My conviction is that many Christians do not pray as passionately as they could because they don’t see how it could make any significant difference. They pray, but they often do so out of sheer obligation and without the sense of urgency that Scripture consistently attaches to prayer.
The problem, I believe, is that many Christians have an understanding of divine sovereignty in which the urgency of prayer simply doesn’t make much sense. They believe that God’s plans cannot truly be changed; the future is exhaustively settled. They interpret the cliché “God is in control” to mean that “God controls everything.” So the obvious question is, what real difference could prayer possibly make?
The common saying that “prayer changes us, not God” simply doesn’t reflect the purpose or the urgency that Scripture gives to petitionary prayer.
Because the future is not entirely settled and God’s plans can change, the open view of the future is able to render the purpose and urgency of prayer intelligible in a way that neither classical Arminianism nor classical Calvinism can. The open view is able to declare, without qualification or inconsistency, that some of the future genuinely depends upon prayer. On a practical level, this translates into people who are more inclined to pray with passion and urgency.
God’s goal of creation is the participation of humans in the loving triune relationship that God is throughout eternity. This required a creation that consisted of personal, morally responsible, free agents. He thus ordained that we have “say-so” in how things transpire. He doesn’t want to relate to robots; he wants to interact with real persons. There can be no authentic personhood without some element of say-so, some degree of self-determination, some authentic power to influence things.
Because God wants us to be empowered, because he desires for us to communicate with him, and because he wants us to learn dependency on him, he graciously grants us the ability to significantly affect him. He enlists our input, not because he needs it, but because he desires to have an authentic, dynamic relationship with us as real empowered persons.
The open view teaches that God sovereignly ordained that prayer be one of our central means of influencing what transpires in history. It is our means of influencing God’s decisions about the future. The Lord does not play with words when he teaches and illustrates throughout Scripture that much of what will happen in the future depends upon prayer: “If my people … humble themselves [and] pray … then will I hear from heaven … and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).
Think of it this way: Before creation, God possessed 100 percent of all power and thereby all the say-so. When the Triune God decided to express love by bringing forth a creation, each creature was invested with a part of that say-so. The say-so of the triune God was at the point of creation no longer the only one who determined how things would go.
Human say-so is designed to be spent on both the physical and spiritual realm. We can choose to either work with or against God in terms of how we live and affect other people physically. We can also choose to work either for or against God spiritually by “cashing in” on our say-so through prayer.
We are morally responsible for how we use or don’t use both. Aspects of the future truly depend on us.
—adapted from God of the Possible, pages 95-98