Psalm 139 is a prayer that glories in God's omniscience. "You have searched me and known me," prays David. It is fashionable these days to sing songs about God's emotions, but one emotion God cannot feel is surprise. He knows the end from the beginning. When I was young and went to the cinema, the performances continued one after another without clearing the auditorium at every showing. You could, on a cold winter's afternoon buy a ticket for one and ninepence and sit in the cinema from 2 in the afternoon until 10 at night, watching several showings. More often I would arrive half way through the second feature and watch until the end, then see the news and a cartoon, then the first feature and then the second feature again until we reached the part where we had come in. "Let's go," we'd say, "we know how it ends." (My young brother on being taken to his first football match on realising that it had already started asked my father, "Can we stay on and see the bit we missed?")
But God's omniscience doesn't come from having seen it all before. He sees the beginning and end simultaneously for he is outside of time. He even knows what would have happened had we made a different decision. There is an interesting story about David when he was battling against the Philistines and being hunted by King Saul. He had rescued the town of Keilah and was holed up there. He asks God, "Will Saul pursue me to Keilah and will the town surrender me to him?" When both answers came back in the affirmative, he left the town and Saul, on hearing of it, gave up the chase. God not only knows what happened, is happening and will happen, but also what would have happened. His omniscience is complete. (I Sam Ch 23)
David Pawson tells a story from when he was an Air Force Chaplain based in the Middle East. His Arab servant was discovered hidden in a wardrobe scoffing a cream cake during Ramadan; he thought God couldn't see him if he hid. In fact, God could not only see him in the dark, he not only knew his hiding place, he knew the very moment when the idea hit him that he could secretly satisfy his hunger.
"You perceive my thoughts from afar," writes David, "before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely." It is clear, then, that we do not need to pray aloud. Our unspoken thought may be prayers. Are you worried about the government eavesdropping on your e-mails? About CCTV cameras? How about the DNA database that can trace you wherever you've been? The truth for a Christian is that there is nothing that he does that is unobserved. Not a single action. Not a single word spoken. Not a single thought. We have no secrets from God.
But some may ask what is the point of praying? If God knows everything about us, if he knows our needs, our worries and our desires, if, more importantly, he knows what's best for us, why pray? are we not just making fools of ourselves, asking for what it is silly to ask for, exposing ourselves as idiots in the grand scheme of things?
In the end it comes down to this: we should pray because Jesus prayed. If you read the prayers of Jesus, it is clear that he had an intimate, conversational relationship with his father. In John 11:42 at the raising of Lazarus, Jesus says, "Thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
We pray because Jesus prayed and our desire should be to develop that same intimate relationship with our Father.