A friend recently sent us the story of a Christian family that had gone out to a restaurant to eat. The dad asked his young daughter to say grace before their meal. Her prayer began: “Dear Alexa…” at which the family members broke out in laughter. The little girl, very embarrassed said, “well, you know what I meant.”
In this day of amazing technology and artificial intelligence, we become accustom to asking “Siri” all sorts of questions and giving commands to “Alexa.” In doing so we are becoming rather lazy in doing our own research to solve problems or to perform simple tasks. Children can easily get into the habit of ordering others around just like they do Alexa. And, when it comes to prayer, that attitude can carry over to where we treat God like an artificial intelligence—a computer—like Siri or Alexa. We look upon Him as a genie in a bottle who is there to minister to our every need at our command.
As a child, C.S. Lewis enjoyed reading the book Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. The children on a summer vacation discover an ancient sand fairy who grants them one wish each day. But every wish brings the children more trouble than happiness because they can’t foresee the results of getting everything for which they ask.
The Bible does tell us ask and seek and knock (Mt. 7:7) and to make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6), but prayer is much more than telling God what we want Him to do for us. God is not an artificial intelligence or a genie in a bottle or a wish-granting fairy; He is the Creator and the Sovereign ruler of the universe. “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psa. 100:3), so we are to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (v. 4a). We are to “Give thanks to Him and bless His name” (v. 4b). When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He began by reminding them, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Mt. 6: 8). What we call “The Lord’s Prayer” (really the disciples prayer), is more about living in a growing, trusting relationship with our heavenly Father than about getting what we want from Him. The prayer begins with an acknowledgment of the holiness of God and a desire for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done (Mt. 6:9-13). As we grow in faith, our prayers will become less of a wish list and more of an intimate conversation with the Lord.
Toward the end of his life, C.S. Lewis wrote: “If God had granted all the silly prayers I’ve made in my life, where should I be now?” Prayer is placing ourselves in the presence of God to receive from Him what we really need. God’s answers are wiser than our prayers. Prayer isn’t the way to get God to do whatever we want. It’s an expression of our trust in His power, wisdom, and grace. Prayer is telling God we love Him and are entrusting our life into His hands to do what will bring Him glory in our situation.
Also, there is nothing magical about prayer and the words we use. Prayer is not an “open sesame.” Because we close our prayer with “In Jesus’ name,” doesn’t mean we will be granted our requests. “In Jesus’ name” is not words so much as it is an acknowledgment that Jesus is God the Son and our Mediator and that we can come to the Father only through Him. It is an expression of the desire that His will to be done. I don’t believe in the power of prayer (the words we express to God). I believe in the power and presence of God, and that is what our prayer should express. Prayer may or may not change our situation, prayer changes us. It is our time of intimate fellowship with the One who made us and gave His life to buy us back from the bondage of sin. What a privilege prayer is. To think that God is interested in the details of my life and really cares about me and is thinking about me constantly is amazing (Psa. 139: 7-18).
And, of course, we are to pray only to God—not to some artificial intelligence (a Siri or Alexa or fairy). We pray to the Father through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (who even intercedes for us when we don’t know what or how to pray (Ro. 8:26). “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (I Tim 2:5,6). It is because of Jesus’ work on our behalf as our high priest, sacrificing His life and shedding His blood, that we can even come to the Father in prayer, but in Him (Christ) “we have boldness and confident access through faith” (Eph. 3:12). We can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Alexa and Siri may be a wealth of information and may perform some simple tasks for you, but God alone loves you and cares about you and can help in your time of need! He alone can meet your deepest needs and provide eternal and abundant life. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and every-where present, available 24-7. And He loves to hear from us and commune with us. Amazing! Wonderful! I’m so glad I’m a part of His forever family, and can pray: “My Father…”