by Dr. Carmen M. Gaud
One of the themes I hear very often about prayer is: why should we pray if God knows everything? In a way the question and the statement make sense. The discipline of prayer is not as easy as it looks. There is a certain human inclination to believe that we can solve every problem by ourselves. In which case, why should we get God involved?
This type of thinking implies our difficulty in recognizing who God is for us. If we are expecting to pray to a God who will respond like a Santa Claus, we can definitely say: why pray? From this point of view, all we need to do is to tell God what we want, and God will either agree to it or simply say no to our petition. When we limit our prayer to the perspective of God knowing or not knowing our petitions, we are looking at prayer in a mechanistic way.
The gospels talk about Jesus spending the night in prayer, getting away to pray (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 9:28). All the great figures of the Christian Church who have written about prayer refer to it as an interaction with a real being. Prayer is neither a formula nor a position, not a posture or a method. Prayer is communion with the Creator of the Universe, a conversation in which we receive as much as we communicate. In real prayer we are not only expressing what is in us, but we are being transformed by the One to whom we speak.
This God is not managed or controlled by our human limitations. While praying we are not asking God to run our errands, but we are worshiping and listening for what God has to say. In prayer like this we need time to receive what God has to say and willingness to be transformed in the process. This God has authority over us; we do not have the capacity to control God. At the same time, this is a loving God who wants to be in dialogue with us, God’s creatures. So, even when we may think that we should not be saying what God already knows, it is important to be in dialogue to let ourselves be transformed by the One who can renew our lives daily.
Dr. Carmen M. Gaud is the retired International Editor of El Aposento Alto.
Pastor Harold Stinson was given The Upper Room as a child by his mother. He is now 71 years old and still reads the devotional guide every day but now in large print. He also hosts a daily prayer call and uses the scripture from the meditation as the basis for that call.