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    Ask a Pastor - Thread: Is praying a waste of time?

    1. #1
      Ask a Pastor is offline Participant Member
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      Is praying a waste of time?

      The subject is a little misleading. I know prayer itself is not a waste of time and I understand the benefits and instructions of prayer in general. I get that speaking directly to God can at least give the feeling of closing the gap. I also get praising Him in prayer and thanking Him for what He’s done. All that make sense.

      What I feel is a waste of time is making specific requests. My dad just died. There were a LOT of people praying for him to get better. That obviously didn’t happen.

      It made me think of all the things I’ve prayed for that did happen and the many that didn’t. Seems that praying for a specific thing doesn’t make a lick of difference. A lot of prayers include “if it is Your will”. That phrase in itself seems to discount the entire prayer. Basically you’re saying “I want this, but go ahead and do whatever you had in mind before I asked”.

      So why ask? If asking doesn’t make a difference. Several scriptures say if we pray, God will hear us. I understand the belief that God’s will is overall good. That things that seem bad happen as part of a bigger plan, but does asking for something change that plan? Does God change his mind? Does he change His plan based on small or big requests? It would be hard to trust in a plan that can change based on mens’ desires.

      Maybe prayer time should be spent in thanks, fellowship, and praise. Maybe we should stop wasting time asking for things if it has no effect on the outcome?

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      The Lord be with you

      First, let me say that I hope the peace that passes all understanding is with you as you mourn the loss of your father (Philippians 4:7). This peace in Christ Jesus comforts us in all the uncertainties and trials of this life. (I also apologize for taking so long to respond. I was having trouble logging in.)

      Your specific question, if I understand it correctly, is not about prayer in general, which includes prayers of thanksgiving, praise, and so forth, but only about petitions or requests, so that is where I will focus my answer.

      Of first importance in why we pray and ask things, we are commanded to do so (Philippians 4:6).

      Next, we observe that Jesus himself, in the Lord’s Prayer, includes such petitions (Matthew 8:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). When he commands us to use this prayer, he is including an invitation to make such petitions.

      Third, we have the examples of Biblical saints making such requests. Abraham prayed for the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19). Yes, I know Sodom and Gomorrah were not spared, but Abraham did pray for them. In Exodus 32:11-14, Moses prayed that the Lord change his mind in reference to destroying the nation of Israel and starting over with the descendants of Moses, and God did “relent from the disaster that he had spoken of”. When Jonah preached to the city of Nineveh, the city repented, and prayed, and God did not destroy the city, at least not at that time (Job 3). So we see that your experience is normal, sometimes God answers “yes” and sometimes he answers “no.” In the Jonah story, God answered the Ninevites’ prayers “yes” but said “no” to Jonah.

      Fourth, God is not manipulated (Galatians 6:7). God does what is best in the long-run, according to his will and plan. You father is now healed, with God, and will be completely restored on the Last Day. In this life our hopes and desires are shaped by being fallen people in a fallen world. God is not so limited. Prayers that are not answered the way we want are intended, in part, to teach us to trust in our loving Lord’s plan, even if we do not understand.

      As we look to Jesus, we see this plainly. He prayed that the cup of suffering should be lifted, but it wasn’t. Instead, he was strengthened to face the trials ahead (Luke 24:23). I can’t imagine that Jesus’ mother and friends did not pray for him to be spared, but he wasn’t. His death meant the establishment of the Kingdom of God by grace through faith in him who died for us.

      So we pray, asking what is in our hearts, and trust that God will do what is best.

      By analogy, I could talk about a human father. His child asks and he listens. If the request is acceptable, he answers yes. If the request is unreasonable, he answers no. If junior asks for mac and cheese for dinner, dad may well change his plan for hamburgers. If junior asks for a brand new Mustang for his sixteenth birthday, dad may well say no and give him the much safer but less glamorous used car originally planned. Either way, the father heard and responded.

      It is this analogy that is behind the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer. So Martin Luther explained it: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

      I hope this helped.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Pastor John Rickert
      Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
      Newark, Delaware

    4. Likes Lämmchen, ImaginaryDay2, Webster liked this post

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