Why Do You Pray?
Right or wrong, God-centered or self-centered, there are many reasons people pray. But there is one foundational reason we often fail to recognize. We desire to be heard. It’s part of our make-up; it’s part of our design as relational beings. For example, we talk to people because deep-down we count on them to actually listen to us; we dare to open our hearts to others because of this longing to be heard. The same is true in prayer. We cry out to God because we expect Him to listen. At least, we hope he will. However, sometimes our faith is feeble and the mere hope that He will listen to us is the best we can scrape up for that day. We are like the psalmists; we cry out to God with a sense of expectation.
- Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer (Ps 17:1). What is this if it is not simply a plea, “God, please listen to me!”?
- Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me (Ps 55:1-2). What is this if it is not the heart’s deepest cry, “Listen to me, Lord. Open your ears. Don’t hide when I have something to say to you.”
In both cases, the man is in great difficulty, being pursued by his enemies, and in great anguish, crying out to God to listen.
This same confidence is witnessed in the words of the author of Psalm 116 as he freely professes this aspect of prayer. He answers the question, “Why should we pray?” in the most basic way, “because He hears.” I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Why did this man pray? He prayed simply because God listened to him. Here is a simple, raw, emotional expression: I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. There it is, wide out in the open. “I love God because He hears me. I grow in my affection, my emotional attachment, to God each and every day because He listens to me.” I love this! It is so real. And we all love real people. Don’t we? There are so many fakes in the world who appear to have everything together, but deep-down we are drawn to honest, real people like this guy.
His honesty is real. It is raw. “I love the Lord,” he says, “And here’s why. He hears me.” There is nothing articulate about this man’s prayers, but God heard them anyway. Therefore, our need is not eloquence. God is not offended by our very simple, very raw emotional cries to him for help. Charles Simeon is correct when he writes, “Prayer does not consist in fluent or eloquent expressions, but in ardent desires of the soul.” That is what we see here. We see the ardent desires of a man who longs for deep fellowship with his God. His declaration of love is simple.
He loves God because God loves him. And he knows God loves him because “he has heard [his] voice and [his] pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to [him]” (vv. 1-2). God’s love for the psalmist is displayed by his listening ear. Spurgeon writes, “They say that love is blind; but when we love God our affection has its eyes open and can sustain itself with the most rigid logic. We have reason, superabundant reason, for loving the Lord; and so make up an admirable state of mind.” This is the reason we love God, because we know he loves us. The reason this man prays is he knows God hears him. Is that why you pray?