What is the purpose of prayer, and why should anyone pray? Does God really need us to ask for or thank Him for things? After all, He is all knowing and all forgiving. He knows what we want and need, so it probably is a little presumptuous for little ole us to ask or tell Him anything. And even if we’re wrong for not praying, He’s all forgiving, so we would already be forgiven for not praying. Isn’t praying really a big waste of time?
If prayer is dry, automatic, rote, perfunctory or directed to some big Being in the sky who is too busy to pay any attention to us, it would be a waste of time. But the real purpose of prayer isn’t to change God, but rather to change you – the pray-er.
So much of the pace of modern life becomes routine that we roll right through and miss important moments without even realizing it. The purpose of prayer is to interrupt the mundane drone of life and provide an opportunity to get present to life in an authentic and profound way. Prayer is a process to take the mundane and elevate it to holiness. When viewed from this perspective, prayer can be a powerful tool. When done properly, it can take a normal mundane moment and illuminate the fullness of the gift of life. Prayer can help you focus, clarify, and find a deeper appreciation for every moment.
Let’s take a simple example. As Jews, we are taught to pray before eating. Normally, We take food and eating for granted. We usually wolf food down, or eat it while reading, watching TV, talking, or thinking about other things. When you take a moment to remember the miracle of food and what it took to find its way to your plate, it won't be taken for granted. In fact, the smallest bite of bread could be an elevating, sublime experience.
Since the basic prayer over a meal is a prayer of thanks for bread, we’ll use that. As you're preparing to say a blessing over that first bite of bread, take a moment to look at the bread. Notice the visual beauty of it. Feel the texture and smell the rich aroma.
Now say the blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth." Break off a small piece of the bread and put it in your mouth.
Now take a moment to really taste it. To savor it. Let it roll around on your tongue. Let your mouth water and feel the texture of the bread change and almost dissolve. Think about what it took to get that piece of bread to your plate:
A seed was planted in earth. Somehow, that seed grew into a stalk of wheat. Somebody harvested the wheat, ground it up and baked it. It took a growing season and human care and effort to turn the wheat into bread. A whole chain of people packaged and delivered that bread to a store. The bread was bought, taken home, and finally, you were the lucky recipient.
Just contemplating the fact that a hard little seed can be put in dirt and grow, and create food that nourishes and energizes your body could fill you with wonder; it could bring you to tears. It truly is a miracle.
Getting in touch with this miracle when you eat can elevate any mood. One purpose of prayer is to break the habitual drone of life in order to appreciate the beauty of a system that God has created to fuel your body. It is humbling and spiritually nourishing and uplifting to recognize that idea every time you eat.
The purpose of prayer is to provide you with a chance to experience the miracle and gift of every moment of your life.