Mario Niño, Assistant to the President and Stewardship Director
Ricardo came towards me and looking intently at me, he asked “Pastor, why do I have to pray?” For some time Ricardo had been praying to God and apparently he had not received a positive answer. Scripture texts such as Matt. 7:7-8, “Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened,” had encouraged him to wait upon an affirming answer on God’s part. It was at this point that the question arose in his mind: “Why, do I have to pray, if God does not respond to my prayers?”
Purpose of prayer
As preachers we ought to have and expound the correct concept in regard to prayer, or contrarily the wrong expectations will be generated in regard to the purpose of prayer. It is not the purpose of prayer to ‘remind’ God of his busy pending agenda of duties, nor should there be the intent to inform God of the details and minutia of our lives or of those that surround us, and much less tell God what he ought to do in relation to the problems and injustices that occur within humanity.
Prayer is a channel of communication that humankind needs to express his or her longings and hopes as well as his or her needs and desires. It is the human being that needs to pray, the one who needs to communicate with Divinity and of course, it pleases God that the human being expresses to him the desires of his heart and especially recognizes God as the God of his life.
Misuse of prayer
The difficulty begins when we lose sight of the theological concept of prayer and when we utilize this channel of communication from the human perspective and not from the divine point of view.
Radical reason acknowledges that man is submerged in an atmosphere regulated by the present and the material, while God discloses himself in an atmosphere guided by the future and the spiritual. Said another way, while we are thinking on the here and now, God continues to prod his kingdom and people towards the beyond that is eternity.
The Apostle James clarified this point when he said: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” Jas. 4:3 NIV.
After a brief dialog, I presented Ricardo two of the reasons for which we ought to pray:
Because we need a daily portion of the grace of God in order to face the duties and trials in daily living. God cannot force an individual to follow the correct path. The fact that someone solicited help from God yesterday does not signify that today he will want this same help. This is why we need to express on a daily basis our longing and interest for God’s intervention in our lives, as God has an agreement with the universe and with himself to carry out correctly all things, all the time. At the final conflict between good and evil it will be confirmed that he had the right reasons, as one compares between God and Lucifer.
Because the greatest change that we ought to attain is the change of the ‘heart’ (the mind, life, habits, and practices) and this change is obtained by seeking God individually. E.G. White expressed it in this manner:
“The change we need is a change of heart, and can only be obtained by seeking God individually for His blessing, by pleading with Him for His power, by fervently praying that His grace may come upon us, and that our characters may be transformed” Prayer, p. 94.
This transformation of the total thoughts and affections in the entire individual’s life is so important that our Lord declared to Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” John 3:3. This signifies that if we fail in the life transformation, we will be outside the kingdom of God and consequently outside of eternity. This spiritual objective is in reality what is of importance to God. Material goods such as house, car, degree, and/or bank account have their place and will be appropriated properly if we are in synch with the mind of God. He is interested in obtaining our eternal comfort yet he does not deny that in this temporal world certain material provisions are required.
We need to pray daily that God will shed the grace necessary for each day, and for the power that is necessary to obtain the transformation of character while seeking after the divine model.