Can our prayers change God's mind?
photo credit: Terry Lunn
Yes! There a couple of biblical examples I will remind you of:
Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz paid him a visit and said, “Put your affairs in order; you’re about to die—you haven’t long to live.”
Hezekiah turned from Isaiah and faced God, praying:Remember, O God, who I am, what I’ve done!I’ve lived an honest life before you,My heart’s been true and steady,I’ve lived to please you; lived for your approval.And then the tears flowed. Hezekiah wept.
Isaiah, leaving, was not halfway across the courtyard when the word of God stopped him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, prince of my people, ‘God’s word, Hezekiah! From the God of your ancestor David: I’ve listened to your prayer and I’ve observed your tears. I’m going to heal you. In three days you will walk on your own legs into The Temple of God. I’ve just added fifteen years to your life; I’m saving you from the king of Assyria, and I’m covering this city with my shield—for my sake and my servant David’s sake.’ ” - 2 Kings 20:1-6 (Msg)
After King Hezekiah had been healed, he had fifteen healthy years, and enjoyed the joy of having another son - this guy:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. He ruled for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. In God’s judgment he was a bad king—an evil king. He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption that had been scoured from the country when God dispossessed the pagan nations in favor of the children of Israel. He rebuilt all the sex-and-religion shrines that his father Hezekiah had torn down, and he built altars and phallic images for the sex god Baal and sex goddess Asherah, exactly what Ahaz king of Israel had done. He worshiped the cosmic powers, taking orders from the constellations. He even built these pagan altars in The Temple of God, the very Jerusalem Temple dedicated exclusively by God’s decree (“in Jerusalem I place my Name”) to God’s Name. And he built shrines to the cosmic powers and placed them in both courtyards of The Temple of God. He burned his own son in a sacrificial offering. He practiced black magic and fortunetelling. He held séances and consulted spirits from the underworld. Much evil—in God’s judgment, a career in evil. And God was angry. - 2 Kings 21:1-6 (Msg.)
So - yes, it is possible, and I do believe He still listens so closely and loves us so much that He will indeed give us what we long for, ask for, and often beg for. (see also Luke 18:1-8) The problem with that is, what if what we long for seems good, but really isn't? In all honesty, I've received something from God that wasn't good for me because I asked Him for it for an entire month straight. Did I change His mind, I'm not sure - but I know He did redeem the difficult situation for His glory and my good. Had I not asked, could I have avoided all of the trauma? I can't say.
Which brings back up our point from last week about why we pray in the first place. To which I would once again say, because prayer is about intimacy with God and surrender-cooperation with His will.
Here's another example:
The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.” - Exodus 33:1-3 (NLT)
God was so fed up with the Israelites that He said - Go on your own. I'll give you what I promised you I would, but I'm not coming with you. If I come with you, I just might kill you all along the way. To which Moses pleaded with God, claiming,
“If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”In this case, I believe the "change" in God's mind wasn't truly a directional change. When we look at this from a wider perspective, we see that God had promised that He would go with them and be their God.
The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” - (vs. 15-17)
“I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!” -Exodus 6:6-8 (NLT)So Moses was not changing God's mind so much as he was calling God on His first promise to be with them. He was interceding on the people's behalf for God's forgiveness of their stubbornness, and asking for mercy for all of them.
Okay. Deep breath. That was a lot of Scripture for one post. Let's conclude for now. Off the top of my head, I can think of also Abraham in the matter of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as Jonah and Ninevah as examples of God seeming to change his mind in response to prayer or intercession. I'll let you check those out on your own.
As we consider all of this, let us conclude that God's will and His promises toward us do not change. He is always faithful and good to us, and will indeed bring the good work He started in us to completion, and work all (even the seemingly difficult, painful, and bad) circumstances for our good, if we love Him and are called His. (Phil 1:6 and Rom. 8:28). Can our prayers change His mind? Yes - it is possible - but why would we want to change His mind if we trust that He is always only good and faithful to us? Our prayers, rather should be that of calling on His promises, interceding on behalf of others (according to His will), confessing our sins and our desires to emulate His Son, and praising Him with gratitude, knowing we can trust His intentions are loving and beneficial, for our good and His glorification.
I hope that makes sense, Friends. Will you allow me the privilege of praying for you?
Lord, please guide my friends in Your wisdom and sovereign knowledge as they pray. I'm so thankful that You know what's best for us, and that we can surrender to Your loving hand and will in every situation. God, Your faithfulness amazes me so much. We are so thankful that we can trust in Your goodness and Your Word in everything.
Do you have a question too, Dear Heart? Don't be shy! Don't hesitate to ask - about life, the Bible, faith, God ... anything really. (Okay that last one was scary - but since I'm trusting Him to help me, I'll leave it.) Just post your question in the comments below, or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I'll keep you anonymous, and you can sign your letter however you like (i.e. Curious-About-Jesus or Needing-Some-Guidance-in-Revelation). Just put "a little bird told me" in the subject line. Won't you be brave enough to ask, too? I'll bet you're not the only one wondering!