Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Prayer and God's Providence

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1)

When we study the providence of God it is easy for us to get lost in abstract considerations of doctrine, never getting to the place where we ask the question, “What does the providence of God have to do with my daily life?” Yet, since we are living in this world under God’s providence, and His providence includes His daily care for us, we should be very interested in the practical side of this doctrine.

If God knows every detail of our lives, why bother with prayer? Perhaps it is just sheer presumption and arrogance on our part to inform God of our perceived needs since He already knows all about them. Clearly, this is wrong. The Bible teaches us to pray, and so we know we should.

The question still remains though: Why does God want us to pray? John Calvin discusses this question in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 3, chapter 20. Is it not superfluous to pray, asks Calvin, since God already knows everything? Calvin answers, “Those who argue in this way attend not to the end or the purpose for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for God’s good as it was for our good.”

Prayer benefits us, not God. God does not need our praise and adoration. We need to praise and adore Him for our own good. Similarly, God knows our sins better than we do, but for our own good we need to name them as best we can before His throne. How about intercession? The Bible shows that God changes things in response to His people’s prayer. How this works out in the ultimate philosophical scheme of things we do not know, but we do know that God has been pleased to ordain our prayers as one of His means of governing history.

If your prayer life is weak, is it due to a theological problem with God’s providence or to a personal struggle with slothfulness? Do you pray believing? Do you pray confidently? Have your prayers been effective? What answers to prayer have you received lately? Discuss your prayer life today with your spouse, roommate, or friend.