7. But what about the verses that talk about how God knows what we need before we ask, like Matthew 6:8 and Matthew 6:32? Doesn’t this show that we don’t really need to pray for His care, because He’ll care for us anyway, since He knows our needs?
God knows what we need, and He can read our thoughts. (All the more reason to make sure that we set our minds on things above and not on impure, ungodly things.) But once again, it doesn’t say that He responds to our thoughts or that He gives us what we need just because He knows that we need it. We can choose to live apart from God and in self-sufficiency. We can choose to live life sitting back, putting our feet up and saying, “Ok, God, bring on the blessings. . . Look at how well He takes care of me!” Even though we are doing nothing to draw near to Him.
If we are not seeking God in His Word and in prayer - including acknowledging, praying for, and thanking Him for His providence - then we are living in presumption. We are presuming that God will give us what we need or what we want without really humbling ourselves before Him, without living in close communion with Him. We are content to believe that God is taking care of us, and so our relationship with Him must be hunky-dory. And yes, God, in His goodness, does provide a lot of things that we haven't asked for, yet I wonder how much we miss out on because we failed to ask.
There are people who are living very unglorifying lives. However, they have convinced themselves that they are okay with God because they have a lot of stuff, yet they are drifting farther and farther away from Him. “Look at how good God has been to me and how He has taken care of me and guided my life.” But this comfort and presumption is a dangerous thing when it keeps us lazy and distracts us from pursuing Him.
I think (even when we choose self-sufficiency) God does still care for us by sustaining our lives, because our days won’t end until He gives the word. And He sends rain and sunshine for the ungodly as well as the godly. But life could be so much more if we lived in prayer, obedience, and wisdom. If we were driven to pursue Him, instead of just settling for His basic care. Just because He knows our needs doesn’t mean that we will automatically be given abundant life - that we will be truly blessed in the ways that matter - apart from a life of obedience, submission, and abiding in Him.
Matthew 6:8 is not telling us that we don’t need to pray. It’s telling us that we are not to be like the pagans who babble on and on to God. They hoped that their many words would gain God’s attention. We don’t pray to notify God of all our needs, because He knows them before we ask. And we don’t pray to get God’s attention or blessings (because He’s always attentive to our prayers), but He doesn’t owe us blessings because of our “great, lengthy” prayers. We pray to acknowledge that He is God and we are not, to build and maintain our relationship with Him, to turn our concerns over to Him, to invite Him to take action in our lives, to listen to Him, and to get His Will done.
This does not tell us that because God knows our needs, we don’t have to ask. Saying “before you ask” implies that we ask. And immediately following verse 8 is verse 9, which says, “This, then , is how you should pray . . .” So prayer is important, even if God can read our minds.
And Matthew 6:25-32 tells us not to worry about our lives and the things we need. “The pagans run after these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Verse 32) But, once again, it does not tell us that because He knows what we need, we don’t have to ask. It tells us not to spend our energy chasing after these things, and not to worry that we won’t have what we need. For they will be given to us . . . as we seek His kingdom and righteousness.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Verse 33).
We need to be spending our energy chasing after God. And on top of prayer, we need to seek His righteousness and His kingdom if we want to be able to experience the kind of abundant life that He wants to give us. (Eternal abundance, not necessarily temporary.)
Shortly after Matthew 6, comes the Ask, Seek, and Knock section, (7:7-11) which again shows the importance of prayer. And shortly before it is the Lord’s Prayer, where He teaches us to pray that God meets our daily needs. (6:11). So prayer really, really does matter!