How can prayer change God’s mind?
Every week we get in all kinds of questions and comments from our readers. If you have a question, first check our ever-growing Q&A page, and then send it to us if it hasn’t already been answered. We can’t get to them all, but yours might be answered and featured like this one below.
READER: You’ve argued that since God is all-good, he’s always doing the most he can do in every situation to bring about good. But you have also argued that prayer can change God’s mind. How are these two beliefs compatible?
GREG: The beliefs aren’t incompatible if you believe, as I do, that God wants humans to have significant “say-so” in affecting what comes to pass. As such he created a world in which we have “say-so” on a physical level, making decisions that affect what comes to pass through our physical activity. We also have “say-so” on a spiritual level, affecting what comes to pass through prayer. By God’s own sovereign will, he bound himself to be affected by whether or not humans engage with him in prayer.
Hence, there are things that God would like to happen that won’t happen unless his people pray. In Scripture, there are times God plans on going in one direction, but hopes that his people will intercede to change that direction. For example, he told Ezekiel he planned on bringing judgment on Israel but tried to find someone to “stand in the gap on behalf of the land so [he] would not have to destroy it.” Unfortunately, he says, “I found no one” (Ezek. 22:30). Many other times, however, God allows his plans to change in response to his people talking to him (e.g. Ex. 32:14). I imagine it like a reservoir of divine power that won’t – can’t—be released unless his people agree with him about releasing it, or like a trust fund that requires a co-signer to be released. What God’s people do and don’t do really matters.
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