Why should I pray if God already knows what I am going to say? And if He has planned out all the events from the beginning of time to the end, how can my prayer really change anything?
Does the Bible teach that “prayer changes things?” Yes and no. No, prayer does not change the plan and will of God. He has determined all things (Isaiah 46:9-10). Nevertheless, part of His plan includes His response to our prayers. If we pray, we enjoy the blessing of cooperating with our God. If we do not, His plan is still accomplished, but we bear a responsibility for failing to pray. How? Why? Because He says so and He is the Creator (Romans 9:19,20). Our place is not to juggle with this concept in our prayers, but to simply pray.
But what about Exodus 32:11-14 where Moses changed God’s mind about destroying Israel? Verse 14 says, “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” But the Scriptures clearly teach that God cannot change (James 1:17) and that He does not change His mind like humans do.
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind (1 Samuel 15:29).
This instance with Moses is viewed from a human perspective. It is figurative language, giving human characteristics to God to help us appreciate the effectiveness of Moses’ prayers. This passage shows us that God is pleased to show Himself responsive to requests from His people as a demonstration of His character and to build character in His people. Moses’ character is proven by his willingness to think first of his people and not himself.
James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). James is careful to remind us that Elijah was someone just like us. Though he had times of tremendous faith, he also had times of weakness and doubt. But when he prayed for the rain to stop (as God had instructed him to do), it stopped. When he prayed for rain to return (after Israel’s repentance and at God’s direction) it returned.
This is the perspective we are to take. It implies the incredible condescension of God that He would stoop to respond to our prayers. It also implies a condition. What are the conditions for answered prayer? See the previous article.