This week we begin with Question 38 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 38: What is prayer?
Answer: Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.
In his book Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis raises the question of what the point of prayer is if God already knows everything, and our prayers will neither inform him nor change his will. Lewis argues that the point of prayer is not to change God, but rather to unveil our own hearts before him. In prayer, we are not only known by God (just like everything in existence is known fully by him), but we also give our consent to be known by him. We relate to him as persons in relationship, not merely as objects of his knowledge. The catechism captures this idea in speaking about “pouring out our hearts to God” when we pray.
Do not set out to pray with the mindset that God needs you to help him become aware of some need or to formulate his will about some situation. Don’t lose sight of the vast difference between God the Creator and us his creatures. If we bring God down to our level when we pray, we are acting like pagans. Remember that you pray to the sovereign, transcendent God of the universe who delights in you and seeks your willing consent to be known by him. Pour out your heart to him in prayer, no matter how messy that may be at times. That’s what a relationship looks like.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Matthew 6:7-8. What does Jesus teach us here about how not to pray? Why do you think that is? And what does he teach us about God’s knowledge of our needs before we ask him? If God knows our need, why pray?