An Exposition of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount
Works, vol. 1, pp. 407-408.
But sundry objections are made against the necessity of prayer:
First, it is said God knows our thoughts before we pray, and therefore it is needless to express them by prayer unto Him.
Answer. We pray not to acquaint God with our suits or with our hearts, as though He knew them not, but to perform obedience unto His commandment, who requires this duty at our hands. Again, we pray unto God to honor Him in acknowledging Him to be the Knower of our hearts, the Giver of all goodness, the Stay of our faith and hope, in whom only we put all our trust and confidence.
Objection 2. Whether we pray or not, God will give us the blessings which He means to bestow on us.
Answer. This is flat atheism. And yet we must distinguish of God’s blessings, for some are common blessings which God oft gives to men without their asking, because they serve to preserve nature, as rain and fruitful seasons, food, raiment, etc. (Acts 14:16), and yet even these common blessings must be prayed for: “In all things let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6); and James says, “Ye lust and have not, because ye ask not” [4:1]; and Moses’ prayer saves the people from destruction (Ps. 106:23). Others are special blessings of the elect, and these must always be sought and obtained by prayer.
Objection 3. God has decreed all events, and everything shall so fall out as He has appointed, and therefore it is needless to pray, and oftentimes it is but the crossing of God’s will.
Answer. The reason is naught, for as God has decreed the event of all things, so likewise He has appointed the means whereby His decree shall be effected; and prayer many times is a principal means to bring God’s will to pass. God showed to Elijah that He would send rain in Israel after that long drought (1 Kings 18:1), and yet “the prophet crouched unto the earth, and put his face between his knees” [1 Kings 18:42], no doubt humbling himself in prayer to God for it, as saint James says [5:18]; where we may see that prayer is not contrary to God’s decree, but a subordinate means to bring the same to pass. And therefore we must rather reason thus: that because God has decreed the event of all things, and has appointed prayer as a means to effect sundry of His decrees, therefore we must use it.