Why Pray if God Controls Everything?
You may have wondered this before. Actually, I think everyone has pondered it at some point. Perhaps it was just a thought, or maybe you have prayed on something for a while and it just hasn’t come to pass yet. Maybe you even prayed for it for years, and it feels like the answer from God is still, “No.” or, “Not yet…” Why pray if God controls everything in the universe? Maybe it feels like your prayers aren’t even leaving the room you’re in. Why pray if He already knows His plan and the outcome of everything? Do mine even matter? I’ll answer that and more today.
The first thing we need to understand is that God is sovereign over all things, and with that comes knowing what the opposite of sovereign - determinism - means as well.
God’s sovereignty means that nothing escapes His control over all things in the universe. Think of it as being a parent and home owner. You own your house, your property, and you have a couple kids. You allow your kids to watch certain TV shows and eat snacks, play, etc. You are in control of everything and what goes on ultimately, but you also give your kids free will, and when something goes wrong, you take corrective action as a parent. You aren’t actually up in their face 24 hours a day making them do things against their will, banishing them from any sort of freedom and giving them no free will or choices.
Determinism, on the other hand, is a teaching that says God already planned everything out and nothing you do or anything you pray for really matters because God has determined if it will happen to you or not already. Why pray for a wife or even seek one if God has determined I will be married already? Why go to a doctor if God has already decided if I will be healed or not from an illness? The big issue is obvious - the Bible does not teach determinism, yet people do believe it in some fashion at times. I fully believe determinism is a doctrine of demons to get people to stop praying to God and to stop trying for certain things in life. One of my least favorite sayings that you hear often is along the lines of, “I guess it’s not meant to be…”, or, “If it’s meant to be it is meant to be…” - I mean, maybe, but that doesn’t mean you should stop praying about it!
What does the Bible Say About All This?
Without a doubt, the Bible teaches us that God listens and responds to the prayers of His people. One of the biggest examples is in Exodus, specifically Exodus 32. Remember when God was about to destroy those people for worshiping a golden calf and Moses interceded on their behalf and asked God to spare them? What happened?
Exodus 32:14 (NKJV): So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
God relented from destroying these people, showing that His mind could be changed upon the prayers and requests of His people. Now, if the idea of determinism was true, this wouldn’t have mattered or been possible to even occur.
Or how about in the 2nd Book of Kings? 2 Kings 20:1-7 describes how Hezekiah pleaded to God for a longer life and as a result God added 15 years to his life!
Or James 5:17, when Elijah prayed for the rain to stop, in a time with people that he was trying to make a point to so that they would turn to God and worship Him again.
Or Numbers 11? When the people were tired of eating manna on the long journey and craved meat and fish? Moses prayed for such to God.
Or what about Acts 12:5-12, when the entire church prayed on behalf of Peter and God decided to free him from prison?
Again, if determinism was true, this would not be possible or even necessary - why would God waste His time playing a role in these scenarios if the outcomes were already determined? Shouldn’t He have determined when Hezekiah would die already, or when the rain would stop in certain places, or if the people on that journey would get meat instead of the manna He provided, or if Peter would be freed from prison or not, whether the entire church prayed on his behalf or not?
You see, time and time again, we are shown that God respond to our prayers and also to the intercessory prayers that we pray for others. Don’t give up on prayer! Sometimes you may pray for days, weeks, months, years, or even decades, for something to come to pass.
It All Starts with Jesus
Probably the most glaring and obvious of all things is that even Jesus prayed to God! And if we want to be like Him and follow His commands, then prayer is one of those things we must do rather than have a mindset of, “Oh…my prayers don’t matter and never work…”
Jesus didn’t come here and worry if His prayers would be answered or not - in fact, He would go and be alone to pray to His Father God. Now if prayer didn’t work or they weren’t heard, why would Jesus, the literal Son of God, be so adamant about prayer or teach others to do so as well? So I leave you with this bit of advice - never stop praying.