Question: If God always does the most that he can in every tragic situation, as you claim in Satan and the Problem of Evil, how can you believe that prayer increases his influence, as you also claim? It seems if you grant that prayer increases God’s influence, you have to deny God was previously doing the most he could do before people prayed.
Answer: I don’t believe there’s any inconsistency believing that God always does the most God can do, on the one hand, and believing that prayer sometimes changes God’s mind, on the other, if one believes, as I do, that God has bound himself to work within the variables the condition free will. One of the most important of these variables, I believe, is prayer. As I argue in Satan and the Problem of Evil, because God wants a “bride” who co-rules with him on earth (Rev. 5:10), he has set up things such that, to some degree, his will shall not be done except when his bride aligns her will with his in prayer. Since he’s all good, God is always doing the most he can do to maximize the good and minimize the evil. But God’s involvement in the world is genuinely conditioned by the prayers of his people. When they prayer, God can do more than he was doing previously. This isn’t about him gaining more power. It’s about God creating a world in which agents genuinely share power and responsibility with him.