Think about prayer. Think about God being the heavenly Father, and ask yourself this question: Why do I pray? Why should I have to tell God what He already knows? Why should I ask Him for what He already wants to give?

We Do Not Pray to Instruct God

Many times our prayers are little more than a laundry list of the things we think God needs to do for us: “God, I need a job, and I need for You to work out this situation, and I’ve got to know if it’s Your will for me to get married this year, or wait until next year.”

The Bible does tell us “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). However, there is a big difference between bringing our needs before the Father and instructing Him. We do not pray to instruct God.

We Do Not Pray to Impress God

Sometimes we think we’re impressing God by using a certain kind of rhetoric—designed to impress those who are listening. Jesus scolded the Pharisees for praying like that: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matt. 6:5 NKJV). Jesus also told us we don’t have to use a lot of liturgical lingo, repeating the same religious sounding phrases over and over: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them” (Matt. 6:7–8 NKJV).

That ought to be an encouragement to many of us—that we don’t have to be a junior-size Shakespeare in order to pray. You may have been present at an event when someone has been asked, “Would you lead us in prayer?” “Oh,” came the reply, “I can’t pray.” Well, now wait a minute. Can he talk? If he’s a child, can he talk to an earthly father? If an earthly child can talk to an earthly father, you can talk to your heavenly Father. You don’t have to use King James English. You don’t have to put some “thee’s” and “thou’s” into your prayer. It’s all right to pray using everyday language. God understands modern English, and He can understand you when you pray; just speak to God out of your heart.

We Do Not Pray to Inform God

You can’t tell God anything He doesn’t already know. A wise man said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” Nothing takes the Father by surprise; nothing catches Him off guard. God knows it all, the beginning and the end. He says in this passage of Scripture, “Your heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:21, author paraphrase). You don’t pray to tell God something He didn’t know. You don’t pray to inform God.

We Pray to Invite God

Here is why we pray to God our Father—not to instruct Him, not to impress Him, not to inform Him, but to invite Him. Prayer is God’s way of bonding us with our heavenly Father.

A while back, I was invited to speak at a college. I said, “I’m sorry. I would like to come, but I just can’t. My schedule will not allow it.” They said, “Please. If you’ll come, we’ll send a private airplane over and pick you up.” I said, “All right. I’ll go.” When the plane came to pick me up, it was an airplane with only two seats—one for the pilot, and the other for me. The pilot said, “Pastor, can you fly?” I said, “No.” He said, “Would you like to fly this airplane?” I said, “Sure.” He said, “Take the controls. It’s yours.”

You need to get the mental picture: he’s sitting right next to me, telling me what to do, but my hands are on the controls, flying the airplane. It was great fun, and I enjoyed doing something I’d never done before. Of course, when it came time to land, I had relinquished the controls back to the pilot. Taking off is optional; landing is mandatory. Now here’s the whole point. He could fly it without me; I could not fly it without him. But he allowed me to fly it with him, and we were having wonderful fellowship.

In the same way, God can do it without us; we cannot do it without Him, but God allows us to do it with Him. And the way He allows us to do it with Him is by prayer. By that prayer, we have a bonding with God, a fellowship with God, and we can know God, not just as the great ruler of the universe, but we can know God as our heavenly Father.

Adrian Rogers and Steve Rogers, When We Say Father: Unlocking the Power of the Lord’s Prayer (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2018).