Have you ever wondered about the question, “If God is sovereign and has a definite plan that will come to pass, why pray, then?” What is your understanding of prayer?
The dilemma in this question lies in what prayer really accomplishes. It seems that if we pray and God answers our prayers, then, in a sense, our prayers really change things according to God’s plan. But if we pray and our prayers are not answered, then it would seem as if praying is redundant. Is it then useless to pray? Is it better to leave everything to God’s unchanging will? We must not bury our heads in the sand, just because both prayer and God’s providence appear to be antithetical, i.e. in conflict with each other.
We must recognize however that the Bible clearly teaches God’s providence as well as the value and necessity of prayer. We are commanded to pray (1Thess. 5:17; Matt. 26:41; 1Tim. 2:19-22). There is power in prayer (Jas. 5:16; Mk. 11:22-24) and yet, God being sovereign, ensures that nothing men, angels, demons nor Satan may do, could thwart God’s plan. The way to resolve this conundrum is to see a partnership between divine providence (God’s sovereignty) and prayer (human responsibility), which shows how God only act when humans play their part. There are biblical examples in the NT which support this. For example, in Mark 6: 1-6, our Lord Jesus could not do more miracles in his hometown because faith was lacking among the people. Peter was the only one who could walked on the water because he asked but the others did not (Matt. 14:22-33). Many individuals were healed because they trusted Jesus e.g. the woman with the haemorrhage (Matt. 9:18-22); and the Centurion who asked our Lord on behalf of his sick servant (Matt. 8:5-13). Erickson summarizes this well, ‘When God wills the end (in these cases, healing), He also wills the means (which includes a request to be healed, which in turn presupposes faith). Thus prayer does not change what He has purposed to do. It is the means by which He accomplishes His end.”
My understanding of prayer is that it is God’s way of promoting a loving and trusting relationship between Him and us. I see it as God’s love for us by giving us the opportunity to cooperate with Him in order to accomplish His greater purpose. Remember, dear believers, that when we pray, it is not God’s will that changes; it is God working in our hearts so that our will is compliant with His. It is not prayer that changes things but rather prayer that changes us. In submitting our will to God through prayer, it will further change us into Christ’s image who is the epitome of the submissive Servant (Phil.2: 5-12; Heb. 10:5-7).
The question is, “Are we willing to let God work the changes in our lives?” Yes, by all means, pray fervently and with a childlike faith in our loving, Heavenly Father who knows what is best for all of us. Indeed we will discover that there is a synergy between God’s will and our prayers.
Rev. Mark Tay