Why Do You Pray?
IN ZECHARIAH 7:5, we hear God ask the people of Israel this question: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh month, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?’”
First, we need to put these words into context. The people of Israel had resettled Jerusalem after having been in captivity for 70 years. While they were in captivity, every fifth and seventh month, they would observe a fast, no doubt coupled with prayers that someday they would be able to return to their homeland. Why a fast on the fifth and seventh month? The fifth month marked the month when the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed and the seventh month commemorated the month their king, Gedaliah, was assassinated.
But now they are back in the land! Their prayers have been answered! So the people ask the priests and the prophets whether or not they need to continue observing these fasts. They ask, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
God responds by asking them why they were fasting in the first place. “When you fasted…was it for me that you fasted?”
That is a good question to ponder when we think of our own prayers. What is the motive for your prayers? Is it to get God to grant you what you ask? Now that they had received what they for so long had prayed, do they need to continue seeking God in this manner? In other words, who really was the focus of their prayers?
In Zechariah 7:9-10, God adds, “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” In other words, this is where your prayers should land you. This is the change that ought to be the result of your prayers.
The purpose of prayer is not to change God. Rather, the purpose of prayer is to change us. It is to align our hearts with God’s heart. That is what true repentance looks like, and quite honestly, it requires constant prayer and vigilance.
This is another good reason to daily pray the Lord’s Prayer. It helps us remember that when we pray it is for God’s name…God’s kingdom…God’s will that we pray. May we come to prayer with a true desire to be changed!
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