Summary: If God sovereignly ordains whatsoever shall come to pass, is it possible for Him to 'change His mind'?
CAN GOD CHANGE HIS IMMUTABLE ORDINATIONS?
Over the course of the last five weeks we have spent much time considering the providence of God, and how He has ordained whatsoever shall come to pass and more importantly that He has immutably ordained whatsoever shall come to pass.
With that in mind we are going to consider the last aspect of providence in this series this morning, and we are going to look at the question of: can God change His mind? Now although that is a virtually impossible question in itself, we need to make it a little more difficult, and we also then need to ask the question, since God has ordained everything, what is the place of prayer, or put it another way: can prayer change things?
That’s the question we are going to consider – can prayer change things? Can our praying, our fervent praying avail so much as to actually change the immutable plans of God?
Before I give you the short answer, let us read another few verse of Scripture which will shed some light on the answer.
Luke 11:2 “And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.”
Mat 6:8: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
If we consider these verses, and especially the Matthew 6:8 verse which tells us that God already knows what we need, even before we ask, we are brought right to the answer to our question as to whether prayer can make God change His mind.
I’m going to give you the answer again this morning, and then explain how I got to that answer, and what the implications of that answer are, so that by the time we leave here we will have a deeper understanding of prayer, a greater love for prayer, a richer respect for the working power of prayer, and a complete satisfaction in our God who answers prayer.
Ok, so our question again then: can prayer change things, or can prayer make God change His mind? The answer, short and simple – NO. Prayer will not make God change His mind.
Now I can already hear the cries in your minds – but why do we pray then, hold on – I’m going to explain it all to you, and also tell you about the incredible power of prayer. (Sounds like a oxymoron, but it is not, it actually leads us to a real, deeper and richer understanding of what our prayer lives should be focussing on.)
Maybe I should begin the explanation with one of the greatest theologians when it comes to the providence of God, and no other theologian has ever studied providence and its implications more than John Calvin, and this is what he says in his Institutes of the Christian Religion: But some will say, does He not know, without a monitor, both what our difficulties are, and what is meat for our interests, so that it would seem unnecessary to solicit Him with our prayers, as if He were sleeping until aroused by the sound of our voice. Those who argue in this way attend not to the end or to the purpose for which the Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for Gods good, as it was for our good.
What he is saying there is that our prayers are not there to inform God of what’s going on in His creation or in our lives. Prayer is not a way to keep God in the loop, or to inform Him of our needs as if He isn’t aware of them already.
Let me put it this way – God does not need the information, but He certainly encourages us to give Him the information.
Before I carry on, let me just say that it was no chance, it was no coincidence, in fact it was providence that lead us to study concurrence last week. Just to remind you, or for those who weren’t here, concurrence says that my individual actions and Gods’ individual actions are both working together towards Gods’ eternal, immutable plan which is derived from His free will. It is God working through my actions to bring about the good of those that love Him.
Now with that in mind we need to consider prayer again, you see, prayer is not a important part of concurrence, or even a vital aspect of concurrence – prayer is key, it is central, it is imperative to the working of concurrence, and that is exactly what Calvin said in the quote we read together. Prayer is not designed to manipulate God, or to coerce God, or to force God to do things we think He should be doing, prayer is designed to show us how God is working so that we can align ourselves to His eternal and immutable will.