If God knows everything, then why do we pray? For example, my dad is in the hospital, and he's really sick. So I pray to God to help my dad get better. Doesn't God know he's in the hospital and in need of help? Do my prayers prompt God to action? And if I don't prompt God for action, will he help my dad anyway?
Philippians 4:6 tells us
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
In Acts 1:13-14, after Jesus ascends, we see
"And when they (the Apostles) had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers."
Acts 2:42, Acts 3:1, Acts 6:4 and Acts 12:5 all mirror this - the need and dependency on prayer.
So, why do we pray?
For a number of reasons. We pray because it is a form of serving the Lord (Luke 2:36-38). We pray in preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13); to overcome demonic barriers (Matthew 17:14-21); to gather workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2); to gain strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41); and to obtain the means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19).
Does God know your father is in the hospital in need of help?
Absolutely. His eyes are everywhere (Proverbs 15:3), and He knows all things (1 John 3:19-20).
Do your prayers prompt God to action?
Yes and no. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and all things are in accordance to His will and if you ask as such, He will hear you (1 John 5:14). By praying to the Lord, you are showing Him you need Him. A perfect analogy would be like this - are you yourself more likely to help someone asking in the heat of the moment, or someone asking out of true sincerity?
If you don't prompt God for action, will he help your dad anyway?
Absolutely. God does not need to wait for you, or anyone else, to take action. He is above all things, and everything moves in accordance to His will. He does not want you or your father to suffer, and the odds are with you that He will help you and your family through this tough time.
I immediately thought of this quote when you asked that.
Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.
He does know everything but prayer is not so much to inform Him, but to humble our hearts and draw closer to Him. It is the reason why we need to persist in prayer, like Elijah when he prayed 7 times for rain. Not that god is hard of hearing, but that our hearts are in need of changing.
It's a huge question to ask. Does God know everything? Including every tidbit of every moment in the future? That's where one has to wonder.
God definitely knows how things are going to end up. He's known what the end result would be since the beginning. And He's going to do what He plans to do. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
He knows everything that is currently going on. He knows when a bird falls to the ground. He knows how many hairs are on your head. (Matt 10:29-30)
But there is some question as to God knowing every little nuance of our future. In Genesis 22 God tests Abraham. And there are two parts that suggest that God already had a plan, but that it was solidified by Abrahams actions. They are:
vs 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
vs 16-18 “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Genesis 22 suggests that while God has a plan and knows what the end result is going to be, there are still things revealed to Him as they happen. "Now I know that you fear God" and "Because you have done this" are both reactions to becoming aware of the level of Abrahams obedience.
As for "why pray?" Yes, God knows what we need before we even ask. Matthew 6:7-8 tells us that. But in Philippians 4:6 we are also commanded to make our requests known. An analogy for this is that as an earthly father, I often watch my son working at something and keep my mouth shut when I see him struggling. One of three things is going to be learned by him. Either he'll learn how to work through a problem, he'll learn how to ask for help or he'll learn what can happen when you screw up. I know what he needs, but I'm waiting for him to ask before I make a move.
This last part is opinion on my part. When omniscient is considered with omnipresent, could it stand to reason that "knowing everything" could actually be a matter of knowing everything that happens because he's everywhere? But that because he's omnipotent, he has the power to ensure that the end will be what he intends. Just something to consider.
"Doesn't God know he's [user14269's dad] in the hospital in need of help?"
i think so.
"Do my prayers prompt God to action? And if I don't prompt God for action, does he help my dad anyway?"
perhaps. we don't know. we do not fully understand the "mind of God". and it would be difficult (actually impossible) to run repeated experiments with all other things being the same, but where the difference is we pray or do not pray. perhaps our prayers change God's response to a situation, perhaps God will do the same thing regardless.
"If God knows everything, then why do we pray?"
God knows our needs (or your dad's needs) before we know them. prayer is more than supplication. or imprecation (crying out for justice). it is more than only praise or worship. it is more than asking for forgiveness or for repentance.
prayer is also listening (to whom?).
so it's not so much about us telling God what he/she already knows. it's about God speaking deeply to our souls.
and like keeping company with someone, sometimes prayer is just a way of "sitting with God in silence." have you ever spent time just sitting in the same room with your parent or grandparent or spouse or kid without either saying a word? prayer is, or can be, a little like that.