The first time I ever really had a frank discussion about the extent of God’s power and influence happened over breakfast with a friend. We always shared prayer requests with each other and prayed in such a way that we expected God to help us work toward a better course than our current one.
But if everything is set in stone due to God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty, what role, if any does prayer play? Are we just participating in a charade?
I imagine God saying: Thanks for playing along humans, but I’ve got this.
I’m not sure how anyone can live in a relationship with such a being if everything has a reason, everything is settled, everything is known. To make matters more complex, there are plenty of passages in the Bible where God changes his mind, responds to prayer, regrets decisions, and expresses heartbreak.
If God is able to move the chess pieces wherever he wants, why does it sound like he’s genuinely sad about the choices of his people to worship false gods? Hasn’t eternity past given him enough time to brace himself?
Is God just acting?
This is tricky, troubling, complex, and ultimately unknowable territory. I mean, who gets to really give the final word about “What God is actually like?”
The truth is that many of us pray expecting to team up with God in making this world reflect his desires and qualities. If we don’t pray for things to happen, they won’t happen. If we don’t ask his Spirit to help us live holy lives, we’re going to struggle. If we don’t reorient our minds through scripture reading, our minds will wander. If we don’t quiet ourselves in his presence, we will experience chaos.
We all believe deep down, no matter what our theology is on paper, that prayer and holy living changes something about our present and our future. We know that neglecting these things can be quite bad and even destructive for us.
So does everything happen for a reason?
Is God really in control?
Those are the questions I hope to dig into next week.
Does God actually change his plans based on our prayers?