Why is prayer so complicated? Why is it such a struggle? Why can’t I, with simplicity and trust and with consistency, just pray (and then act) like the God of the universe is also the one who simply hears my prayer?
It becomes frustrating, and I can get defeated, when I focus on the outcome, or apparent lack thereof. But shouldn’t the starting point simply be that I can know with utter confidence that when I pray, God hears?
If you stop to think about this, it is overwhelmingly amazing. The omnipotent God, who formed — and is still forming — galaxies by the millions, listens to us. The omni-present God, who is everywhere present in all his fullness, even present in those millions of galaxies made up of millions of stars, is present with me to listen to my praises and my requests. The omniscience God, who knows all, who knows me better than I know myself, who knows my words before I think them much less say them, still hears my words when I pray.
More than this, he wants to hear us. He wants us to talk with him. He created the world with Adam and Eve as the apex of his creative work. He walked in the garden with them. When we could no longer walk with him because of sin, he sent his precious Son to die so that we could once again come into his presence and talk with him. Since he has done all this, why would we wonder if he really hears us when we pray?
But more than this, he asked us to talk with him; he has commanded that we talk with him. It's not like prayer is an imposition that makes him stop what he wants to do so that he will listen to us; listening isn't a problem for God. If he has commanded that we pray, then can't we, with utter confidence, know that our omnipotent, omni-present, omniscient God is listening, that he wants to hear us?
The problem of course is that we think that some (most?) of our prayers go unanswered, and so we question whether prayer does any good. But no matter what the outcome, I can easily believe that he has heard me. This is the starting point. After that it becomes an issue of trust and belief in his goodness that he will act as he sees fit for my good and his glory.
I deeply desire the inner confidence that my prayers do in fact move God to do what he otherwise might not do. But this one fact we can hold on to: through the death of his Son and our reception of his forgiveness by faith, we can come into the throne room of grace; and when we come and speak, God is present to hear. Surely this is our starting point.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).