“What’s the point of prayer?” I’ve been asked this question more times than I can remember. Lately, I’ve asked it, myself.
People of faith pray. It’s what we do. Even people, claiming no faith, sometimes find themselves praying in difficult situations.
Often, we pray for wants or needs. Often, we pray for the people we’re concerned about. Sometimes, we ask others to pray for us.
But, what’s the point? If God already knows what we need, why pray? Does God need convincing? And, why do we ask others to pray for us? Do more, or other’s, prayers motivate God more?
What about when prayers go unanswered? Did I pray the wrong prayer, or did I not pray long enough, or fervently enough, or say the right words, or ask enough others to pray with me?
These are hard questions. But, these are questions many ask. We pray. But, why?
C.S. Lewis said, “I don’t pray to change God. I pray to change me.” Is that the point of prayer? Maybe.
Sometimes, though not often enough, we offer prayers of thanks. Sometimes, we pray to worship. Sometimes, we pray to repent. Sometimes, we pray just to be with God. Sometimes, we pray to listen.
Sometimes, we lament.
Do I believe there’s value in prayer? Yes, of course. Do I believe God answers prayer? Yes, but… Do I believe there’s value to praying for others, or asking others to pray for me? Yes, but not for the sake of ganging-up on God.
Increasingly, I’m thinking of prayer as connection, and less about the requests I may or may not make. Just as an electronic device needs to be connected to an electrical outlet to function, I’m thinking of prayer as connection to the “Source.”
Sometimes the connection may lead to answers and outcomes. Sometimes, not. Sometimes, God might speak. Sometimes, not. Sometimes, I might feel something – peace, or forgiveness, or refreshment. Sometimes, not.
But, regardless of the outcome, I need the connection anyway. I need the connection, because I need God.
Maybe it’s like the conversations I have with my wife. Though we certainly talk about all kinds of things – from basic information like the grocery list, to decisions we need to make, to sharing our hearts – the main reason for our talking is connection. If we just need to pass information or make requests, we could leave each other notes, or send each other texts. But, we need more than that. We need to hear each other’s voices. We need to look into each other’s eyes. We need to see the joy or concern on each other’s faces. We need to connect.
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t bring our requests to God, or that we shouldn’t pray for others. I’m not suggesting God doesn’t answer prayer.
I’m saying the specific outcomes of prayer aren’t the point, at least not to me. Connection is the point – connection with the God who created the universe, the God who became human to redeem a fallen world, the God who is love, the God in whom I live, and move, and have my being.
The point is connection.