Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?
“. . . Because you have prayed to Me . . . “
Have you ever had an incident where you felt led to pray for someone or something, and then when you did, He actually did it?
My youngest daughter needed 20 more points on her SAT score to win the top state scholarship.
I prayed and asked God to give her what she needed.
To make it obvious that it was by His power, I asked Him to give her exactly 20 more points. Or, if He preferred — because I preferred — He could give her 120 more points.
I prayed, and she took the test.
She got exactly 20 points!
I’m thankful God answered out of the abundance of His kindness rather than out of the weakness of my faith.
“. . . Because you have prayed to Me . . . “
Because I prayed to God, did I successfully convince God to do something He hadn’t planned on doing?
Does prayer actually change God’s mind?
Let’s see what the Bible shows us.
In 2 Kings 18-19, the king of Assyria sent his commander to threaten Hezekiah, the king of Judah. If Hezekiah didn’t surrender, he’d simply destroy Hezekiah and Jerusalem.
He boldly asserted that Hezekiah’s God was completely unable to rescue him. (2 Kings 18:13 – 2 Kings 19:37)
Hezekiah prayed, and God boldly asserted His power over Assyria.
Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. (2 Kings 19:35 NASB)
“. . . Because you have prayed to Me . . . ” (2 Kings 19:20)
Later God gave Hezekiah some bad news. He needed to set his house in order. His number was up. He was going to die. (2 Kings 20:1-7)
Again Hezekiah prayed.
Again God did what he wanted. He healed Hezekiah.
Did Hezekiah change God’s mind both times?
If he did, I’ve got some things I want to change God’s mind about, too.
Let’s think about this.
If I can change God’s mind, then you can, too.
What if you and I want different things? Uh oh!
I certainly don’t want you changing God’s mind.
In fact, do we really want a God who can be man-handled into changing His mind at all?
If God has to change His mind:
- He was either unsure about what He should do,
- or He was about to make a mistake and fortunately man was there to correct Him.
We know neither is true. Scripture and history make that clear.
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind. (I Samuel 15:29 NIV)
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11 NIV)
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4 NIV)
Throughout Scripture we see that God asks questions and brings matters up to individuals for the purpose of working out His will, not because He needs help or more information.
God presents these situations to His people to give them the opportunity to line their hearts up with His heart — not the other way around.
“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB)
In this situation in 2 Chronicles 16, God presented King Asa of Judah an opportunity to trust in Him to protect Judah when Israel came against them.
Unlike Hezekiah, Asa chose to trust in the power of the king of Syria instead. (2 Chronicles 16)
God lets Asa know that He wanted to support him, but Asa had acted foolishly, choosing an earthly king over the sovereign God.
“You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:9b NASB)
Did God not get what He wanted in this situation because Asa didn’t pray?
God is fully able to get exactly what He wants every time.
He chooses to let man have his own way at times so that they — and we, thousands of years later — will understand the consequences of trusting in man instead of Him.
God got what He wanted here. He wanted to expose Asa’s heart.
Asa’s heart was to trust in a self-centered, sinful man of limited strength rather than in the all-powerful, all-loving God who never fails.
His heart refused to line up with God’s heart. That was now exposed.
In fact, when God sent his prophet Hanani to Asa to confront him and give him a chance to repent and trust, Asa threw Hanani into jail.
Asa’s actions declared his independence from God. So God withdrew His protection, and Asa suffered for it, of course.
Tragic. He only needed to humble himself and pray, and then stand back and watch the power of God at work.
Prayer Releases God’s Power
Prayer is like the starting gun of a race.
The runners on the starting blocks represent God’s power, ready to be released.
When someone prays, BANG! The power is released.
Fortunately everyone in this race wins, because God’s power never fails to do exactly what He sends it out to do.
God’s looking for men and women who are willing to be pray-ers — vessels through which He can pour out His blessings and power onto earth.
When God finds willing vessels, He acts through their prayers to do what was already in His heart to do.
Now back to Hezekiah.
Did Hezekiah change God’s mind?
No. God changed Hezekiah’s.
God sent His prophet Isaiah to tell Hezekiah that he’d soon die to elicit a response of faith from Hezekiah.
God gave him the chance to trust God for his future, or not.
Remember, Asa chose not to trust God when Hanani came to him.
How did Hezekiah respond? Did he throw Isaiah into jail?
No, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to God. (2 Kings 20:2)
He didn’t fire off at God, telling Him He didn’t have the right to let him die.
He prayed from the depth of his soul to the One he knew could change his future.
Hezekiah became a willing vessel for God to display His power.
God did miraculous things in response to Hezekiah’s prayers.
” . . . Because you have prayed to Me . . .”
Unfortunately, later in Hezekiah’s life, he stopped being a willing vessel. Pride took over his heart. Being a willing vessel is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment choice.
The Final Answer: Four Points & A Conclusion
So what’s the final answer to whether prayer changes God’s mind?
Of course I can’t begin to explain all the workings of God’s mind — my mind is too infinitesimally small to comprehend it all.
But I have an opinion based on what I see in God’s Word.
Because . . .
1. God is sovereign.
If God isn’t sovereign over all, then He’s not sovereign at all. But He is.
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; (Isaiah 46:10 NASB)
He’s sovereign over all the affairs of the world from the beginning of time through forever.
No one has power over God. He never makes a mistake or changes his mind.
2. God uses prayer to change events on earth.
Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the Spirit of God. (Edwin Keith)
The spirit of man is limited in strength, but the Spirit of God is all-powerful.
God has chosen to use prayer as a powerful, primary means to release His power on earth.
“. . . Because you have prayed to Me . . . ” (Isaiah 37:21)
That’s not to say that God only releases His power through prayer. He’s not at our mercy. (See Isaiah 59:16 below.)
3. God raises up specific people to pray.
Because God’s all-knowing, He knows who He should alert about certain situations, so they’ll pray.
He knows who He can trust to pray.
He also knows who will not pray, but would rather throw someone in jail for suggesting it.
And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him. (Isaiah 59:16, NASB)
He presents us with a need, and leaves the choice up to us — but He already knows what the outcome will be, and has a plan on how to use our response to His glory.
The willing vessels of prayer glorify God through their faith and His powerful work through their prayers.
The unwilling vessels unwittingly glorify God through the unfortunate and often tragic consequences that come from not trusting in Him.
4. Prayer changes our hearts, not God’s.
The prayer of faith changes our hearts from self-centered hearts to God-centered hearts.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)
God can work through even a little faith — the faith of a mustard seed. (Luke 17:6)
He works astoundingly through pure faith.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20)
Everything Jesus ever prayed for was accomplished on earth because His heart was in perfect alignment with God’s heart at all times. Pure faith.
What About Unanswered Prayers?
No one else but Jesus has had all their prayers answered as they prayed them, because no one else has ever had such a perfect alignment of hearts with God.
Sometimes it actually is God’s perfect will that someone we love dies.
Jesus didn’t pray for John the Baptist to be saved from prison or death. Only God knows why that was not His perfect will, but I have my thoughts, and they come from John’s own words: He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)
But that’s another post for another day.
Prayer does not change God’s mind. It changes ours. It exhales our spirit and inhales God’s.
Prayer transforms our minds, and molds us into willing vessels of faith through whom God can do the powerful work on earth that was already in His mind to do.
In view of all this, let’s humble ourselves before God and give Him our hearts. Let’s ask Him to mold and shape our hearts into a shining reflection of His own Son (Romans 8:29).
Then our hearts will be in line with God’s, and our prayers will move mountains. (Mark 11:23)
You’ll be blessed by this powerful book of prayers.
What about you? Do you have a story of how God has used prayer in your life?
Has God used your prayers in other’s lives?
I love to hear the stories that display the greatness of our God.