Reasons to Pray

Lake-effect snowstorms arrive suddenly, depart quickly, and usually leave several inches of the white stuff in a limited area. Several years ago I was en route from Chicago, Illinois, to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend a family wedding. The unexpected storm arrived around 3:30 A.M.

With my wife and daughter serenely asleep in the car, I clenched the steering wheel and drove ever so slowly in zero visibility. My wife soon awoke due to the cold air streaming in through my open window, rolled down to ensure sight of the guardrail on the left side of the road. Soon we were both frightened.

Total darkness surrounded us as zillions of snowflakes collected on the windshield. It was then that we asked the Lord to get us safely to an exit. “Lord,” I remember praying, “I promise I will get off at the first exit I see and not leave until the snow stops.”

All was quiet except for the windshield wipers swishing vainly back and forth. Within moments after that prayer, headlights appeared in my rearview mirror. As far as I knew, I was the only one on the road. I could tell the driver of the car wanted to pass me, and as I moved over I noticed he was driving a Jeep. He then slowed down in front of me, creating a buffer to the storm. I followed that Jeep for about 10 minutes until I saw a very welcome exit sign. Then the Jeep seemed to vanish as I exited the expressway.

Neither my wife nor I said anything until we found a 24-hour restaurant and pulled into the parking lot. We sat in the car, motionless. We knew we had just experienced an immediate, amazing, life-saving answer to prayer. To this day (nearly three decades later), we believe God sent either an angel or a really good driver to guide us. We prayed in our time of need, and He answered us promptly. By the time we had finished our early breakfast, the storm had passed; and true to the word of my prayer, we left that parking lot on what had become a clear, sunny morning.

Should people who pray expect such a wonderful and immediate response? What if a Jeep had not appeared? What if, instead of finding an exit, I had hit a patch of ice and crashed? Would God be any less than who He is because I received no help? Would my prayer have been meaningless?

Historically, God gives three answers to His people: yes, no, and wait. As the absolute Sovereign of the universe, He does what He wants when He wants for whatever reason He wants and for His own purpose.

Throughout history, devout, praying people in horrendous situations did not receive their desired answers. Today millions of deeply distressed people pray fervently to God in their times of need. They may be in difficult relationships, have disastrous finances, or suffer painful health problems. Yet they see no evidence of an answer to their prayers. Even the Lord Jesus Christ prayed specifically to His Father, “If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42).

So why pray at all? If God does what He wants to do, what purpose does praying serve?

We pray because it demonstrates our relationship with God. Christians often describe themselves as having “a personal relationship with God.” Such a relationship revolves around communication. God speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him through our lips and mind. If we don’t listen (read His Word) or speak (pray), the relationship breaks down.

We pray because God commands it: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7).

Complying with Jewish tradition, the prophet Daniel prayed three times a day regardless of the circumstances (Dan. 6:12–13). God wants His people to pray.

We pray because it demonstrates our position under Him and our dependence on Him:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lᴏʀᴅ, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber (Ps. 121:1–3).

We pray because it is a way to serve God. The prophetess Anna “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Lk. 2:37). When we pray we admit that life is not “all about me.” The apostle Paul wrote,

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Tim. 2:1–2).

We pray because it strengthens our faith. Seeing firsthand God’s provision through answered prayer strengthens our inner man. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Mt. 6:6). We pray to the one “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

We pray because it is worth doing: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5:16).

We pray because He always answers, one way or another:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 Jn. 5:14–15).

When my wife and I called out to God in our need, we did not know what His answer would be. When the Jeep emerged out of nowhere, pulled in front of us, and directed us to the exit, we certainly felt a great relief. Later, as we sat in the parking lot meditating on what had happened, all we could do was pray again—this time praising the Lord who saw fit to answer us.

And that is another reason we pray: to praise God for who He is and to thank Him for His blessings.

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