What is the purpose of praying?
But wait: let's back up a bit...perhaps you don't grant the premise behind those two questions, namely, that worship and prayer HAVE a purpose.
If your objection is a religious one, perhaps it's that you think that there doesn't need to be a "purpose" for worshipping or praying -- that they are "ends" in themselves, good and worthwhile activities per se, and are not a means to some other good or end.
If your objection is a non-religious one, perhaps it's that you don't think worship or prayer HAVE a purpose at all! -- that they are (at worst) a waste of time and effort or (at best) a "crutch."
The way I'd address the first objection is by saying "well, that's not what the Bible seems to be saying about worship and prayer." Rather, scripture seems to consistently teach that we come into God's presence for a purpose: to be changed. We worship and we pray in order to have our hearts and lives transformed.
(In fact, as we see in this Sunday's Old Testament lesson, the Bible goes even further than that: it says that worship and prayers (offerings, incense, religious convocations, religious festivals, etc.) absent human decency are actually offensive to God -- that what God wants is is for us humans to "cease doing evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.")
The way I'd address the second objection is to say, "waste of time and effort? Well, that's not been my experience." I find worship and prayer to be two of the best and most productive uses of my time. When I am regular in worship and in prayer, I am 1,000 times more likely to be a decent, patient, loving person.
(And if worship and prayer are a crutch, well...that's fine with me, because I freely admit that I NEED a crutch: my heart and soul have compound fractures. And a long time ago I ceased to be able to carry life's burdens -- much less forgive, be graceful, and selfless -- without assistance. So yeah: I love, love, love my crutch. Helps me get around in life!)
So yes, there is a purpose for worship and for prayer (and therefore for churches, which are resources for both) and that is to change us:
- to transform our hearts and lives so that
- we do a better job, in our daily lives, of
- loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
If worship and prayer are helping you do that, they are doing their job.