God is sovereign. This means that He has absolute power and control over every square inch of the universe at every millisecond of human history. Consider Psalm 115:3: "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Or, Job 42:2: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
This truth gives great comfort, and it often raises good questions. One such question is related to an important spiritual discipline for Christians: prayer. If God already knows everything that I need (Mt. 6:32), does it really matter whether I pray?
First, let's remember. The Bible commands us to pray (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:17), and Jesus assumes we will pray ("when you pray, say..."; Lk. 11:2). But apart from the necessity of obedience, does prayer really matter? If God's going to do whatever He pleases anyway, then does my prayer really make a difference?
One place where the Bible answers this question is in Isaiah 37. The Assyrian army is preparing to attack Jerusalem. Leading up to this moment, they are trash talking the Jews, claiming their allies are weak, and their God is impotent.
In response, King Hezekiah prays. In Isaiah 37:15-20, he goes before the LORD, praises Him for His greatness, and pleads with Him for deliverance. In the very next verse, the LORD responds to Hezekiah through Isaiah the prophet. It's a long response, and it begins with the standard "thus says the LORD".
But after that prophetic introduction, there are four striking words. "Because you have prayed..." At the end of the chapter, we learn what will happen because Hezekiah prayed.
The enemy will not even fire one arrow against them (37:33). In fact, the enemy will run away (37:34). The angel of the LORD will strike down 185,000 Assyrians in one night (37:36). The king that once taunted you will be cut off from life itself (37:38). All that will happen "because you have prayed".
So, does it matter that Hezekiah prayed? Yes! Without Hezekiah's prayer, victory would have slipped through the Jews' hands. Why? Because our sovereign God ordained the defeat of the Assyrian army through the prayer of Hezekiah. It wouldn't come any other way.
We see this truth echoed in the New Testament. In Mark 9, Jesus' disciples are unable to cast out an unclean spirit. When the disciples ask why they were impotent to help, Jesus answers, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mk. 9:29). So, does it matter that the disciples did not pray? Yes!
Here's the conclusion we should draw. The God who controls every square inch of the universe at every millisecond of human history ordains that His work must be accomplished through prayer.
Now let's think about our own praying. Does it matter if we pray for the salvation of friends and family? Does it matter if we pray for fellow church members? Does it matter if we pray in preparation for Sunday's service? Does it matter if we pray for the healing of disease? Does it matter if we pray "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one"?
Does it matter if we pray for missionaries' protection and promotion of the gospel? Does it matter if we pray for God's provision of daily bread for our families? Does it matter if we pray for our spiritual growth? Does it matter if we pray? Yes!
We might read books on prayer. We might study what the Bible says about prayer. We might make resolutions to pray. We might feel deep conviction about our prayerlessness. But what matters is that we pray.
We pray believing that prayer matters. We pray believing that God will answer. Because we pray knowing that the God who controls every square inch of the universe at every millisecond of human history ordains that His work must be accomplished through prayer.
So, how should you respond to this? Pray. Put your computer in sleep mode, put down your smartphone, and pray.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."