This is from a friend, a pastor-thinker in Nashville, Josh Graves:
On November 28, 2010, Steven Johnson lined up as a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. On November 28, the Bills were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and they ultimately lost the game because Johnson dropped a pass late in the game, in the end zone. After the game, Johnson tweeted, “I praise you 24/7!!! And this is how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!!”
Johnson praised God 24/7, but what kind of God was he praising? It was a kind of religious transaction where he gives God the glory and God gives touchdowns. Or victories. Or Super Bowls. A fair exchange?
God ends up becoming a cosmic vending machine.
Everything is well and good until Jesus makes you fumble. But this isn’t just Johnson’s problem. This way of approaching God shows up often and the best name for it is religion. And notice who is really in charge of this arrangement. You and me. Not God….
To paraphrase Anne Lamott: You know you’ve created God in your own image when God roots for all the same teams you root for (I’m looking at you Yankee and Cowboy fans).
Here’s my short answer. Based on Christian scripture and practical experience, the purpose of prayer is for God to win. Not for you to win. Or your favorite team. Even if you are from Cleveland—though if anyone has a shot, God just might be rooting for you, Cleveland.