I’ve heard all throughout my growing up years, as well as now into my 30s, that prayer is a conversation with God. But even though people have told me this over and over again, I’ve always had a hard time accepting it that way. Whenever I sit down to pray, verses like Matthew 6:8 come to mind, which says, “…your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
But I keep finding myself asking, “If he knows, why pray? Why spend the time and effort?”
I’ve known for a long time that prayer has been hard for me. It’s been a known struggle. Every morning when Luke and I sit down to pray together, it’s mostly Luke doing the praying because I just can’t seem to find the desire to do so myself. I do sometimes when something very specific is going on, but even then it’s been hard.
I didn’t realize until very recently, however, why.
That is, until I read this section of scripture…
One day a petition was presented by the daughters of Zelophehad—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Their father, Zelophehad, was a descendant of Hepher son of Gilead, son of Makir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph. These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. “He was not among Korah’s followers, who rebelled against the Lord; he died because of his own sin. But he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.”
So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord replied to Moses, “The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father.
“And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters. And if he has no daughter either, transfer his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. But if his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan. This is a legal requirement for the people of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” – Numbers 27:1-11
Let me tell you what’s happening here. The families inheritance was to go to the oldest son, but this man, Zelophehad, had five daughters and no sons. When he died, his name was going to disappear and these sisters were going to be left with nothing. So the sisters brought this issue to Moses, and Moses took it to God.
Notice what God says. He says their claim is legitimate and that they must be given the grant of land that would have been given to their father. Then he goes on to give instructions for the rest of the nation, saying that if a man has no sons, his inheritance goes first to the daughters.
This whole section spoke volumes to me about prayer. Had the sisters stayed quiet about their situation, they would have ended up with nothing. But their petition and reasons for wanting their father’s land was not only heard by God, he acknowledged their request and gave them what they desired.
It wasn’t until I read this passage that I realized I’ve had a flawed view of God. I’ve been thinking of God as ridged, set in his ways…knowing what’s going to happen with everything pre-determined and set on it’s course. I’ve been praying, but they have been passionless prayers. Praying has felt like standing at the bottom of a 100ft cliff and trying to push it to another location. Impossible. Honestly, I’ve wondered why I even try if God knows all and is directing everything anyway.
But now? I see that God hears our petitions. Not only that, he’s willing to act on them. If I stay quiet, so will he. If I engage him in questions and conversations? He’ll engage right back. These were five women, out of hundreds of thousands of people. But God heard them. Not only that, his answer benefited others in the nation who were in the same position as they were.
This is all pretty incredible to me, and has really given me a new perspective on prayer. God does listen. He can be moved to act on our prayers.
Prayer is no longer a listless shove against an immovable, insurmountable monolith. It’s a conversation with a flesh and blood God who sees, knows, cares, and understands. Who’s empathetic. Who wants the best for me.
Sure, I won’t always get what I want. But I believe that God knows better than I do what is truly good and helpful. And I know now that I will see change that would never have happened had I left it alone.