He knows when each sparrow will fall (Luke 12:6), he knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:2), he knows our sins (Psalm 69:5), and he’s numbered all the hairs on our heads (Matt 10:30).
Yet we’re still told to pray ‘unceasingly’ (1 Thess 5:17). We’re told to beg forgiveness for our sins (prayers of contrition), to ask for things (prayers of petition), and – most amazing of all – to just sit and talk with God (prayers of ‘relationship’).
But why pray when we’re told that he already knows our sins, our desires, and our inner-most thoughts? Doesn’t his qualities of being infinitely merciful, giving, and loving already take care of things for us?
First, Forgiveness: Well, let’s say you’ve committed a crime – and the law has full and complete knowledge of it. Would you stay at home on the day of the trial, watch TV, and wait for the judge to call you on the phone to say he’s thrown out the case? Or would you take the time to go down to the courthouse, bow your head, be contrite, and throw yourself on the mercy of the court? In both cases, the court ‘knows’ your offenses, but which scenario do you think would provide the better outcome? (Hint: Wear something nice, and smile meekly.)Next, Petitions: Ok, let’s say you really want a raise at work. Now, there’s no doubt that every boss in the world already knows that everyone wants a raise. So there’s very good reason to believe that your boss ‘already knows’ your desire, too. But – even if the chance is slim – how are you more likely to get a raise? By actually asking the boss, or by simply waiting in your office hoping that the boss will act on his own? (Hint: Start asking for good health, peace, and other blessings for you and your loved ones. And if you happen have a nice boss, and the time is right…)
Finally, Relationship: Oh, but what about this last one? Does it really make any sense to ‘waste’ God’s time by telling him about how you’re feeling? About your dreams, your fears, what flavor ice cream you prefer, and what you thought about last night’s movie? He already knows all that, doesn’t he? Why waste his time – and yours?
Well, consider how you would go about making a friend – meaning a normal human friend. Let’s say that person already knows some personal things about you, either by having overheard a conversation, or by Googling you, or by reading your Facebook page. Would you call that person a real friend at that point? Of course not. That’s not how human friendships are made. (Nor divine ones.) It takes some direct and personal effort.
C.S. Lewis put it even more eloquently when he said that there is a vast difference between ‘being known’ and ‘willingly unveiling yourself’ to another. So, even if God already knows everything, there’s a new level of intimacy that can be reached when you share it with him from your own lips. (Hint: Spend some alone time with your Saviour – and make small talk. He’s waiting at the door of your heart for the conversation to begin…)