Why pray if God already knows what will happen?
I struggled with the question of "why pray if God already
knows the outcome." However, Jesus commanded us to pray time
and time again. Thus, there must be more to prayer than meets
the eye. Though we do not understand the full ramifications of
prayer we must engage in it and "trust in the Lord with all
your heart and do not lean on your own understanding" (Prov
3:5). God employs us in His work, though He is not dependent upon
our actions to accomplish anything. For example, when Jesus entered
Jerusalem and was hailed with Messianic references, He told his
critics that the stones themselves would announce Him if the people
did not (Luke 19:40). However, if we neglect the things that are
expected of us then we are the losers. The wicked servant in the
parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) exemplifies this principle.
In that parable a master entrusted his wealth to his servants
and then left on a long journey. After the master returned to
collect on his investment from his servants, one wicked servant
told the master, "I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where
you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed and
I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground.
See, you have what is yours" (Matt 25:24-25). That servant
had the impression that his master reaped where He did not sow.
He figured that God's work would be done no matter what he did,
so he thought he might as well shirk his duties. But the master
showed this servant that it did matter; the servant was the loser
in the deal. If we neglect the Lord's command, the Lord's work
still gets accomplished (see Isaiah 55:10-11), but we lose out.
And when Queen Esther resisted going to her husband, the Persian
king, to intercede for the Jews, her uncle Mordecai told her,
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will
arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's
house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained
royalty for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
The Lord wants us to diligently seek Him. God works imperceptibly
and requires His people to diligently seek Him. People typically
want tangible rules and rulers to impose God's will so that we
don't have to diligently seek Him. But God prefers that we diligently
seek Him and watching Him intently to see His glances and know
what they mean as the Psalm says "I will instruct you and
teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding,
which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not
come near you" (Ps 32:8-9, NKJ). And this is why Jesus said,
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks
receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door
will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will
give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give
good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matt 7:7-11).
However, we must recognize that our understanding of eternity
is necessarily restricted, being finite beings who exist in time.
Let me illustrate using a mathematical concept. If you take points
in a hyper-dimensional space and project them onto a two dimensional
plane (e.g., a piece of paper) such that the closest points in
hyperdimenstional space are closest when projected onto the paper
then information will be lost, though much of the fundamental
information is retained. In the same way, we know about God through
nature, our own selves, and our relationship with others. None
in them selves is adequate to understand the fullness of God.
For example, when we look at the universe we see how vast it is
and we understand, in a way, how God is vast. But we don't see
that God is loving or intimate. But then we look at marriage and
we understand that God is intimate but not that He is vast. But
even these pictures are inadequate. We then have children, which
allows yet another understanding of our relationship with God.
Putting the myriad of things we encounter in Creation together
all provide various aspects of God and His relationship to us.
But even these, when all put together, must be inadequate. Hence,
I must say that I don't understand how prayer works because I
am projecting eternity into time. But I know this: that God wants
me to engage in it continually; when I don't engage in it I feel
alienated from God - I am "out of the loop"; God enjoys
hearing from me; because I love Him I want to engage in conversation
with Him and please Him.
When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle
or a medical consultation, the thought will often cross our minds
that, if we only knew it, the event is already decided When we
are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation,
the thought will often cross our minds that, if we only knew
it, the event is already decided one way or the other. I believe
this to be no good reason for ceasing our prayers. The event
certainly has been decided. In a sense, it was decided before
all the worlds. But one of the things taken into account in deciding
it, and therefore one of the things that really causes it to
happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering. Thus,
shocking as it may sound, I conclude that we can at noon become
part causes of an event occurring at ten o'clock. There is no
question whether an event has happened because of your prayer.
When the event you prayed for occurs, your prayer has always
contributed to it. When the opposite event occurs, your prayer
has never been ignored; it has been considered and refused for
your ultimate good and the good of the whole universe. (C. S.