OT: Genesis 18.20-32
NT: Luke 11.1-13
Why do you pray?
We’ve all been doing a lot of praying lately. Today’s scriptures are about people praying as well. This is not a regular sermon; I want to invite you for the next five minutes or so to think thoughtfully and truthfully about prayer. Let’s begin with a question.
Why do you pray? Think about it for a minute. Why do you pray? What are your expectations of God when you pray? Do you want a response? Do you expect action? Do you intend to persuade God? Do you presume that you have information God doesn’t?
Truth be told, most of the time we pray we want something. Not just something silly or frivolous. Usually we want something good. We want our loved ones to be well. We want our family to be safe. We want our jobs to be meaningful. So we pray about it. Right? We ask God to protect those dear to us, to grant us peace, to provide mercy.
There’s an idea in our world: It doesn’t hurt to ask. All they can do is say no. Might as well ask for what you want. Ask for a bigger budget. Ask for a raise. Ask for more. You might not get as much as you want, but if you ask you’re more likely to get what you need. Ask, because you know better, and you won’t get anything unless you ask. Right? Makes sense…in the world. But not with God.
Abraham was concerned that God was going to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah while there were still good people there. So he prays. “Please don’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. There are still good people there.”
And what does God say? I would never destroy a city if there is even one good person there. Abraham never had to ask. It’s not as if his prayer was the key to saving Sodom and Gomorrah. God already wanted to do that.
When you pray for a family member who is sick, asking God to grant them peace and healing, God wants exactly the same thing. When you pray for a neighbor to get back on their feet, God wants exactly the same thing.
So if the point of prayer isn’t to change God’s mind, then whose mind does prayer change? Ours. When we pray as Jesus taught us in today’s scripture—first giving thanks to God, then for our own needs, then for our neighbors, and finally for forgiveness, prayer shapes us into the kind of people God intends for us to be. It makes us humble enough to know our place in the world, and it also makes us humble enough to know that we can help be part of God’s plans. We can make the kingdom come one prayer at a time, one small action at a time.
Why do you pray? To praise God? Sure. To ask for what you need? Sure. To ask for what your loved ones need? Sure. To ask for forgiveness? Sure. But you don’t get it because you ask; you get it because God wants to give it to you, and your prayers make sure you are ready to receive the mercy God has already intended for you.
If a child asks for a fish, will he be given a snake? Of course not. If ten good people remain in Sodom & Gomorrah, will God wipe it off the map? Absolutely not.
Don’t get it twisted about why you pray. It’s not to change God’s mind. It’s to shape our mind. So say your prayers tonight. Say your prayers tomorrow morning. Say your prayers tomorrow afternoon. Allow yourself to be shaped by God through your prayers. Amen.