In my Sunday School class we are studying the book of Acts. Two weeks ago we found ourselves in the 12th chapter where Peter is in prison by the hands of Herod Agrippa I. The church was praying for him “fervently” to God. Now we do not know in what way the church was praying for him – whether for his deliverance or his faithfulness in the midst of death – but we do know that they were praying purposefully.
Long story short, God answers that prayer by bringing an angel to wake him up (yes, he was asleep while chained between two soldiers), God made the chains fall off his hands, opened prison doors, walked by two other guards at the doors, and opened iron gates.
And when Peter comes back to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered praying for him, they do not believe that their prayers had been answered and Peter was at the door. They literally say to the girl who answered the door, “You must be out of your mind.”
Now during this study, these two clear and concise statements arose:
- Scripture is clear that God is sovereign and that He rules and reigns and controls all things for His glory and the good of His people.
- Scripture is also clear that God invites us to come to Him in prayer, bringing our petitions to Him.
And so the logical question arose from our group:
If God is sovereign and ordains every detail of history, then why bother to pray?
And also, if God is causing and working out all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, then why pray and try to change what God has already ordained as good?
Is prayer not futile first of all and arrogant second of all?
To answer these questions, we must delve a little further. There are several types of prayer that we can cast before God – adoration, confession, intercession, and supplication.
First let’s take adoration and make some logical statements and questions regarding those statements. If God is God, then He will be fully glorified regardless of what we do. He is just fine on His own and He will gain no greater glory by my adoration.
So the logical question is…why do we pray prayers of adoration towards Him?
Scripture teaches that we do because these prayers develop a greater intimate relationship between us and the Father, and the finished work of Christ has allowed us to have a deepening love for God. Prayers of adoration benefit us in this way more than they benefit God.
Secondly, let’s take confession. The logical statement is that if God is God and He is omniscient then He knows our actions, thoughts, and words in more real-time and clearer and more completely than we know.
Therefore the logical question is why do we confess our sins upon the Lord if He knows all?
Scripture teaches that we are commanded to confess our sins because it restores our soul to know that we have been forgiven of much regardless of what we do, how great our repentance is, and how sorry we are. We are forgiven due to the finished work of Christ on the cross and He calls us to cast our sins upon His back for His glory and our restoration.
Again, prayer in these two cases benefits us more than it benefits God.
And He is still sovereign during these two cases of prayer and yet it is beneficial for us to pray.
Tomorrow I will deal with the more difficult of the two types of prayer – intercession (praying for other’s needs) and supplication (praying for our needs) – and how we can reconcile these with the sovereignty of God.