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According to Roman Catholic Church,

if God knows everything, including the future (which he does, if he's omniscient)

Refer : What is the biblical evidence for God's omnipotence and omniscience?

and

if God has the power to bring about any state of affairs (which he does, if he's omnipotent)

Refer : What is the biblical evidence for God's omnipotence and omniscience? and Power, Authority and Sovereignty in the Character of God

and

if he always wants to bring about the best state of affairs (which he does, if he's omnibenevolent)

Refer : Matthew 26:24, is God Omnibenevolent? and How can a Wholly Good God Deliberately Create Evil?

then God has already decided what's going to happen in every single case. To everyone. Always.

So why should we pray?

  • @MattGutting Whether God has a different experience of time is unprovable but more importantly it is irrelevant because we cannot perceive it so let's not use that as an excuse to disparage the question. – LyRo Mar 15 at 11:21
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    How Prayer is understood would relate to how one views the Atonement. This would make this question limited to perhaps not an individual denomination, but at least separated by how different Christians view the atonement. For example, Prayer in Catholic traditions is often used as part of the sanctification process where other traditions who believe in "Christ doing everything and we can do nothing" are already sanctified. – Marc Mar 15 at 12:32
  • @MattGutting Your statement - God has a different experience of time - is also an assumption and I'll echo myself once again that this statement cannot be verified or (dis)proved. So, there is no point in taking the discussion forward with that point of view. It's very easy to muddle the problem in terms of unfathomable perceptions. All I'm asking is to get to a better position from whatever constraints we have as humans. – LyRo Mar 15 at 12:53
  • Related question with a very good answer christianity.stackexchange.com/a/47457/23657 – Kris Mar 16 at 12:48
  • And this question which was closed fir being too broad may help christianity.stackexchange.com/q/374/23657 – Kris Mar 16 at 12:52
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It certainly is true that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him (cf. Matt. 6:8), but this does not mean that our asking for what we think we need accomplishes nothing.

In the first place, we are created in the image and likeness of God. That creation gives us a dignity which merits the hearing, at least, of our desires. God knows what we need. He even knows what we want. But it's important to Him—precisely because he gave us will and rationality—that we be aware of our wants, and have an opportunity to declare them. Telling God what we want, in this view, is simply exercising our abilities as the image and likeness of God.

Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2736)

In addition, petitionary prayer opens us to be able to come closer to God, to allow Him to transform us into people more fully and constantly willing to trust in Him and to desire for ourselves what He desires for us. With this in mind, even if we don't receive what we ask for, we can still draw closer to God in our asking:

God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.

St Augustine, "Epistula 130", quoted in Catechism paragraph 2737.

"Transformation of the praying heart," the Catechism continues (2739), "is the first response to our petition."

Of course, it doesn't follow that God doesn't listen to our prayers—that he never gives us what we ask for simply because we do ask for it. God will give us what is good, when we ask for it. And if there is only one "best" for us, surely He will give us that, even if we ask for something else.

Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.

Evagrius Ponticus, "On Prayer", quoted in Catechism paragraph 2737.

But it needn't follow that there is only one best thing for us. God hasn't necessarily "already decided the best future for each of us". What that "best" is depends on our freely chosen actions. And even accounting for them, there may be multiple equally good futures God could offer to us. And if one of these includes giving what we asked for, why should He not decide, as we are making the request, to do that? In this way, if we are praying in Him, in accord with what really is good for us: in this way God can actually decide to fulfill our request simply because we asked for it.

Note: Of course, God's will is carried out regardless of our prayer life. There's nothing saying we must pray for what we want. But to refuse to pray, knowing that God is listening, is refusing not only an opportunity to communicate with God, our loving father, but also a chance to align ourselves more closely with His will. It seems a dreadful disrespect of God to do this.

  • could you please clarify these 2 points - 1. If It certainly is true that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him (cf. Matt. 6:8) is it explicitly written anywhere that if we DO NOT PRAY (ask for the needs) then God will not fulfil those needs? and 2. Taking your argument of What that "best" is depends on our freely chosen actions I can reason that sometimes when God actually decides to fulfil our request simply because we asked for it. isn't it merely our so called 'freely chosen actions' aligning with 'God's plan for us'? – LyRo Mar 19 at 8:10
  • you've stated that the act to refuse to pray, knowing that God is listening, is refusing not only an opportunity to communicate with God, our loving father, but also a chance to align ourselves more closely with His will. will ...seem (to be) a dreadful disrespect of God. Is it YOUR OWN opinion or do you have any verifiable and valid literature to back this statement? – LyRo Mar 20 at 6:59
  • I use "seem", as one might expect, to indicate my own opinion. However, given that (as stated and supported) the first quotation you give is true, I think it's an entirely reasonable position. – Matt Gutting Mar 20 at 10:22
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The direct answer is "grace", human needed to acquire graces to gain entrance to Eternal Life.

God gave us a rational soul with free-will and intellect and it can only enter Heaven if it acquire the graces needed to enter it.

And grace can only be acquired thru prayer, it is no longer free like the Redeeming Grace Christ had won for us. Our redemption is free it is the Mercy of God to a fallen humanity but salvation is not free as St.Paul teaches;

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,work-out your salvation with fear & trembling" (Philippians2:12)

Jesus came into this world devoid of all His Heavenly majesty and glory, he came in a form of a slave just like one of us but not in sin. Jesus needed to acquire wisdom and graces too. And Jesus prayed a lot during His earthly life, why? Jesus needed graces to obey and fulfill God's Will. As Jesus said it clearly;

"For I have come down from Heaven not to do my own will, but the Will of Him sent me."(John6:38)

Take a look at the word "obedience", this is the key as although God had already decided the best future for all of as He said in Jeremiah;

"I know tha plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah29:11)

Even Jesus already prepare a place for us in Heaven;

"In my Father's house there are many dwellings places; If it not were so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. "(John14:2)

So, it's very clear in the bible that everything was laid out and prepared for all of us, but one thing is needed our obedience like Jesus Christ had shown. Because in the end only those who follow & obey God's words can enter His Kingdom.

God will not force Heaven to us, God highly respect the gift of free-will He had given to all mankind. Mary like Jesus born without sin had shown obedience to the Will of the Father.

"Let it be done to me according to your Word." but Mary said it in a humble way not just simply obeying that's why Mary acquired a lot of graces. As God resist the proud but gave more graces to the humble.

In closing, St.Catherine of Sienna affirmed your question by saying "everything was pre-ordained towards the salvation of man". But one thing is needed, our humble cooperation to God's Will rooted in the word "obedience".

As Church Father teaches the shortest distance to Heaven is by "by uniting our own will to do God's Will".

As in the end Jesus will say to all of us;

"Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the Will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "(Matthew7:21)

As King Saul learned his lesson the hardway;

"Obedience is better than sacrifice." (1Samuel15:22)

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