffer like this”.
So first, your brother would need to convince you that his suffering was unfair; and then, you’d need to come up with a pretty compelling argument to get your father to change his mind.
Right? I mean, this is how we’d all handle this. So why does no one handle prayer this way?
If someone wants you to pray for them, it’s on them to convince you why they deserve mercy! And if you want God to change His mind about them, it’s on you to convince Him why He should!
Remember: God is doing all of this for their own good. So before you ask Him to stop doing that and do something you think is better for them, you need a very well reasoned and convincing argument!
What did this person do to offend God? (Isaiah 59:1-2). Have they forgiven their enemies? (Mark 11:25-26). Have they repented to their brother? (Matthew 5:23-24). Have they learned their lesson? (Job 42:5-6). Have they confessed their sins to you? (James 5:15-16).
If not… WHY should God change His mind… when they haven’t changed the reason His mind was set that way to begin with?
And if you don’t know these things… then why are YOU involved in this, again? Just to remind God to remember a person He never forgot?
To remind Him, the One who died for their sins, to care about them? To helpfully suggest He STOP doing the thing HE BELIEVES is best for their spiritual growth?
So look at the people you know, their suffering, and their problems. Is God being unfair? Does He not know how hard it is to be a human? Hebrews 4:15. If you think He might have forgotten, then remind Him! Because that’s what prayer is for.
Prayer is to CHANGE GOD’S MIND. It can certainly be done; it happened all the time in the Bible. When people went about it the right way.
But it takes great courage and wisdom – or incredible foolishness and arrogance – to venture to correct God’s judgment.
When you say “yes, I’ll be happy to pray for you!” to every person who asks, without any questions or knowledge of the situation whatsoever… which are you demonstrating?
And why would God want you to weigh in at all?
Prayer is, by definition, a request for God to do something your way instead of the way He was already doing it. Remember: the only reason you’re talking to Him is to CHANGE that will.
So why do most people conclude their prayers “not my will, by thine, be done”? Because saying that is literally telling God to ignore your prayer! Consider Luke 22:42; did this thing Jesus asked for happen? Of course not! Because Jesus specifically told God to ignore everything He just asked for!
When you say “Lord, heal this person, but not my will, thy will be done”… that’s exactly what God does: whatever He was going to do before you opened your mouth!
So make up your mind! Do you want Him to do it His way, as He already is, or to do it YOUR WAY? Because “thy will be done” is literally saying “you know what God… forget I said anything”. Just as it would be, if you said those words to your human father!
Prayer is about getting God to substitute our will for His own. Remember, God’s will was being done before you said anything! God has a plan, and when He is ready to lift a punishment, He will.
But if you feel compelled by pity, or by a sense of injustice, feel free to tell God how you feel. But make a case – not a plea. Change His mind! It happens, and it’s not even that hard to do!
God’s mind was changed regularly in the Bible; consider Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32:11-14. But God changed His mind because Moses REMINDED HIM of how this would look to Egypt; REMINDED HIM that this judgment might contradict an earlier promise of His. Moses made a case!
God had no doubt already been aware of these potential problems; and God had already figured a way around them (verse 10). But God still allowed Himself to be swayed. Why?
Was God’s initial judgment not just? Had God indeed forgotten His promise? Both are doubtful. So why would He change His mind? Because Moses asked Him to do so. And so God did Moses’ will instead of His own.
God had clearly stated that His will was to kill most of the Israelites, justly, for their sins (verses 7-9). Moses wanted something different from God’s will.
And God was fond of Moses; so God agreed to do it Moses’ way even though, since it was Moses’ plan and not God’s, it probably was not the best way!
Let’s think about that for a moment; if Moses hadn’t interceded here and changed God’s mind, Moses would have been among the sole survivors and the ancestor of the Israelite nation.
Moses then wouldn’t have had rebellious people to delay his entry to the Promised Land for forty more years (Numbers 14).
With no stubborn Israelites, he wouldn’t have then gotten frustrated and hit the rock (Numbers 20).
Which means he wouldn’t have been locked out of the Promised Land by God (Deuteronomy 3:26-27).
So in the end… wouldn’t Moses’ life have been a LOT better had he simply trusted God and kept his mouth shut?
Think about that, next time you try to change God’s mind.
But if changing God’s mind is so bad… why would He let us do it at all? That’s the best part!
Prayer exists for us to ask God for whatever we want; not for us to talk God’s ear off, and not to weigh in with our opinion about every trivial problem any of seven billion strangers might have. That’s what Twitter is for.
1 John 5:14 NKJV Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
But God’s will is not cast in stone, and when we think we know a better way, God will often let us do it that way; even if He knows it’s not the best way!
Because generally, what we’ll learn is that if we simply had let God do it His way, we’d have been happier in the long run – even though we couldn’t imagine how at the time.
God alters His will for us because that’s the far greater reason prayer exists; far beyond our selfish needs and petty wants. It presents an opportunity for us to learn to ask things according to His will (Ephesians 5:17, 1:9).
When we go to God to ask for toys and perks that we want, we should learn from receiving them, or not, what God’s will was. And from that, what our own will should be!
Romans 12:2 NKJV And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
When we ask God to help those around us or to forgive their sins, He’ll often give them the benefit of the doubt because we asked Him to do so… and then we should watch closely what happens next.
Because more often than not, before long you’ll see why God was more skeptical of their repentance than you naively were, as they repeat the same mistakes that led to their problem in the first place.
And you’ll realize that God was not wrong to put them in that situation before, and not wrong to leave them there (Galatians 6:7). But sometimes, you’ll learn that Luke 7:47 is true.
You’ll learn this in a way you couldn’t learn without this interaction with God; and next time, hopefully, you’ll be a little more cautious about whom you vouch for with God.
Next time, hopefully, you’ll be a little wiser in telling the difference between someone who wants to change and be a better person… and someone who just wants the punishment to stop.
The real question though is… which are you?
Do you want me to beg God to bless you… or would you rather just be the kind of person God would be unrighteous NOT to bless? Hebrews 6:10.
Would you rather be a person who must suck up to God on an hourly basis just to get your daily bread… or a person whom God blesses because He feels like it?
Being that kind of person means you have to change what you are. It means unlearning everything you think you know, and letting the Bible teach you the truth instead.
That’s what the Bible Study Course I offer is about. It’s about using the tools God gave us to become what God wants us to be.
It’s about listening to the Bible, instead of the accumulated traditions of centuries. It’s about removing every reason God might have for cursing you (Joel 2:12-14), and using the Bible alone to explain everything you ever wanted to know.
If these are things you want, then you need to enroll for free below. If you want to be a better person so that God will give you things before you ask (Isaiah 65:24), it starts now.
If you work towards being that person, then God Himself will add all these things to you; because you will at last be “Seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
And then you won’t need me, or anyone else, not even Jesus Himself, to pray for you…
John 16:26 (GWV) When that day comes, you will ask for what you want in my name. I’m telling you that I won’t have to ask the Father for you. The Father loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.