Do We Change God’s Mind When We Pray?
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
I received the following question in response to last week’s email devotion, and it’s a good and common question, so I asked for and received permission to share it with you this week:
“This isn’t exactly a prayer request but a question. In my Bible study here a little while ago, someone asked, ‘Do we change God’s mind when we pray? Did He not already intend to heal my friend?’
“I do my prayer list every day on my walk, and after this question I wondered, ‘OK, I asked God to comfort my friend. Doesn’t he already do that? What changes?’”
“Does God change His mind based on our prayers?”
It has happened. When the people of Israel rebelled against God in making and worshipping the golden calf, the Lord told Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” Moses interceded for Israel, pleading that the Lord remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promises the Lord had made to multiply their descendants. The next verse (Exodus 32:14) is amazing:
“And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster he planned to bring on his people.”
The Hebrew translated as ‘changed his mind” is literally, “repented”—that is, a complete turn around from His previous position. What an astounding statement!
This, combined with Jesus promises regarding our prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name—for example, “Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23)—reveals what a tremendous gift and privilege we have in prayer.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything turns out exactly as we think or imagine it will. We do not see the whole picture as God does. Much of our sense of answered prayer comes only in hindsight, rather than in the moment.
Ultimately, we pray as Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10), trusting that God’s will for us is good. Such is the disposition of Jesus in His prayer in Gethsemane:
“And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’” (Mark 14:35-36)
Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, which was to give His only begotten Son that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:16-17), as Isaiah prophesied,
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.” (Isaiah 53:10)
When it comes to God’s will for us and those for whom we pray, we may only on occasion know the details, but we always can be certain of God’s character.
The Lord is good and His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 136:1). God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Based on this knowledge of God’s character that comes by faith, our prayers are infused with confidence and peace.
The Lord be with you.