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"Lord, Teach Us to Pray "
Is Prayer a Waste of Time?

Do you have a particular need in your life, or are you dealing with a special problem? Well, who isn’t? Here’s good news. The Bible assures you that you can come boldly to God in prayer and simply ask Him for what you need. You don't have to cut deals or bargain with God. He's your Friend and heavenly Father, and He's able and even anxious to answer your prayers

But have you ever asked yourself the question, If God already knows what I need, then why do I even have to ask? God knows all about me. He doesn’t need for me to tell him what I need. Another thing, He’s the personification of all that is good. Why should I have to try to convince Him to do the right thing? If these things are true, then why do I need to pray?

The answer is, we need to pray because Jesus asks us to. He says, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: For every one who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7, 8 NKJV)

The disciples noticed the importance of prayer in Jesus’ own life, so one day they asked Him to teach them to pray. He gave them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. You remember how it begins. "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." Then it continues: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9,10 KJV).

Now, hold on. Didn’t the other verse say that if we need something, we should just ask? That everyone who asks, receives? But the Lord’s Prayer seems to tell us that it doesn’t matter what we ask, God will do what He wants about it anyway.

That's like a father who promises his son that he'll give him whatever he wants for his birthday. So the son asks for a bicycle, but instead his father gives him a math book. Of course, in the long run the math book will be more useful to the boy than the bike. But somebody's going to be very disappointed on his birthday.

So back to the question, If God hears what I ask for but instead He gives me what He thinks is best, then why should I pray?

Think about the disappointed son for a moment, because that's how you and I feel sometimes, isn't it? I don’t always get what I ask God for. The boy’s problem isn't the math book. It’s a good math book. The boy’s problem isn’t the father. The father is wise to buy his son a math book. He knows that if his son will study and learn the principles of economics that book teaches, he'll soon be able to buy his own bicycle and anything else he wants. Then, what’s the problem? Why is the boy unhappy? He’s unhappy because he doesn’t trust his father’s judgment and because he wants what he wants, and he wants it NOW!

“Thy will be done” says I can tell God what I want but, like the son, I must be willing to accept what He decides is best for me.

So trust is an important ingredient in prayer. Another is faith.

One day Jesus was in a crowd of people who were pressing on Him from every side. In the crowd was a woman who had had a serious health problem for twelve years. The doctors were unable to help her. Then she saw Jesus, and, believing He could help her, she moved toward Him. So many people were around Jesus that all she could do was to reach out and touch His tunic. She couldn’t even speak with Him. But the Bible says Jesus realized she had touched His tunic, and He turned to her and said, “’My daughter, your faith has cured you.’ And from that moment the woman was healed” (Matthew 9:19-22 NEB).
Notice Jesus’ words to the woman, “. . . your faith has cured you.”
On another occasion, Jesus healed a soldier’s servant with the words, “Because of your faith, so let it be” (Matthew 8:13 NEB).

Later Jesus seems to have nailed down faith as an important condition for answered prayer when He told the disciples, “I tell you this: If only you have faith and have no doubts, …you need only say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,’ and what you say will be done. And whatever you pray for in faith you will receive (Matthew 21:21,22 NEB).

So, which is it? Are our prayers answered because God does what He wants whether we ask or not? Or are our prayers answered because we have faith?

At times the Bible may seem to present contradictions, but when rightly understood, they are not contradictions at all. A text that helps us to understand is a short verse found in Matthew 6:8 (NEB):

“Your Father knows what your needs are before you ask him.”

The key words in this verse are not “your needs” but they are the words “your Father,” of course referring to our heavenly Father.

The important thing to know when you pray to God is not what to ask for or even how to ask for it. The important thing to know is the Person you’re asking. You see, if you don't know God and what His will is, you might end up asking for things that are not good for you. And then, like in the story of the unhappy boy and his father, you would wonder why your prayers aren't answered.

Another important consideration when you ask God for something is found in Matthew 7:11. Here Jesus comments, “If you, then, bad as you are, know how to give your children what is good for them, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (NEB).

I hope you picked up on the words, “give good things”? Do you always ask for good things? Can you tell the difference between good things and bad things?

Have you been shopping for toys lately? If you have, you’ve no doubt noticed that not all the toys for sale could be classified as “good toys.” There’s some pretty worthless stuff out there, even harmful.

You can be sure that your heavenly Father gives only good gifts. James 1:17 says: “All good giving and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of the lights of heaven. With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows” (NEB).

And here’s something that’s nice to know. Your heavenly Father gives you some gifts without your having to ask for them. And He gives these gifts not only to you but even to those who don’t love Him. Isn't He a wonderful God? For instance, “He makes His sun to rise on the evil person as well as on the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 NEB).

He's the One responsible for keeping your heart beating two-and-a-half billion times during your lifetime, pumping 250,000 gallons of blood through 100,000 miles of blood vessels. He’s the One who makes a carrot out of a carrot seed, and then, through the digestion processes, turns that carrot into nutrients that keep you alive. For these kinds of things you don’t need to ask. But you should give thanks, of course!

Learning the difference between good gifts and bad gifts is a process. It takes time. A young child has interests that are perfectly normal for his age. A little boy is into toy cars, baseball bats, sticks, and frogs. But when he is college age, let’s hope he takes on more mature interests. And so, as you learn more about God and His will, you’ll find that your requests to Him will mature and become more like His, until one day you discover that what you want is what God wants for you. You’ll happily choose the math book over the bicycle.

And as you know God better and better, you’ll understand that God always chooses to give you what is best for you—even if you ask for something else. You can see then that praying God’s will be done is really the best kind of prayer we could ever pray.

Then what will we do about what Jesus said about our requests being answered according to our faith? Some people expect faith to work like magic—say the words, close your eyes really tight, and Presto! The answer appears!

But that’s not really having faith in the biblical sense. Our prayers will be answered not because we have faith in faith, but because we have faith in God. What Jesus was saying to the woman who was healed was, Daughter, be of good comfort; your faith in Me has made you well, and to the centurion he was saying, As you have believed in Me, so it will be done unto you.

And the text about moving mountains is really saying, “Don’t worry. If you have faith in God, and don’t doubt, God will do whatever He needs to for your good, even if it means having to move mountains.

So, If God already knows what we need, why should we pray? The answer is so that, through the experience of prayer, we will learn to appreciate the things that our loving Heavenly Father wants us to have and that our hearts will be open to receive them.