One of the most common questions that people have in church is, “If God is sovereign, why should we pray?” The idea seems to be that if God is sovereign, knows everything, is all powerful, and is all wise then surely, he doesn’t need our prayers. Although that is a difficult question, I think the more difficult question is, “If God is not sovereign, why should we pray?” If God is not sovereign, then there’s no need for us to pray because we’re praying to a God who is not able to do something about our situation. He is somehow limited in his power, his knowledge, and his ability to actually intervene in time and space and do something.
There are at least three or four key answers to this question. First, God commands us to pray. The bible is very clear that God wants us to be praying. In fact, we know several passages of scripture that tell us we are to be praying without ceasing. It’s a question of obedience when we engage in the practice of praying.If God is not sovereign… we’re praying to a God who is not able to do something about our situation.
Second, as Christians, praying is an expression of life. It’s automatic that if there’s new life within us, that new life finds expression in prayer. J.C. Ryle used to say that we know that physical life is there because we are breathing. In the same way, we know that spiritual life is there because we are praying.
Third, we pray because God is a God of means. God can. He is able to do whatever he wants to do, whenever he wants to do it, and however he wants to do it. He can work immediately, and he can work without means, but God only does that in extraordinary circumstances. More ordinarily, God works in and through the prayers and the actions of his people. So, we pray because God is changing us, he’s changing things, and he’s changing the course of events. It’s amazing how many of the major events of the bible occur in response to prayer. We can think about the plagues in Egypt and how many of them either came or were lifted in response to the prayers of Moses. If you look at the scriptures you see over and over again that it’s God using prayer as his vehicle and as his means to bring his purposes, which are perfect. He doesn’t have to use our prayers to do that. He is all powerful, all wise, and all knowing but God is a God who uses the prayers and the actions of his people to bring his perfect purposes to pass.