-by Tony Warren
First and foremost we should establish that the Holy scriptures are crystal clear that the mind of God is to do His will, not ours. Thus, any answered prayer must be considered in the light of that first principle. And perfect judgments are not judgments that will be countermanded. Would our humanistic judgments be better for anyone than what the mind of God had ordained for them, that He would allow it to supersede His perfect will and divine Providence?
As a practical example, consider the Old Testament story of Hannah. She was a Godly woman who desired a son, and so earnestly prayed until ultimately God answered her prayers and gave her the son she desired. Was God's mind changed by Hannah's prayers? No, not at all. God (being omniscient) had always intended to raise up the prophet Samuel through this woman Hannah, but it would be in His own good time, not Her time. He gloriously allowed her the privilege to petition Him in this regard as a testimony, that she (and we who come after) might grow in grace and in the trust of the Lord for all our needs. Those people who claim that the Lord's mind was changed by her petitions are effectively declaring that they don't really think that God was "really sure" of His perfect will in this. In effect, they are questioning His Omniscience. Because such ideas imply that God really didn't have foreknowledge to know the end from the beginning. We must be careful to understand that the perfection of God's judgments, and man's counsel changing God's judgments, are ideas that are antithetical to each other. And in this instance, let's not forget that it was the Lord who shut up Hannah's womb to begin with. No doubt so that she could participate in this spiritual communion with Him, grow in grace, patience, resignation, and be set forth as an example in scripture. For God is not our bondservant to do our will, but we His.
1st Samuel 1:5-6
1st Samuel 3:19-20
The objection may be raised, "Why then do we have to pray, if God is Sovereign and will do according to His will anyway?" And indeed, this is a very good question. And the answer is twofold.
First, because God told us to pray to the father for what we need. Thus, He wants us to have communion with Him this way. God is all knowing and infinite, while we know only in part and are finite. We don't have to understand His counsel, but know it is for our good and are obedient to it. God knows and He instructs, and we obey without question, because we are His servants not His questioners or counselors.
Second, it is because we are not only growing ourselves in praying, but we are the tools that God uses to get His work done. Whether God intends that work of prayer to be in us, or in others whom we pray for, He ordained prayer to be the vessel of changing things. Thus the prayer of the elect is always meaningful and effectual because it is in our petition that His will shall be done. And make no mistake, it brings about intangible, internal, spiritual benefits and growth for the petitioner, even when the petition is denied. All the good that we receive from God have their source from beyond human agency. And as the vessels of mercy that God before has prepared unto glory, our prayer is part of that preparation in our walk in this world. Our prayer in repentance in seeking Him, or in petitioning on behalf of others, produces change in us as we submit to accept the outcome. For benevolence and prayer go hand in hand, even as Love of God aligns with love of our neighbors even as ourselves (Galatians 5:14). For if we truly love our neighbor, we will desire for them the same gift of salvation as we ourselves have been granted. A noble prayer that is taken perfectly before the throne, is according to the will of God.
Does God answer prayer and does prayer change things? Yes! We all know benevolent prayer is noble, but do we effectively understand that God's will supersedes our own (sometimes vain) will? Does God answer selfish prayer in the sense that our present monetary situation, or our physical condition, or the condition of others will be changed by our petition? No, not always. Maybe not even a majority of the time. Because it's not always God's will that one be made physically well, or that one be made financially set, or that they might have enemies removed from their sphere. But prayer does change things in that it changes the trust we have in ourselves, wherein we transition to recognize and accept our full dependence and trust upon God. Indeed, in times of doubt, trouble or despair, that is when "we" need our prayers the most. It is a conduit to our Lord God, and it strengthens us. Even when some may not feel God is listening, prayer is working, because it is in human weakness that the perfection of God is realized. We find a certain strength in the Spirit, as it brings our prayers perfectly to the throne of God. He will not close His ears to the prayer of the believer, even though it may appear so.
We might assume from this that God had no intention of holding back rain, and then Elijah's prayer changed His mind. But assumption is the mother of most errors. In point of fact, God had every intention bringing this judgment of holding back rain, and inspired the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man to bring it to pass. Note here the qualification of the petitioner. He was a righteous man. Not righteous in the sense that he was a good person (there is none good but God), but in the sense that he was justified by faith, and thus Christ dwells within Him moving and guiding Him. His unending prayer is that the will of God be done, not his own. That's the key here. It was ultimately God's will that this is done, not Elijah's will. It is the Spirit that moved Elijah, and that works within us, according to God's will and purpose. It is what made Elijah's prayers effectual, according to God's will. How important is Prayer in understanding the Gospel?
This is the prayer that is guaranteed to be answered. God will answer the prayer that is harmonized with the purpose of God, which is carried perfectly to Him by the Holy Spirit. Because we don't really know what the perfect will of God is for anyone. Should they remain sick, should they be financially well off, all the intricate daily situations of people's lives, we do not really know exactly what we should be praying for that God wants. But the Spirit brings our imperfect desires and prayers "perfectly" before the Lord. And notice again that scripture says that the Spirit intercedes for us "according to His own will." That ultimately all these things work together for good to them that love God and are called "according to His purpose!" So as long as our purpose is in the will of God according to His purpose, our prayers will be answered. Selfless prayer is the result of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and that Spirit is the normal instrument that God uses to move us and answer prayer.
How important is Prayer in understanding the Gospel? It is very important because through prayer we are strengthened. Does God answer prayer and does prayer change things? Yes, it changes things. But it doesn't change God, because His judgments are already perfect, even as He has eternally known the end from the beginning. So what is the purpose of prayer then? It is so that we might be strengthened and brought into alignment with God's purpose, to His glory. The change that occurs is within us, and within those who we pray for, whom God is calling. Our prayer is our outward expression of dependence and reliance upon Him for all things. Prayer is for our own repentance, or to increase our awareness of the sovereignty of God and His role in our lives, and lives of others. The outcome of our prayers was already determined long before we uttered a word. For God is not left out of providence, He knows not only our desires, but our needs, and is constantly supplying them, according to His will. The beauty of weakness is confirmed through prayer, that we are made strong in our recognition of total dependence upon the Lord. Even as the Apostle Paul petitioned the Lord for deliverance, and was strengthened not by the removal of the adversary as he had asked, but by his understanding that God's favor upon him was better than this thorn which he endured, and which it was not in God's will to remove.
2nd Corinthians 12:8-9
Does God answer prayer and does prayer change things? Does the fervent effectual prayer change our cancerous or broken body? No, not unless it was always God's will to heal us of this malignancy. Because Christ didn't go to the cross in order to heal our broken physical bodies, as we "all" eventually die physically. Christ went to the cross to heal our broken and sin sick souls. Yet our prayer is the channel to God that will change our outlook, and will be illustrative of our source of strength and comfort.
Will fervent effectual prayer change our financial situation? Probably not, but it will change who we look to and trust that will always supply our every need. That might mean our financial situation will get better, or it may mean it will get worse. In other words, fervent "effectual" prayer is in the will of God to be done, not our own. It may not change what we want done, but it will bring our will in harmony with the will of God.
In short, prayer changes our perspective, frame of reference, dependence, and lives in ways we cannot fully comprehend. Because Christ inspires them for our good, and the good of those around us. Prayer changes our attitude so that we can act in accordance with God's will for our lives. Therefore we should pray continually, especially on behalf of others. For in seeking to help others, you both help yourself and show the love of God working in you. If you have neglected prayer, then renew yourself now in effectual prayer. Because prayer changes things, and is for our good in all things lawful.
1st Thessalonians 5:17-18
The manner in which we are to pray is, "Thy will be done!" Our desire should be toward His will for our lives, not our own. We must always pray with this "qualification" in mind. For we must be careful not to fall into the snare of effectively acting as if God is our slave we call upon to do our bidding. In prayer, we remember that we are His slaves/servants to do His will. True, it may sometimes "appear" that God is changing to accommodate us, but truly we are changing to accommodate God, and the outcome was already written in the book ahead of time.
We can see this principle illustrated in the practical example of Abraham pleading with God to spare the wicked city of Sodom. From the perspective of Abraham we may surmise he may very well be thinking that he is changing God's mind on the issue. In Genesis chapter 18 Abraham petitions God that if there are 50 righteous in the city, that He will not destroy it. God answers, if there are fifty, the city will not be destroyed. I'm sure Abraham, being a man of compassion, senses there may not be fifty and petitions again that if there are forty-five, will God please spare the city. And God answers, he will spare the city if there are forty-five. This continues, and Abraham gets all the way down to ten. And God says, yes, if there are ten righteous, He will not destroy Sodom. The point here being, there were "none righteous" in the city but those whom God had ordained preserved, Lot and his daughters. Yet through Lot's petitioning, God is demonstrating He is not destroying righteous people, and in doing so is also enlightening Abraham's understanding of both God, himself, and that city. This is the power of our petitions to the Lord. Abraham's petition did not make a difference in the outcome of the city of Sodom, but it did change Abraham's understanding and knowledge of God. Ergo, in communing with God, we are the ones enlightened and changed and who grow in grace and understanding. In truth, Abraham's petitioning didn't change God's "perfect" and righteous plan for Sodom anymore than the prayers of the people of Nineveh changed God's plan for them. It was always His plan to save the city of Nineveh and use them as an example (Matthew 12:41) of repentance and salvation. God had ordained their repentance to be used as an example to Israel. God uses prayer in this way to help and change people. That is the point. Because prayer did not change God's mind, as an omniscient God who knew all along that He would not destroy Nineveh. i.e., the people's prayer in sackcloth and ashes were not a pleasant surprise to an Omniscient God, thus it is impossible that God's mind was changed when He heard their prayer. He had foreknowledge of all these things before He ever said He would destroy Nineveh.
In [agape] charity or benevolent love, when we use intercessory prayer on behalf of others, we are affecting ourselves, and possibly them. But we are not changing God's counsel. In this interpersonal sharing, we experience the love of God, the communion with God, and the acceptance of His will and perfect judgments, over our own. It is we who have our minds changed by prayer. So when the question is asked, "Does Prayer Change Things?" The answer is yes, but it does not change an immutable omniscient God who always makes perfect judgments. And are our prayers answered? Yes! The fact is, all the prayers of God's elect are answered, just not always in the manner that the petitioner might like. As demonstrated in Abraham's prayer for Sodom, or Davidís prayer for the life of his son. For prayer does not put the power in our hands, it is the recognition that all power ultimately belongs to God, and answered prayer is in His power.
Still, others have asked to make their prayers more real and less like they are talking to themselves? The answer is to be cognizant that you are talking to God, and so speak accordingly. Because if you have the mindset where you feel you are talking to yourself, you are not on the right path to begin with. When you have a personal relationship with someone, you talk to them. And the more personal that relationship, the more trusting, open and honest that talk will be. When we are truly saved, we have that very personal relationship to God. The Holy Spirit of God is the vehicle of the love of the Father, through the Son. We are never guaranteed that prayer for any physical healing, gain or miracle will be granted. What prayers are guaranteed to be answered are prayers the Holy Spirit itself maketh intercession for, with groanings which cannot be uttered. In the bond of prayer, which is the bond of charity [agape] or love, we are changed forever. A perfect God provides us with that which always improves our spiritual well being, and denies us whatever would detract from this. Ergo, a perfect God doesn't change according to our prayers, He has already made provision for us for everything for our good, according to His will. Thus we need to come to grips with the truth that the real purpose of prayer is to assist us beyond the circle of our own vain and selfish will and desires.
Does our praying really make a difference? The Biblical answer is yes. The difference prayer makes is in us and in those around us, not in God. Prayer is for our sakes, for it is through prayer that the believer is learning more about Himself through his lifeline to God. In this spiritual conduit of power he can better understand that the Lord is his only protector, foundation, strength and fortress. For it is in this conductor of prayer to God, that His will is revealed to His servants. It is how we consciously petition and receive power from on high, that we may live the life that God intends for us. The practice of petitionary prayer is very Biblical, and the truth of its efficacy is deeply rooted in the scriptures. God desires us to petition Him that we may grow in grace and communion with God, by our identification with Him. It instills God-consciousness in an individual. For an integral part of the purpose of prayer is to assist us in aligning ourselves with God. In the act of repentance and petitionary prayer, God teaches us to submit to His will. Even as David, who both repented and prayed earnestly for the life of his son (2nd Samuel 12:16), but ultimately accepted what he subsequently learned was the will of God in the matter. In this we see demonstrated both his trust and His faith. Unlike humanistic man, he is not angry with God, not blaming God, not pointing an accusing finger at God, but growing in Grace whereby he can accept God's will. i.e., it's not that God was unforgiving, or that He couldn't spare David's son's life, but that David might learn and grow from this, to his own good, to the glory of God. The whole purpose of prayer is conformity with the will of God, not the commanding of our own, in self-gratification.
Again, "Does God answer prayer and does prayer change things?" ...Absolutely! For prayer, viewed in this very Biblical way, accepts God as sovereign and makes every prayer righteous, answered, and a blessing. And through those prayers we learn more about ourselves, and how to live nobly that we orient ourselves properly toward God. Let is then thank the Lord for the privilege of coming boldly before the throne of grace in humble prayer. May He graciously grant us the wisdom to trust in Him fully, that we possess the ability to succeed in all of life's noble and worthy challenges and endeavors, through His blessing of prayer!
Copyright ©2007 Tony Warren
Created 4/12/07 / Last Modified 4/28/07
The Mountain Retreat / email@example.com