The Providence of God, God knows what we need and responds to our prayer.
Read Matthew 6:7-15
“For your father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
The English word “providence” comes from the Greek word pronoia, which is a combination of two words; the Greek preposition “pro” (which means “before”) and the word “nous” (which is the Greek “know, knowledge, disposition or a particular way of thinking”). Thus, the word means to “take thought beforehand, give attention to, with the implication of responding appropriately.” It would later be incorporated into the Latin language in the word “providentia” which means foresight or making provision beforehand. While the word itself does not occurring in our passage the concept of God providential care is wonderfully illustrated and highlighted in this passage.
The passage begins with a warning against meaningless prayer. The term itself is a word from which we derive our English word “babble”. In other words, Christ exhorts us not “to babble” in our prayer. During the time of Christ, many thought the way to be heard by the gods was to make long repetitive prayers what would be more impressive and thus elicit a response from the deity to the request. In some ways we can fall into the same trap, the more we repeat the prayer, the greater the chance that God will listen and respond. God does encourage us to be persistent in prayer (see Luke 18:1). The reason is to test our resolve in trusting God, not to try and motivate and indifferent God to somehow respond to our request.
This brings us to the heart of the providence of God. God already knows our prayer even before we ask. But here we must carefully notice the words. Christ does not say merely that God knows our needs, but that he knows our needs in advance. In other words, before we even identify a need to seek help from God, God is already fully cognizant of it. But the implication goes beyond mere knowledge. The point that Christ is making is that our heavenly Father is already motivated and moving to respond to our request before we even know we have a need. This is what we often fail to understand about prayer. We often view prayer as the means of informing God what he does not know so that he might act in a way differently than he currently is. Consequently, we think we need to be articulate in praying so God will understand what he needs to do. But that misses the whole point. The point that Christ makes is that we have the assurance that God, in his providence, knows and acts on our behalf before we even are aware of the problem we are facing. Therefore, our prayer no longer needs to focus upon what we need but can focus rather on the pursuit of God and his purpose for us which is at the heart of the Lord’s prayer. In terms of Christ’s teaching on prayer, the focus is not upon what we need (although we are to certainly pray about these things), but upon the pursuit of God’s will and the pursuit of a life of obedience to him. Instead of being anxious about our daily struggles in life (6:15-32) we can focus upon the pursuit of his righteousness.
As we face trials in life, we easily can become distracted by them. We become focused on the problem and seek God’s intervention. But the promise of providential care gives us the assurance that he is already acting on our behalf so we can remain focused on what is truly important—the pursuit of his righteousness and the fulfillment of his will. Even as you ask for God’s help in the present struggle, keep your focus upon what is truly important. Instead of just praying for his deliverance, pray for wisdom to do his will and reveal Christ to others in the midst of your crisis.