Other ways to ask that would be, “How does prayer work? Can our prayers affect an all-powerful God? Do our prayers actually affect a sovereign God?”
Without dispute, there are more prayers being sent to God than ever before. I say that because there are more people alive today than ever before. People everywhere in the world are seeking an end to this killer known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus.
When will this plague end? Will a cure be found? Will our collective prayers affect God and result in Him exerting all His power to end this crisis? These are tough questions.
In the Bible, God tells us to pray. Some of these admonitions come directly from our Lord Jesus, Old Testament prophets and men like the Apostle Paul; just to name a few. However, the question remains, “do our prayers work? Do our prayers change anything? Do our prayers actually affect a sovereign God?”
We love verses like Hebrews 13:8 that tell us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” We love that consistency about God; that He does not change His truth and what is required to have a relationship with Him. Then there is Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” But we do want God to change. We want God to change things. We want God to change outcomes.
As students of Scripture, one of the things we know, whatever happens in the world God has either caused it or allowed it to happen. That truth is without dispute if you believe He is sovereign (all-powerful) God. If you do not believe in an all-powerful God, then you do not pray, and your only recourse is to seek man’s ingenuity and man’s ingenuity alone to affect change. Good luck with that. How is that working out for you?
This article is directed to those who do believe prayer works. One of the most well-known prayers is 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” In this prayer, the people of God have sinned. Those same people have been living wicked ways. God is calling them to humble themselves before Him. He is calling them to turn from their wicked ways. The promise is then made. If the people of God will humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, then He will do something. In fact, He will do three things. He will hear those prayers, He will forgive the sin of the people, and then He will do something else. He will heal the land. Evidently, He will do what He would not do otherwise. So, we conclude, prayer does work. Prayer does affect our sovereign God.
Another conundrum we have here is the dynamic between the foreknowledge of God and God choosing everything to happen as it has happened or is happening. If you believe God has chosen everything to happen, then He chose this pandemic to happen and we are pointless to change His mind. If you believe in the foreknowledge of God, and every legitimate theologian does, then you also embrace the dynamic that God knows everything that will happen but has not predetermined every event or every tragedy.
The truth remains, God wants to hear from His people. James reminds us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). The psalmist Asaph wrote the following words from God, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15).
The journey of examining this mystery continues. I look forward to diving even deeper next month. Until then, remember the words of our Lord. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).