Why should we invest the time and energy into prayer? This was a question taken up by John Piper in his sermon, “Pray Like This: Hallowed Be Your Name,” which he preached on December 30, 2007. Here’s what Pastor John said:
1. God commands us to pray.
First, we should pray because we are told to so many times over and over and over again. Doesn’t God tell us to pray? Here are a few instances:
James 5:16 says: “Pray for one another, that you may be healed.” How many sicknesses are there in the church because we don’t pray for each other, that God would be willing to heal?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 also says, “Pray without ceasing.”
And Luke 22:40 says, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Luke 18:1 says, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Luke 6:28: “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Are you in a rotten situation, getting ripped off, being lied about? Pray, pray, pray for them.
And Matthew 6:9 says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven.’”
That is number one. We pray because dozens of times in the Bible, we are told to pray. And God loves us. He wouldn’t tell us to do something that is bad for us. It is good for us.
2. Prayer increases our joy.
We pray because it is a means to the increase of our joy. Now, you might think, “Well, that is what we expect you to say.” But you expect me to say it because I am a Christian Hedonist. But the reality is, I am a Christian Hedonist because of texts like this that blew me away 35 years ago. Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24.)
Ask. Ask. Because in coming to me as a needy person and depending upon me for everything you need, your joy will be fuller than if you try to get that need met another way. He wants you happy in him, and he says, “Ask, and your joy will be full.”
3. Prayer is a privilege.
Prayer is simply a staggeringly awesome privilege. It is simply a staggeringly awesome privilege. Now you must think of this. We must be blown away by this. God runs the world with infinite wisdom. You and I never inform him of anything he doesn’t already know. We never add to his wisdom ever. When we pray, we do not improve upon his knowledge about what he should do next. This is really basic. This is who God is. “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:34–35).
“Dozens of times in the Bible, we are told to pray. And God loves us. He wouldn’t tell us to do something that is bad for us.”
Nobody ever counseled him. Nobody ever gave anything to him that he didn’t already own. We are never obliging God to act out of his need for us. He doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need your prayer. He doesn’t need anything about you. That is the meaning of God. No needs. We have needs. He is the need-meeter. And how the need-meeter gets glory is by hearing the prayers of the needy.
Now get this: It is simply staggering that God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, would ordain that prayers cause things. Prayers cause things to happen that would not happen if you didn’t pray. I wonder if there are any Calvinists out there squirming.
Listen to this. When James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask,” that does not mean you would have anyway even if you didn’t ask, because I have a plan. The verse doesn’t mean the opposite of what it says. It says, “You have not, because you ask not.” That means prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t pray, which is why this is a staggeringly glorious privilege to be taken by the sovereign God of the universe who rules all things according to his infinite wisdom and folded into his causality.
“In depending upon me for everything you need, your joy will be fuller than if you try to get that need met another way.”
This is breathtaking. If you do not avail yourself of the privilege of bringing to pass events in the universe that would not take place if you didn’t pray, you are acting like a colossal fool, aren’t you? I am just thinking logically here. If you are offered the privilege of engaging with God in such a way that your request could bring into being things that would not otherwise come into being, not to avail yourself of that privilege is folly of the highest (or lowest) order. That is why we pray: God is beckoning us into our share in the running of the universe.