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The Bible teaches that our God is unchanging (Ps. 102:26-27; Mal. 3:6). He is who He is from eternity past to eternity future. He is unchanging because He is all perfect and absolute. He is not a “becoming” God as some other claim. He is unchanging in His being, attributes, knowledge, purpose, plans, and promises (Job 23:13,14; Ps, 33:10; Prov.19:21). He is the God who declares the end from the beginning, as we find in Isaiah 46:10, whose counsel stands and who will do all His pleasure. The history of the world is, as one has rightly put, His-Story. He has ordained the events of the world. No power in heaven or on earth, no will of humans thwart what He has decreed. He has spoken it. He will also bring it to pass. He has purposed it. He will also do it (Is. 10:11).
Since this is the truth of the God we worship, here are some honest questions that may be asked on the necessity of prayer. Can prayer change the matchless mind of the all-wise, unchanging God? If God has already ordained events, should a Christian pray? I trust this article helps us to understand prayer, so that we may be encouraged to pray to our great God.
Prayer - Defined
A.W. Pink in his book, The Sovereignty of God, defines prayer as, “…the taking of an attitude of dependency upon God, the spreading of our need before Him, the asking for those things which are in accordance with His will..” In other words, prayer is our complete reliance upon God for our need in humble submission to Him and His will. It is realizing our helplessness. It is saying to God, “not my will, but Yours be done.”
Prayer - A Necessary Means
It is an undeniable fact that our God, from eternity past, has already ordained the course of human history. Even the most minute details of our lives are part of His eternal decree. Imagine with me for a moment the number of bubbles when you pour a Coke into a glass. You don’t know the number of the bubbles, but even that number is exactly what God has decreed from eternity past. Not more nor less. This is how God has ordained things. It may be beyond our human mind’s ability to grasp, but it is true nonetheless.
The accomplishment of God’s ordained plans come to pass through means. When God ordained all things, He also ordained the means through which they would be fulfilled. For instance, God has ordained to save a certain number of people through the preaching of the gospel. Saving a group of certain people is the sovereign plan that God has ordained and the preaching of the gospel is the means through which His will shall come to pass. Likewise, prayer is another God-ordained means through which God-ordained plans are accomplished.
In the Epistle to the Romans, we see the desire of the Apostle Paul for Israel to be saved (9:1-5; 10:1). Not only that, he knew through the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament that there is still a remnant according to the election of grace and that God will surely save them (11:5). But, that truth did not lead him to think that his preaching of the gospel and his prayers were in vain. Rather, we find Paul praying for the salvation of Israel (10:1). Therefore, like Paul’s prayers, ours too, do not in any way alter God’s divine plan, but instead are a part of the means to fulfil that plan. When God wills to accomplish certain things through us, He also ordains our prayers as a means. The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to be a means which God in His goodness has ordained for the accomplishment of His willed purpose.
Our Right Response
So then, knowing that our prayers are not in vain, but a God-ordained means, what should our response be? Our response should be great delight, not repulsive doubtfulness towards prayer. This truth should drive us to pray more and more.
The Bible is full of examples of people who had a correct understanding about prayer. Elijah, Daniel, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul are some examples of men who prayed. Besides these, men from the history of Christianity, such as George Muller, George Whitfield, and William Carrey were men of prayer Their knowledge of God’s sovereignty over the events of the world did not make any of them idle. Rather, they prayed earnestly, faithfully, and daily. As well, they would counsel us to do the same. This should be our response because we are commanded to pray in Scripture (Lk. 18:1; 1 Thess. 5:17). This is a commandment with the promise that we will get what we ask for if it is in accordance with the will of God (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 5:14). So, we should pray.
We might not know the things that God has ordained for our lives, but we can be certain of the truth that however things turn out, they will result in our good and God’s glory (Rom. 8:28). For the One who has sovereignly ordained all things is our Father. He has loved us by giving His only Son for us. He is the giver of good gifts to His people (Jas.1:17), and the One who knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8). He is the One before whom we have bold access through the finished work of Christ on the cross. So, we should pray.
Though our prayers do not change God’s mind, they surely change us. Prayer humbles us to depend on Him for all our needs. It teaches us to deny ourselves and to put our confidence and faith in Him. It transforms us to live for the praise of His glory. It changes us to let us lose our will in His. It helps us to grow in Him and His grace.
So dear Christians, pray. Pray earnestly. Pray in secret. Pray without ceasing. Pray with confidence for it is the will of God for us to pray. It is a means through which God works to fulfil what He has ordained.