If God already knows what we need before we ask, and God actually cares about us more than we care about ourselves, then why do both Step 7 and Jesus say, each in their own way: “Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7)? Are we trying to talk God into things? Does the group with the most and the best prayers win? Is prayer of petition just another way to get what we want, or is it to get God on our side? In every case, notice that we are trying to take control. In this short chapter, I will address that one simple, often confused, but important mystery of asking. Why is it good to ask, and what is really happening in prayers of petition or intercession? Do we need, are we encouraged, to talk God into things? Why does Jesus both tell us to ask and then say, “Your Father already knows what you need, so do not babble on like the pagans do” (Matthew 6:7–8)?
Let me answer in a few brief sentences, and then I will backtrack to explain what I mean. We ask not to change God, but to change ourselves. We pray to form a living relationship, not to get things done. Prayer is a symbiotic relationship with life and with God, a synergy which creates a result larger than the exchange itself. (That is why Jesus says all prayers are answered, which does not appear to be true, according to the evidence!) God knows that we need to pray to keep the symbiotic relationship moving and growing. Prayer is not a way to try to control God, or even to get what we want. As Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel (11:13), the answer to every prayer is one, the same, and the best: the Holy Spirit! God gives us power more than answers.
—from the book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
by Richard Rohr