"Since God is sovereign, why do we pray?" (November 11, 2020)
First, we need to know what we mean by "sovereign." For God to be sovereign it means that His will is always perfectly done. That's the clear teaching of Scripture. Look up and savor these rich texts: Job 42:2, Is 45:7-9, Lam 3:37-39, Prov 16:33, Eph 1:11, Matt 10:29-31, Acts 4:27-28.
So one might wonder, if God's will is going to be done anyway, why should we bother to pray for this or that? Let me give three reasons (though there are many more!):
1. We pray because prayer is commanded by God throughout his Word (e.g. Jer 29:7, Ps 122:6, Rom 12:12, Phil 4:6, Eph 6:18, Matt 9:38, 1 Thes 5:17). As the creature, it's always right (and wise!) to obey our Creator. In regard to this question on God's sovereignty and prayer I particularly think of the scene where the disciples say to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1). In Matthew's fuller description of the scene, we hear Jesus respond, "Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." So here Jesus is teaching us to pray for God's will to be done, even though he knows it will be done! That leads us to a second reason to pray.
2. We pray because God desires to be in relationship with us. Prayer is the God-ordained means by which we enjoy fellowship with Him. God speaks to us through his Word and by the Spirit (always in sync with his Word); we speak back to God through prayer. This truth is so evident as we read the Psalms -- the prayer/song book of God's people. We hear Jesus Himself pray from the Psalms, especially as He needed that sense of the Father's presence as He went to the cross: "I thirst" (Jn 19:28/Ps 69:21); "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46/Ps 22:1); "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 24:46/Ps 31:5). What a privilege for us to have the Spirit of God living within us, cultivating that relationship with God. We think of Paul's words in Romans chapter 8: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (v.15), and, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (v.26-27.)
3. We pray because God uses means to accomplish His will. It's certainly a mystery, but somehow our prayers figure into God accomplishing all His purposes. Take, for example, praying for a loved one's salvation. We know that God will use the means of someone somehow bringing the gospel to them. That's what Paul says in Romans 10: "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (v.13-14). So, God uses human means to accomplish His eternal saving purposes -- both in the preaching, and in the praying. We see Paul's believing in this truth as he says to Philemon: "At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (Phm 1:22), and to the Philippians, "For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance" (Phil 1:19). Or we hear Paul say with regard to his beloved fellow Jews: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved" (Rom 10:1). And Paul knows many will be saved (Rom 11:26-27).
So, brother, sister, as you seek to see God do amazing things in this world, for His glory, don't stop praying!
In fact, step it up (Lk 18:1)!