God knows all things

By Father Anthony Mourad

February 15, 2022

Many may be tempted in thinking God might not answer their prayer and be tempted to lose heart and faith in the promises of the Lord. There seems to be this idea among many Christians that as long as we ask for good and Godly things, then surely God will give them to us. Observing as how God is omnipotent and His loves for humans, then surely He will not deprive us from those good things that we are asking for. Yet, even the One Holy Church is filled with history and examples to prove the complete opposite of this.

Holy Church has been praying for peace in the world for thousands of years, though that’s not happening. We pray for the healing of the sick, and the people still die. We pray God’s protection for His children and His Church, and yet the rate of persecution and violence continues to rise. Even though we say God knows all things, we still continue to ask Him for all these things daily in our liturgical prayers. Does that then mean prayer is useless, or that it doesn’t work?

To begin answering this we must first take a step back. There are some major fallacies in this way of thinking. Let’s address two of those misconceptions.

Misconception 1: God promises He will answer our prayers; therefore, He needs to come through and give us what we ask for. Some people might hear that and say “No, its not like that, what we mean is…” and then they would tone down the statement. But if we are honest, this is truly what we mean. But did He promise that? Is that what we see in Scripture? Let’s take for instance the greatest example of prayer in Scripture found in the gospels, when the Lord Jesus is Praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He makes a request to His Father and is HOW He does it that places before us the model of prayer we need to all adopt. Let’s take a look: “Then He said to them (His disciples), “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Pay attention to the words brethren, The Lord Jesus teaches us to place our requests before God in prayer, but to always express that we desire God’s will above all. Meaning that we trust in what He will allow for the sake of what He sees best; And again, the Lord comes back a second time and even prays and says “if I don’t get what I asked for, then I accept your will!”

Do you see how even the Lord Himself, the Word of God incarnate, did not spare himself to experience complete submission in prayer? How He allows himself to be in full obedience to the will of God His father and sets before is the example of how prayer is not merely transactional, but truly relational? And this is where we can learn so much. Too many of us have a vending machine approach with God. I place my money in the machine, press the button, and expect to get what I want! And if I don’t, I push and shove the machine and get all upset. Another example of this is the genie in the lamp approach, where I think that if I say the magic words, and rub the lamp in the right way, that the genie is now obliged to grant me my wishes… My beloved, God is not the vending machine nor the genie. He is our Father, eternal, all powerful, and all loving. We either believe these things about God, or we don’t. And if we do trust in his timing, his mercy, his justice, and his love, then our expectations for prayer will be focused on building relationship with Him.

Which leads to the 2nd misconception: Our prayers are a way to inform God or to place our orders before Him. Let’s be clear brethren, in prayer, we aren’t really telling God anything he doesn’t already know. Again, some might then ask, then why pray at all? The answer is relationship and intimacy.

Take for example a father who was told this morning the detailed account of a funny incident that happened between his two children. When his youngest child comes eagerly to him, excited to share with him the details of what happened, what is the Father’s response? Does he interrupt the child and say, “I already know all this, don’t waste my time!” Or does he sit there and listen to every word, even sometimes pretending to not know for the sake of encouraging the child to communicate all that he or she has to say? To connect, to share, to grow the relationship… The same exists with Our Lord. He allows us to communicate all that is in out hearts for our sakes, not His! Allow me to say that the Lord benefits nothing, from our prayers, he is after all immutable and unchangeable. But it is we who have everything to gain. We are comforted when come into his presence, we are reminded of His love, we receive His grace, his mercy, His love.

Saint John Chrysostom comments on this very idea and expresses it to us beautifully. He explains how we ought to approach God in prayer. He says the following: “[We pray] not to inform God or instruct Him but to beseech Him closely, to be made intimate with Him, by continuance in supplication; to be humbled; to be reminded of our sins.” Saint John Chrysostom (Homily 19, Gospel of Matthew)

According to this great Saint, prayer isn’t about an exchange of information or a transactional process by which we place orders with God the way we do with a waiter at a restaurant. No! it is for the sake of intimacy, for conversation, for comfort, humility, peace, and ultimately love.

Dear brethren! let us be encouraged to understand prayer as the Lord always intended us to see it. Let us learn from the Lord Himself how to submit to God’s will in prayer and reach Him in prayer to know  Him and live in His kingdom.

Source: Coptic Orthodox Church