Why Pray if God already knows everything that is going to happen?
Knowing which circumstances you will pray for freely, God has already considered how he will answer. Here is a step by step thought process on this subject.
God knows all circumstances.
He determines which kinds of requests he will respond to and in which way based on his knowledge of your free act of prayer as well as based on His being/character. Since he knows all circumstances in advance, his answers to your prayers are already determined.
This means that God’s answers to prayer are ‘performed’ eternally. For us, it comes about in a sequence…in the realm of our experience. For God, he has already ‘considered’ what we will pray for and has acted eternally to respond.
Can I change the future with prayer? Well, the answer to that question is yes. You can change the future, because how you would freely pray in every circumstance has already affected the outcome. Moreover, how you would freely choose not to pray has also already affected the outcome as well (from God’s perspective).
Praying is for you to decide. If you decide to pray, God has already considered his response because he knew you would freely pray a certain way in a certain circumstance.
Finally, prayer does not only reference the future, but it also references our character and reliance on God. Prayer has many benefits. Affecting the future (from our standpoint) is only one of them.
Thus, should we be praying for certain things regarding the future? Of course! But, if God already decided to answer “no” to a certain request of yours, your character and reliance can still grow through prayer.
An Illustration That Might Help
Let’s say I am reading to my five-year old son. The book happens to be appealing to both of us. Towards the end he says, “Dad, Stop. I need to use the bathroom.” I decide (cause he got distracted talking to his sister before he even used the bathroom) that I want to know the end of the book before he gets back. I read the last few pages. Even though I am done, I know my son is going to come back and request of me (somewhat akin to requesting something from our God in prayer) to finish the book. My response was already determined (Of course I will!). Still, it is lived out in relational unity in the act of reading the last few pages out loud so he can get the ending too.
My son’s experience of the book and his request to me are all relationally real, even though I had already factored in my response. God has already factored in his response to all our prayer requests because he knows what we are going to ask before we do. His response, although predetermined, is real, relational, and gracious to us as we interact with him.