Some people ask why is prayer necessary at all? God knows what we need; why tell Him? He wants the best for every one of us; why should we request anything?
Well, there are some things that God cannot give us. We must keep in mind that Christian prayer does not mean persuading God to give us what we want. That is pagan prayer. Christian prayer means putting ourselves in the position where God can give us what He wants to have. Giving, in this sense, is not a simple, one-sided matter. It is a dual transaction in which the receiver is equally as important as the giver.
For example, let us say, here is a teacher of music. He knows the subject. He is a master of his art. He cares for his students and is eager to share with them his deep and profound appreciation of the world’s great music. All semester long, he does his best to impart that gift, but he succeeds with only a few of his students. Those are the few who came to the teacher with a sincere prayer in their hearts to know and love great music.
Another example, here is a parent who wishes to give his or her child a college education. The parent sees the necessity for it. He has the resources to provide it. He is more than willing to invest those resources in his or her child’s education. So why doesn’t that child do it? The answer is simple, that parent must wait on that child. The parent cannot give up until that child is willing to receive.
The finest gifts cannot be dropped into our lives like pennies into a beggar’s cup. They require active participation. They must be taken or else they cannot be given. The receptive heart is an absolute prerequisite to all of the finest gifts. God, Himself, cannot give us His best until in our hearts there is a willingness to receive His best.
Prayer, therefore, is an acknowledgement of our need for God, but it is also a recognition of God’s need for us to cooperate with Him. The message of the Scriptures and the experience of life make it clear that there are some things that God cannot do except through people.
He started a nation of chosen people in whom He would reveal Himself to the world. But He did it through a man – Abraham. He led His people out of Egyptian bondage and entrusted them with His laws. But he did it through a man – Moses. He sent His Son into the world that the world, through Him, might be saved. But he did it through a woman – Mary. The work of God always involves human instrumentality.
The great saints have always felt that God was working through them rather than their working for God. St. Paul wrote to the people in Philippi: “It is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose.” St. Francis prayed to be made an instrument of God’s peace.
So this is why prayer is necessary. It puts us in such relationship to God that He can give to us His finest gifts and work through us His highest purposes for this world. “Jesus told His disciples a parable on the necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Those are our two basic options – prayer or despair. Either we learn to commune with God, or we lose heart and give up on life. What is your option?