Daily Devotionals

April 16th, 2024

Read: Matthew 6:7-8 NRSV

‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.

“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.” 

The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis

Why should we pray if God already knows our hearts? He undoubtedly knows what we want, so shouldn’t he simply provide for us? Why bother praying? If we read the passage from The Magician’s Nephew we begin to understand how learning to pray can transform our thinking for the better. It would have been nice for Aslan to send the children with some rations for their long journey, but it’s also important for Digory and Polly to learn how to prepare. Fledge, a horse, is already eating the grass that Aslan provides for the beasts of the fields. The children must learn how to be sustained by Aslan in the same way.

Prayer conditions us to ask for all things. That doesn’t mean we start asking for yachts and apple stock, it means that we learn to ask for our daily bread and to give thanks when we receive it. It teaches us to rely on God before we rely on ourselves because we are prone to failure and God is not. Of course God knows what we need, but most of the time we don’t know what we need! Prayer is God’s way of teaching us how to live. The passage from Matthew begins with the apostle urging the believers to pray in secret, in their closets. There may have been a measure of precaution in this advice, after all, the Romans were increasingly suspicious of the Christians, but the main reason Matthew believed in solitude for prayer is our tendency to be influenced by those around us. We don’t open our hearts in the same way in front of a crowd as we do when we’re alone with our Father. Even if the change is unconscious, we tend to present ourselves a certain way when we have an audience. There is merit in corporate prayer, but we also need time for regular one-on-one conversations with God in order to learn what we need.

It seems strange that God uses prayer, which is mostly a monologue for us, as his primary method of dialogue. It’s uncomfortable and odd to pray when we are out of practice, and we feel impatient and frustrated getting started again, but it is a necessary discipline that reveals itself as a blessing when we pray each day. We have to work at it, like a new running habit in order to feel the change that happens gradually over months of hard work. Soon, the monologue feels more like a conversation as we realize that our hearts and minds have changed in response to our prayers.