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Bible Q

Can prayer change God’s mind?

Let’s answer the question in two parts.

Part 1

Examples from the Bible show that people understood that prayer would change God’s mind. One such example is King Hezekiah of Judah who was told by God through Isaiah the prophet that he was about to die (Isaiah 38:1-8; 2 Kings 20:1-11). Hezekiah prayed urgently for a change of plans (2 Kings 20:2-3), and before Isaiah had left the palace God sent an answer saying that Hezekiah would not die for another 15 years (2 Kings 20:4, 6). As far as Hezekiah was concerned, prayer had caused God to change his mind.

This is the easy part of the answer! The second part of the answer is a little more complicated.

Part 2

God announces that he knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-11) and also that he does not change (Numbers 23:19). How does this fit with God’s positive answers to prayers which ask for a change to his stated plans?

The answer is probably found in the fact that, as humans, we do not know the future, so God sometimes presents things to us as though they will happen, when he knows that they will not. Our responses are then based on what is presented to us. We may then pray and the situation seems to change. As far as we are concerned, God has changed his plans – although with his knowledge of the future, none of God’s plans changed at all. All we have done is caught up with some of God’s knowledge of the future.

Hezekiah was told that he would die, although God already knew that he would pray and that he would be told the death sentence had been delayed. God probably presents answers to prayers as God changing his mind because we do change our minds about things — this is something we can understand. God wants to develop our character and this is sometimes best done through testing us as he tested Hezekiah. Would we pray to God if we knew we were going to die? We can’t know for sure until it happens to us. Would Peter have denied he knew Jesus? He was sure he wouldn’t until it happened, and then he learned some important lessons. From our point of view, God changes his mind in answer to our prayers. When his knowledge of the future is taken into account, however, there is only a change in the information available to us – we have moved further along a path God has prepared for us to walk (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2:10).

If this second part of the answer is too confusing, take the first part and keep praying to God — he is a God who answers prayer and he will never leave you or forsake you.

5 Replies to “Can prayer change God’s mind?”

  1. I want to know the people in the bible that prayed for change and their answers came late, with bible refrences

  2. God does not always give answers immediately. There are many examples where this is almost certain (eg. Abraham waiting for the birth of Isaac and Hannah asking for a son), but few are stated explicitly. Some examples where it is clearly spelled out are:

    Israelites praying to God for freedom from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 2:23-25, 3:7-8). This was answered, but there was a delay.
    Daniel had to wait 3 weeks for an answer to his prayer (read Daniel 10:2-3, 12-14 carefully)
    After Samuel died, Saul the king inquired of God but he would not answer immediately (1 Samuel 28:6-7) so Saul turned to a medium. God later answered by delivering Saul’s death sentence through Samuel (1 Samuel 28:16-18) and the medium.

    Some general examples of prayers encouraged in the Bible which have not yet been fully answered:

    Pray for peace in Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6 and Isaiah 62:6-7)
    In the Lord’s prayer: “your kingdom come” and “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)

    The second last verse of the New Testament is another example “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20). We all have to wait for this to be answered with his appearing.

  3. I quote this sentence: “The answer is probably found in the fact that, as humans, we do not know the future, so God sometimes presents things to us as though they will happen, when he knows that they will not. Our responses are then based on what is presented to us.”
    So instead of going with the logical answer that God changes his mind from time to time as noticed plenty of times in the Bible you want to instead accuse God of presenting things to us that he knows are not true. You are indeed accusing God of not only withholding truthful information but also presenting information that steers our conclusion away from the truth. Regarding, there being “only a change in the information available to us” you are confirming that you believe God either withholds information from us for the sake of teaching us a lesson or just for the sheer enjoyment of stringing us along since he already knows what the true course of events will be. To that I say, if you had a friend and you knew he was going to ask you for money because he is suffering of financial hardship at the moment but yet you somehow knew that he bought a winning lottery ticket but won’t realize it for another month. During that month you know that he will commit acts he won’t be proud of but yet those acts will change him for life and make him a better person in your eyes.
    Would you?
    A. withhold the information from him and let him suffer
    B. Let him have the knowledge now so that he won’t have to suffer for the next month.
    As any logical person would tell you, answer A doesn’t make sense if you don’t like to seeing people unnecessarily suffer. To make things worse there is an option C. where you actually present him with a gloomier outlook of his current situation when you know for yourself that things will get better soon. Our responses are indeed based on what is presented to us and lying as done with option C. can cause great agony. It’s just amazing to see otherwise rational people lose come up with these irrational excuses when it comes to their God performing such a blatantly immoral action.

    • God does know the end from the beginning. God does not present us with that information. Using your definition above, he must be withholding information and letting us suffer. God has all knowledge and wisdom: trusting him means we must rely on him to know when it is best for us to be kept in ignorance of facts which he already knows. One example is the timing of the restoring of the kingdom to Israel, of which Jesus said to his apostles:
      “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7) Let’s leave these things in the hands of a loving and infinitely wise God, confident that what he says about Israel will be true for us too:
      “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

      • Certainly at some point God will act to bring about a final outcome regarding the process of the prophetic declarations of scripture but what you may need to consider is that inbetween the end and now is a time where man, as those given a measure of authority over present outcomes, is responsible to a great degrees for the things that are taking place and that God is standing by to intervene, by invitation. It is the will of God that ‘NONE PERISH’, yet we know that there are those who are perishing and have perished and that man has been given an authoritive mandate to intervene and act as God’s embassadors to prevent men perishing. This then is a challenge to the misunderstanding of the issue of sovereignty. God’s will that NONE perish is not being done and the onus is upon us to see that men come to Christ through the preaching of the gospel. The idea then that God’s will is always done and that God does whatever He wants is now in question. We need to consider the role of the Ambassadorial role and the position of man with authority in the overall plans of God. Some things that God desires to take place just will not happen. This is a an area requiring some important thought.