Prayer doesn’t change things!

One of the criticisms I’ve heard of Calvinism (in particular, that God is completely sovereign over every aspect of everything) is that it encourages people not to pray. God’s already decided what’s going to happen – why pray? I’ve heard it said that one of the means God uses to achieve his will is the prayers of Christians. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I wonder if the following is an example of it. The birth of John the Baptist had been planned and prophecied long in advance (Malachi 3:1, 4:5, Isaiah 40:3-5). Yet the reason that he was born was the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth that they might have a child (Luke 1:13). God used their prayer to bring about a key step in salvation history. (See also Matthew 24:20, the “abomination of desolation” is set in stone, but they could pray about when it would be.)

That makes me impressed by God’s cleverness, but there are more dramatic examples – cases where people pray for things that they know for certain will happen. When the people of Israel prayed to be set free from Egypt (Exodus 2:23) and God answered (3:7-10) they knew that he had promised they would only be in Egypt for 400 years (Genesis 15:13-14). When Daniel learned from Jeremiah 25:12 that the end of the exile was near (Daniel 9:2), he prayed for the end of the exile! We know that at the end of time, every knee will bow before Jesus “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11), yet we pray that the Father’s name would be hallowed (Luke 11:2).

In a sense, prayer won’t stop God’s eternally planned plan from happening. Surely nothing could stop that. Yet we should still pray for things which God has decided in advance and which we know are going to happen (such as the examples above). So surely we would also pray for things which God has decided in advance but we don’t know are going to happen. That logic may make no sense to anyone apart from me (and only barely make sense to me) but I’m not going to stop praising God that he is sovereign over every miniscule detail of life, and I’m not going to stop praying for my family, my friends, my church, my world or my God.

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