Someone once asked me, "If God knows all of our needs, why do we need to pray?" That is a great question, a deep question. Some might answer by saying, "We pray because God tells us to pray." This would be true, of course. In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). But this answer is not the full picture of why we should pray, nor does it explain what prayer does to and for us. If God knows everything, why would Jesus tell us to ask, seek, and knock? To this I have a three-pronged response.
"There are some prayers I prayed in my younger years that I'm now very thankful the Lord never answered."
1) PRAYER REQUIRES KNOWING GOD.
Prayer presupposes the knowledge that God will give you only that which is according to His will. Therefore, it is our responsibility to discern the will of God. I have prayed with so many people over the years who were trying to discern the will of God. How do you discern God's will for your life? By getting to know Him. I don't mean knowing about Him. A lot of people know about God. But few really get to know Him. Whatever it takes and however long it takes for you to get to know God, that is what you must do. Spending time with Him in His Word takes time, but it is worth every minute and hour you invest. Speaking to Him and listening to Him through prayer takes effort, but there is no better use of your strength. There is no substitute for it. That is the only way to become a discerning believer.
2) PRAYER REQUIRES FAITH IN GOD.
It's one thing to know the will of God, but it's another thing to trust that He is going to fulfill it. I have been there many times myself. One time, I was absolutely certain of God's will. I heard God speak to me directly. But it took six years for Him to fulfill what He had already promised. I could have given up, and I was tempted many times. My friend, even when others give up, even when others get impatient, even when others move on, even when others say, "God is not coming through," you keep on trusting, keep on believing, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Because if you are praying according to the will of God, sooner or later He will answer that prayer. God's delay is not always denial.
3) PRAYER REQUIRES A DESIRE FOR GOD'S WILL TO BE DONE.
The third part of my answer to why we should pray is because prayer presupposes desire—a longing in the heart. You may know the will of God, you may even believe that God will fulfill it, but this means nothing without a desire for the will of God. I have a friend who used to say, "I'm afraid to discern the will of God because I may not like it." This is more common than we would like to admit! But here is the antidote to that doubt: God's will for you is never punitive. He loves you too much for that. He will always give you what is best for you because He sees the future. You don't. He will always give you what is in your best interest in the long run. While we are thinking about the short-term, God is thinking of the future.There are some prayers I prayed in my younger years that I'm now very thankful the Lord never answered. This understanding helps me to align my desires with the will of God. I want what He wants because He knows what I need better than I do. When you desire His glory above everything else, when you come into total agreement with Him, He will bless you beyond what you can imagine. I've experienced this in my own life and I'm sure you have, too.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
We see these three aspects of prayer—knowledge, faith, and desire—in Jesus' command to ask, seek, and knock. Before you ask, you must know that what you're asking aligns with His character. When you know the will of God, you must seek it in faith, believing He will give you what is best. As you desire God's will, you will knock, through prayer, with increasing fervor and consistency. As I mentioned, at one point this process took me many years. At the time, I remember saying, "Lord, I know this is Your will." But He let me wait, and the longer I waited, the greater my desire grew for the will of God. He was preparing me. He was preparing my heart to receive His promise. Looking back, I would not have been prepared to receive it at the time. When the answer finally came, I was ready. Why? Because I had spent time in His Word—asking, seeking, knocking, and never giving up. May you find the grace from Him today to do the same in whatever situation you may be facing.