As one who values prayer and has participated in the National Day of Prayer for years, I was happy to see Colin Barr's letter on May 8. Mr. Barr has touched on some issues of prayer even Christians have grappled with for centuries now. I appreciate that he is thinking these issues through enough to put them into writing and post them in the Herald.
First, for Christians prayer is an act of loving humility. Because Christianity is a restored relationship with the creator, the living God, through Christ, prayer is a way to show loving reverence for and dependence upon our creator -- the one in whom "we live and move and have our being."
Prayer is worship, and also acknowledges our dependence on God for everything. God's children are invited to pray, and he promises to hear us and to answer us according to his good pleasure. This leads to another of Mr. Barr's points, that if "this deity is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful, won't the deity always know the absolute best course of action to take? Won't the deity always follow that most perfect course?" So, why pray and request anything at all?
This is an excellent question. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and does whatever he pleases, and yes, we believe he always acts according to his all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful nature. But he also calls believers to "pray without ceasing."
Like so many issues of faith, there is great mystery in this. The scriptures teach that while we will never manipulate God through our prayers and he is hardly dependent on them, he does choose to use the prayers of his people to accomplish many of his good purposes and delights to do so.