Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Prayer Changes Things

"So the LORD relented. “This will not happen,” the LORD said" (Amos 7:3).

How can prayer change things? God, we know, is absolutely sovereign. He has predestined everything that comes to pass. Since God is sovereign, why pray?

First of all, God’s sovereignty does not interfere with our prayers of praise and adoration. God does not need our praise, but it is good for us to praise Him. Moreover, God does not need to hear us confess our sins, but it is needful for us to do it. In these areas of adoration and confession, there is clearly no conflict between prayer and the sovereignty of God.

The question arises in connection with prayers of intercession and petition. If God predestines all things, why ask Him to change things? This is a question that only arises in a context of abstract philosophy because anyone who knows the Bible knows God commands us to pray for things to change. Thus, our speculation is somewhat idle because God demands and requests our petitions.

Remember, for instance, the time Peter was thrown into prison. We read that “the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). The next verses tell us an angel of the Lord delivered Peter from prison.

Or consider what James counsels when he writes that if anyone is sick or in trouble, he should call for the elders to pray over him. He then illustrates with the prophet Elijah, who he says was just like you or me. Elijah prayed, and God heard his prayer. James concludes that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:13–18).

When God came to judge Israel, He gave Amos a vision of locusts stripping the land. Amos cried, “Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” Then we are told that God relented (Amos 7:1–6).

The God of providence responds to our prayers. How God’s interaction with us relates to His sovereign decree, I don’t know. That is a mystery having to do with the being of God Himself and is not for us to know.

If it is unsettling for you to know that God is sovereign and you ask, “Why pray?” begin to keep a prayer journal of answers to specific prayers. Analyze this to see whether these answers are coincidence or divine intervention.