I am 21 years old, have always lived in a loving Christian home and have been raised Christian. I have always believed, but in the last few years, I finally have reached that point in my life where my innocent child-like view of my faith is becoming a more mature, adult view.
What bothers me is that I know I have let my time in college and speaking with others “pollute” my faith in a sense, and I never wanted that. I have let questions of doubt enter into my life, and I have done everything I can do to fight it off by finding answers in the Bible or from pastors, fellow believers, or my parents.
I’ve managed to find peace in the Bible with many of my questions, but one in particular has, I’m sure, unnecessarily confused me to the point of great frustration: “What really is the purpose of prayer?”
This may sound like an incredibly dumb question, but I really want to understand, and I almost feel as though God will be furious with me because of all of my questions and “soul searching” if you will. The idea of disappointing Him really upsets me.
What really does prayer do? What is the purpose of it, especially considering that God already knows what will happen, and has a plan for each person, and in turn, the world?
For example, a small child in the hospital is battling cancer, so hundreds of people pray for this child to be healed. If God already knows this child’s outcome, what would be the point of praying?
I feel horrible for even asking this question, and I’m sure that what I’ve really done is think way too far into it, and way overcomplicated it. I really would appreciate and be grateful for any insight you could give me.
This is going to sound strange at first, but it always gives me pause when I hear someone is going off to a secular college regardless of a strong Christian upbringing. It is almost guaranteed that the Christian college student will encounter situations where his or her faith will be tested; some type of spiritual confusion will seep its way in. Although that is also true today of all schools even from the very early years unless they are truly founded on biblical principles.
Liberalism (godlessness) has overtaken so many areas of our culture. Now think about this:
Why do you think prayer was removed from the public schools in the 1960s? Because bit by bit any reference to God the Creator had to be quashed. The devil has an agenda and he is using godless people to accomplish it. We are living in a spiritual battlefield and unless we arm ourselves with prayer and the Word of God, we are going to get sidelined and injured at best, or lose our Christian faith all together.
This spiritual battle in which we are involved is very serious with eternal consequences. How we handle it is the key to our well-being and functionality as believers. Prayer helps break through spiritual (demonic) strongholds. Demonic strongholds come in many shapes and forms: Through illness, poverty, marital distress, various forms of neglect, abuse and slander; the list is endless. It is through prayer that we appeal to the Father for help. Prayer is the First-Aid remedy in this demonically oppressed world.
The three types of prayer cited in the Scriptures are praise, intercession (when we pray on the behalf of others) and personal requests. These three types of prayer can be short prayers or lengthy ones. It is a blessing to be devoted to prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7); meaning we should spend time in private prayer on our knees, and in prayer when on the go. We should also pray with others (Acts 1:3; 16:25).
Prayer is our lifeline of communication to God. It is through prayer and studying the Bible that we gain spiritual strength which spills over into all areas of our lives. Prayer is a way of showing the Lord our love for Him, and fellowshipping with Him. It pleases Him to fellowship with His children and hear our prayers.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
Prayer is a way to serve the Lord and show our obedience (Luke 2:36-38).
Revelation 3:20 shows us that if we open our hearts to the Lord, He will come into our hearts and fellowship with us. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him and it is through prayer that we can speak with Him.
Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to bless us and it is through prayer that God is glorified.
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
We can find examples in the gospels where Jesus prayed to the Father:
“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
Because we are Jesus’ followers, we should follow His example.
Prayer brings results.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
Prayer is a major avenue on the road to Christian maturity. We cannot grow in our faith if we do not spend time with God in prayer and studying His Word. We can go without food for a while without too much discomfort but when it goes on too long we become weak.
It is the same for the spirit within; we will get weak in the spirit if we do not spend quality time with the Lord every day. Prayer and the Word of God are the fuel we need to keep our spiritual lives running in the right direction—on the road to a victorious life in Christ.
Prayer is often thought to be a way to convince God to do our desires, but it should be more accurately understood to be a way to grow in wisdom and understanding. It is then that He can work through us. When we have a right relationship with the Lord, His desires become our desires.
Prayer is what you need to keep you from weakening in your faith. Sometimes it might seem like God has not answered some prayers but in time we can see how prayers are answered in unexpected ways or see how the Lord has kept us from getting into a situation that would harm us.
To answer your question about why we should pray for a sick child: Because God asks us to. We must trust Him, although we cannot fully understand His ways. Prayer can change things and break through negative barriers. Those prayers strengthen and comfort the child and his or her loved ones. Although God knows the outcome in every situation we are nevertheless commanded to pray as Paul taught in Philippians:
“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 your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Danielle, please make it a goal to pray regularly and trust God when He tells us prayer is a very necessary part of the believer’s life. The Lord desires to have a relationship with us. Prayer is a vital part of cultivating that relationship. We should approach prayer from a place of thanksgiving; prayer is a form of worship exalting God Almighty who gives us life. Without Him we could not even take one breath.
Once you start to regularly pray and spend time with the Lord you will not wonder what the purpose of prayer is. Your faith will be strengthened and you will have a deeper relationship with the Him. You will not be so easily pulled away from God by those who serve to “pollute” your faith and place “questions of doubt” into your mind. It is by having a strong prayer life that we can discern God’s will for our lives and make wise decisions.
When you go about your day, be sure to take a few minutes when you can to read your Bible, praise Him and thank Him; pray for His blessings and protection in this demonically infested world. When you are at home find a quiet place you can go to and fellowship with Him for longer periods of time. Spending time with the Lord is like a healing balm after a very windy day.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will minister to you in ways that will bring great joy to your heart and help you to move past this time of confusion and uncertainty. And please let go of that “mature adult-view” of your faith. Jesus has better advice:
“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).
I hope this has helped clarify your concerns, Danielle. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions. It is by bearing one another’s burdens that we show our love for the Lord and for others.
In God’s love,
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 12-13).