In some ways prayer is one of the most mysterious aspects of the Christian walk. We wonder if God really hears our prayers, if our prayers have an effect on our lives, what is acceptable to pray about, how we should pray, and on and on.
So why do we even do it? Several reasons.
We pray because it is a privilege. God is far above us, completely holy and only comprehensible inasmuch as He reveals Himself to us. Prayer is His invitation to get to know Him. God allows us to approach Him. In fact, He desires it. Prayer is our way of communing with God. Just as friends and family members spend time talking with one another to deepen their relationships, so prayer deepens our relationship with God.
We can exercise the privilege of prayer because Jesus has made a sacrifice for us – He bridges the gap between us and God. Hebrews 4:15-16 refers to Jesus as our high priest: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Because of Jesus, we are free to pray, and to pray boldly.
We also pray because we are commanded to. Psalm 100:4 says, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!" Thanking God, praising Him, and blessing Him are all aspects of prayer. Matthew 7:7-11 records Jesus' instructions to ask, seek, and knock. When we pray, this is what we are doing. Matthew 6:5-13 describes Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray. He begins the discourse by saying, "And when you pray." Prayer is assumed; it's something we will do. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul writes, "pray without ceasing." Philippians 4:6says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Prayer is to be part of our lives.
Jesus set a great example of prayer for us. The Gospels mention several times that Jesus prayed.John 17 is perhaps one of the best examples. If Jesus – who is God – prayed to the Father, how much more should we?
Prayer draws us closer to God and is a means by which we praise Him, but it also has an effect in our lives. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." Prayer can lead us to wisdom. First Peter 5:6-7 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." Prayer can relieve our anxiety. Matthew 7:7-8 says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." When we approach God with the desires of our hearts, He answers us (see also Psalm 37:4; John 14:13-14; and 1 John 5:14-15).
Prayer is both an intimate interaction with God and a corporate event. It brings God glory, gives us insight into who He is, and has a tangible effect on our lives. Prayer is a privilege and a spiritual discipline well worth developing.