Prayer & The Sovereignty of God
This issue is something that comes up a lot in different theological circles. Thankfully, through His grace, I was able to sit in a few of these circles and chew on these things for years. Now, it should be noted that this article cannot dive into every respect of this topic because it's a very deep well that will require training and strong systematic hermeneutics (biblical interpretations practice) to understand each thing in full depth. For example, the view of the Calvinism and the view of Arminianism and the other views that are held like Molinism. So, in turn, I will instead use Scripture and provide a possible exegetical thought process for you to maul over on your own [As I hold to something that is "God's absolute knowledge"].
First, we must define "God's sovereignty" correctly and accurately so that we do not misdefine the term to mean "theistic determinism" which would fall more under "ordaining" or "predestine" but rather sovereign means that God is in full-capable-control of every motive, move and thought that enters this world.
"For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him" (Colossians 1:16).
God Transcends All Things
- "LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens" (Psalm 8:1)
"For you, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods" (Psalm 97:9).
God Knows All Things
- "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit" (Psalm 147:5).
"I make known the end from the beginning..." (Isaiah 46:10).
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13).
God Can Do All Things (that are consistent with His nature)
- "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26).
“'I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?'" (Jeremiah 32:27).
God Owns All Things
- "The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters" (Psalm 24:1-2).
“'But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand'" (1 Chronicles 29:14).
God Rules Over All
- "The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever" (Psalm 29:10).
"Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all" (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). [allaboutgod.com]
So these are apparent and truthful things of the GOD that we serve as Christians. However, none of these here state that God determines all that occurs but rather we see in scripture that God wills that certain things happen that will not happen. God wills certain things that will occur. This is debating by many on the state of what these two wills are and there are many defining terms for them but I will give you two examples so that we can quickly grasp this and move on:
God's will that does not occur: "[God] who desires all men to be saved and reconciled to Him] 1 Timothy 2:4
God's will that does occur: Jesus Christ and the Cross
“'I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted'" (Job 42:2).
"The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths" (Psalm 135:6).
Now that we know that God's will occurs and does not occur we move onto how Jesus teaches us to pray. Let's read briefly:
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
18 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Here we see something incredible and something that should bring us a vigor of hope. God is calling us to pester Him in prayer. Now, this should not be used in context to apply to our lives the prayers that are "selfish prosper" in nature. However, recently I have been praying for the Lord to provide a way that I can provide for my family and I applied this scripture. If Jesus wanted us to behave in a way that all is determined He would not have instructed us to pray in such a way. This prayer will change us, it will require of us, a strong obedient heart and position under God.
This does not by necessary means tell us that God "changes His mind" because God knows all possible outcomes of any and all situation and has all knowledge of them. It rather, in theory theological, our pleading to God activates His response to give us, in accordance with His will, a blessing or answer to prayer.
So let us take this spirit of prayer along with that of Jesus' in the Garden: "Father, let your will be done." If we pester God in a humble position as we see in Luke 18 and truly want God's perfect will for our lives as we mimic the prayer of Jesus, let us be hopeful that our God will answer in favor according to His will.