17 thoughts on “Standing in Need of Prayer?

  1. I pray because I need to pray. When we pray according to God’s will, the answer is always yes. Do people need our prayers? No. Will prayer affect what will happen? No. It’s not like God has a ‘prayer threshold’ after which he will perform a miracle, but look at it this way.

    If I had a 5 year old son and played catch with him in the backyard every night, it would still give me joy for him to ask me to play catch with him, even if it had no affect on whether we actually did. I would play catch with him whether he asked or not. I would do it because I loved him.

  2. I believe God is sovereign over all history, and that He knows the end from the beginning. In that sense all of history is fixed, and from the vantage point of eternity our prayers don’t really “change” anything. HOWEVER, this truth shouldn’t be misapplied to conclude that our prayers “don’t matter” to God. One example that came to mind was the following from

    Exodus 17:11-13 (ESV)
    Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. (12) But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (13) And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

  3. This topic does remind me, for some reason, of a thing Chesterton once wrote:

    The sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy seperately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

  4. Um… I think that God does in fact respond to our prayers, that our relationship with him is in fact personal, as the Bible portrays it. To picture God as some sort of unresponsive, unbending force of nature is to miss (at least part of) the point. (Which I think is what Chesterton is saying… Consistency and dependability do not require God to be impersonal or unresponsive.)

    The first verse that came to mind when I saw the question was Colossians 4:3, where Paul asks his hearers/readers to “pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message… Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (NIV). He makes similar “pray for us” requests in 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1, and Hebrews 13:18. Paul, evidently, felt like he needed their prayers. His intention in those verses doesn’t seem to be, “Pray for us, because you need to pray for others in order to become more selfless and mission-minded.” His intention seems to be, “Pray for us, because we need God’s help!”

    Scripture seems to be filled with references to God responding to people’s prayers. Off the top of my head, I think of James 5:16, which says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. In other words, it has an effect. Not just on us, but on the world, as seen in the example James gives in verses 17-18: Elijah, who was “a man just like us.” He prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t. Then he prayed again, and the rains returned. His prayers had an effect on the world.

    Evidently, God has decided to allow us to participate in the unfolding of his plan for the world. God responds to prayers. Which means that, yes, in fact people need our prayers. That God is sometimes waiting to act until we ask him to. Ask, and it will be given to you, Jesus said. Don’t ask… and maybe it won’t be.

    Oh! Which reminds me of James 4:2 (can’t believe I’d forgotten it) — “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (NIV). Seems pretty clear to me.

    So… whattaya think? 🙂

  5. When someone comes to you saying they need your prayers, or you go to them, isn’t it usually the case that the person is troubled and needs to hear the Gospel more than he needs to hear himself prayed for?

    Also, 1 Timothy 2:1ff – I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…


    It doesn’t say there that those people “need” prayer, but Paul calls it good and pleasing to God and talks about it in the context of Christ.

  6. Interesting comments, all. I mean “need” as in, without them, something would be lacking on my part if someone else did not pray for me. Rich says, “Paul, evidently, felt like he needed their prayers. His intention in those verses doesn’t seem to be, ‘Pray for us, because you need to pray for others in order to become more selfless and mission-minded.’ His intention seems to be, ‘Pray for us, because we need God’s help!'”
    I think this clearly shows the point: Paul did not need their prayers! He needed God’s help! Perhaps the truly Biblical statement would be: “We need God’s help; pray for us!”


  7. Tim,

    When someone asks me to please pray for them, I’ll usually ask, “Well, what is it you want God to do for you?” (Kind of like Jesus did at times when encountering a sick person.) If someone “needs prayer” that means they need God to help or intervene in some way. Prayer is how we ask God to help.

    Paul asked them to pray because he needed God’s help. Is there any other sense in which someone could “need prayer”?

    I guess I don’t understand how you would separate the two and say someone “needs God’s help” but does NOT “need prayer” when prayer is how we ask God to help…

    Could you enlighten me? 🙂

  8. From an atheist’s standpoint, nothing seems sillier than when you all pray.

    The Bible as a Moral Code? Fine.

    Whispering silently to a sentient, cosmic actor to fix things? The heights of lunacy.

    Prayer can set your mind on something, though. Which might be particularly useful if you hadn’t really thought it through before.

    Good luck.

  9. Rich, I suppose it sounds like nothing but semantics, but I’m interested in keeping the focus where it belongs: on God. I’d rather speak about a person needing God, rather than me or my prayers. I think it may place too much responsibility on the pray-er, rather than the Giver.

    Hey, thanks for reading nonetheless, Josh. I appreciate the atheist’s standpoint now and again. Unfortunately, the Bible is not a moral code; it is the written testimony to Jesus Christ. You may be pretty close on prayer, though. Who else is going to fix things? You? Good luck yourself (which sounds more sarcastic than it really is).


  10. Thanks, Tim. I’m with you on wanting to keep the focus on God. That’s a good thing, and a much-needed thing.

    At the same time, I’m fine with the idea (because I see it throughout Scripture) that God acts in response to our prayers. Even the Exodus was done in response to God’s hearing the cries of his people! To dismiss that reality would be throwing the baby out with the bath water… except that no one actually “throws out” bath water anymore… anyway…

    I think we really do have a responsibility as pray-ers. It’s a responsibility I’m still learning to take as seriously as I should. Wouldn’t it be sad to discover one day that God had all kinds of good things lined up for us that we never got to experience because we never asked?

    Just a thought…

    Cool blog, by the way. 🙂

  11. Thanks, Rich, for the compliment.
    Curious about this, though: “Wouldn’t it be sad to discover one day that God had all kinds of good things lined up for us that we never got to experience because we never asked?”
    I don’t think there’s anything that God could give us that we do not have in Christ. What else could there be? I think God gives us everything we need and more, not because we ask, but because He is good. What more do we want? We have His very Body and Blood in the Sacrament; we have forgiveness of sins; we have our daily physical needs met; we have eternal life.
    I could be wrong, but I’m wondering where Scripture speaks this way.


  12. That’s a good question. First, I think that many people who try to answer the question are wrong. Perhaps it belongs in the realm of God’s hidden counsel. It seems, from a purely exegetical, rather than systematic, perspective that God does change His mind in the Old Testament. That’s what the text says: literally, God “repented.” But did God intend to test Abraham and Moses, for example, or did He really change His mind? I am not sure. Is it possible that there could be more than one way to accomplish His will? Does God sometimes take the “slow route” (us) when He could certainly accomplish something faster? I think that’s pretty clear! But surely using us is His will, then? Other responses? (If not, I may post this question as a separate post.) Thanks Joleen.


  13. Tim, you asked where Scripture “speaks this way.” How about these?

    Matthew 7:7-11
    “Ask and it will be given to you… For everyone who asks receives…. how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (So if we don’t ask… does he give it anyway? Doesn’t sound like it…)

    John 14:14
    “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (While I don’t like the direction some people take this verse, the plain meaning seems to be that there are some things Jesus is willing to do if we’ll just ask him.)

    James 1:5
    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (Just a specific example of something we can ask God for. Again, the pattern is: we ask -> God gives.)

    James 4:2
    “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (This makes explicit the implicit corollary of all those other verses: If we don’t ask, we won’t receive.)

    1 John 3:21-22
    “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask…”

    Many of these verses are specifically referring to asking for (and receiving) things beyond forgiveness of sins, an awareness of God’s presence, daily needs, etc. Sometimes we need specific direction in a situation, or the strength to face a specific trial. These things are promised to us in Christ, but it appears that we must ask for them in order to receive them.

    True, there are verses like 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” That sounds a bit like what you were saying, Tim. But in the very next few verses, Peter goes on to point out things that need to be added to the faith and lives of his hearers… implying that being “given… everything we need” is not the end of asking and receiving from God. In fact, he goes on to say that we have been given “his very great and precious promises” which would include his promise to hear and answer prayers.

    Does that make sense?

    And on the question of whether or not we can change God’s mind through prayer… I don’t think a “yes” answer to that question is required for my earlier assertion to be true… But I do think the answer is “yes.” 🙂 As Tim pointed out, a plain reading of some of the OT stories seems to show God changing his mind. Why try to explain away those verses? I personally like the view that’s being labeled “Open Theism” or the “Openness of God” view. I have some books on it, but there’s also some info online at http://www.gregboyd.org.

  14. I might be willing to grant that we ask and God gives, but not that our asking is the _condition_ for God’s giving. Further, the asking in faith itself can only be a Spirit-inspired response to the gift of faith given by God. How’s that?
    As far as open theism or openness theology, I don’t know a whole lot, but if it has anything to do with God not knowing the future, I’m convinced it’s wrong. God is God with or without us, and insofar as open theism follows process philosophy, I think it is misleading. But I’ll look at that site.


  15. Pls..I don’t know why my mom can’t urinate. If she could, I could take her home to night. There is a real possibility that the type of cancer she has, will return in a few months. If that is the case…would you understand that I don’t want her to spend her last days in a nursing home, getting..God knows what type of care? I’d rather bring her home, and let her be as comfy as possible. But, in order to do that, she needs to be able to urinate. Otherwise, I have to take a class and learn hoe, and not be able to leave the house for more than an hour and a half, just in case she drinks more fluids than usual…Help…I …can no more leave my mother and rest, knowing that she might need something and can’t talk, than I can pass by a suffering stranger in the street. This is torturous. Pls pray that my mom will urinate on her own, that her spitits will pick up and that he speech will reyurn. Everyone prayed w/ me that her bowels would move on their own, and they did! So I know prayer works..but..I’m feeling like Job, now. My hse burned dwn, my new car was stolen, dad found dead, I developed tumors, fbest friend burned on 98th fl of WTC..How am I to endure..w/o destroying myself in another way? How am

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