That is a very good question. The simplest answer would be “we pray because God tells us to pray.” In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known into God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (NKJV). We are encouraged to pray in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In both references prayer is the means by which God grants us peace, mercy and grace in times of trial. I have often thought that we are actually in need of prayer perpetually, and thus we are told in 1st Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.”

Of course, our prayers must be in accordance with His will, as we see in 1st John 5:14-15, “Now this the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Conversely, if our prayers are NOT according to His will, our prayers will not be answered (as you stated in your question). James 4:3 speaks to this, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

You raise a valid point in saying, “If everything is in God’s timing, His will, and His plan, then why pray?” Put another way, if God’s will is going to be done then why do we need to pray at all? I would suggest that God’s will/plan INCLUDES His people praying! In other words, He has decreed that certain things will happen and then He puts it on the hearts of His people to pray to that end. I like what one has said on this subject, “Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God’s will done on earth.”

I would like to close with an example from Scripture to illustrate this point. In Daniel 9:1-2 we read, “In the first year of Darius…who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem.” Daniel was a captive in Babylon (along with all those who had been taken captive after Babylon invaded Israel) at this time. Yet as he studied the book of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 25:8-11) he learned that their captivity was going to last 70 years and then they would be allowed to return to Jerusalem. So, he knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what God’s will/plan was. He even knew the exact timing of His will. How did Daniel respond to this knowledge? He got on his face and prayed! “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (verse 3). I would encourage you to read verses 4-19 where we see Daniel pouring out his heart before the Lord in true confession of Israel’s sin and rebellion against God. Yet he also speaks with bold assurance of God’s great mercy and of how He is faithful not only to forgive His people, but to vindicate His name by restoring His people to the holy city of Jerusalem and its sanctuary. Again, Daniel KNEW that God was going to restore them after the 70 years were accomplished, yet he still felt the need to humble himself before God and to pray for their restoration. Why did he pray? Because not only had his MIND been illuminated by God’s Word, but his HEART had been humbled and in his heartfelt prayer he manifested the condition of heart that should characterize Israel at this time. They had been chastened of the Lord for their sins and would soon be delivered from their enemies by God’s mercy. Daniel’s prayer reflects his people’s failure and God’s unfathomable grace. In boldness and humility he could end his prayer by asking God to do what he knew (from Jeremiah’s prophecy) God was going to do. Yet it was God’s grace that humbled Daniel and led him to pray, thus prayer was part of God’s plan in restoring His people. (328.1) (DO)