If there’s something I’ve known about God ever since I was a little girl is that God is omniscient.
Even though back then I didn’t know what the word omniscient meant, I was fully aware that God knows everything all the time. That’s exactly why these verses seemed contradictory to me:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians 4:6
“[…] For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” -Matthew 6:8
Why would an All-Knowing God require me to pray? If God knows what I need before I’m aware of my need, why does He want me to ask Him anyway?
So I came to the conclusion that God was like Siri.
I thought God only answered the requests that I had prayed for audibly, as if He was programmed to respond to my voice. So I made sure I would pray out loud, ask God for things, and use some adjectives so the prayer would sound fancier. But my prayers were empty; they were nothing more than a simple request I could make to Siri.
I recently came to realize that God does not work like Siri. For starters, God is a person. He doesn’t just want to hear our voice. Our prayers have a higher purpose than just getting what we want.
If God gave us everything He knew we need without us asking for it, then we would not be aware that what we received came from Him.
And I imagine receiving the most expensive, wonderful birthday present I have always wanted with no card. I might love the present, but I wouldn’t know who to thank for it.
I now see prayer like some kind of mental exercise. We cannot pray to God asking that He fulfill our request if we don’t know beforehand what it is we need. Identifying our needs makes us acknowledge our own weakness and dependence on Him for everything, but it also makes us aware of all the other things that we do have and that come from Him.
When the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians that we should “pray without ceasing”, it doesn’t mean that our insistence will pressure God to act more quickly or change His mind about something. It rather trains our mind to be fully aware of God’s presence in our lives at all times, so that when He does answer our prayer and provide, we won’t have a shadow of a doubt that it was His hand at work. And our hearts should in turn respond with gratefulness.
God doesn’t need us to pray to fulfill what we need.
Everyday, He bestows undeserved blessings that we haven’t even cared to ask for. (James 1:17) But even praying for the things we need is a way in which God blesses us, because it helps us develop a thankful heart, it makes us aware of God in our lives and in Creation, and that will ultimately draw us closer to Him. He is, after all, the greatest need we have and the greatest gift we have received.