Why are we told to pray for things if God already knows the outcome of our prayers? Professor Brad Sickler from the University of Northwestern tackles this important question about the Christian life and petition prayers.

“I think a big part of the answer is what He knows and what He ordains is not just the doing of the thing or the answering of the request, but doing it as a result of having been petitioned by diligent prayer.”

Professor Sickler refers to two of Jesus’ parables found in Luke 11 and Luke 18.

“There is another aspect of it that Jesus emphasizes in some of His parables. The narrator’s in the gospels say that He told them this parable so that they would always pray and never give up. Then He gives these examples of petitionary prayer that involve what we also, in old language, call importunity; persisting, praying, and not giving up.”

“He talks about the widow who pesters the judge, or He talks about the person requesting bread in the middle of the night. The almost cheekiness of these prayers in going to God, boldly, as we’re told to do in Hebrews, ‘Boldly before the throne of grace’ (Hebrews 4:16), laying these petitions before God and really then in faith awaiting His answers.”

Professor Mark Muska reminds us that our prayers don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be from the heart.

“I think the word prayer has almost ruined it for us sometimes. We think we have to talk to God in a different way or some special language, where God wants us to talk with Him; He wants us to share our hearts with Him, He wants to know and He acts in response to this.”

“As far as what God does, there’s a whole lot going on within our communicating with Him where God can shape and form our desires and what we pray for.”

What we pray for might not always come to pass, but we have to trust that He knows what’s best for us.

“God’s got far greater things than we even can imagine. Isaiah 55:8, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ So I’m going to bring my requests, but I’m going to throw that in there as well and say, ‘You do what’s best here, Lord, I’m submitting this to you and what you want.’”

Even though God already knows what we are going to ask for, He still wants to hear from us. We can boldly approach the throne of grace with our petitionary prayers, knowing that He is listening and will act on our behalf.


Ask the Professor: On the third Thursday of every month we invite Bible professors from the University of Northwestern into the studio and open the phone lines for your questions on the Bible, faith, and the church. Call in during the live show, or submit your questions via email on Connecting Faith’s show page.

Ask the Professor with Mark Muska and Brad Sickler

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