How does God’s sovereignty mesh with prayer? Answered by Jimmy Buehler
Hi, this is Jimmy. On today’s episode of ask Theocast, I’m going to seek to answer a question from one of our listeners, Ravyn, who asks, “How does God’s sovereignty mesh with prayer?” In other words, if God is sovereign, if he can do all things, then why does he ask us to pray for things?
A few short weeks ago, our church was in a series on the Lord’s prayer, and we see that one of the petitions that Jesus gives to us as his church, as his disciples, is that we pray. He invites us to pray, “Thy will be done.” Here is what I said to our church, I said this, “When we pray, when Jesus invites us to pray, ‘thy will be done,’ we are actually recognizing that God is sovereign. It teaches us to recognize that God is sovereign and what happens is, when we pray, our hearts and wills are aligned with God’s heart and will.”
What I want us to see is that prayer is not something that people have made up, but rather it is a God instituted, God ordained thing. It’s a means given to us as his people, as an outworking of our faith. It draws us outside of ourselves to look to God as the giver of gifts, the giver of needs, and the giver of the things that we need in everyday life. In other words, we do not pray because we need to make God aware of something. We do not pray because God needs to know something that he doesn’t already know, but rather, why do we pray? Well, we pray because God is aware. We pray because God does know and we pray chiefly because God is sovereign. God is the one who has invited us to ask, to seek, to knock, and to petition him in prayer.
This drives us to see that God is a sovereign God who blesses and gives good gifts to his people. Paul says this in Romans chapter 11, beginning in verse 33. He writes this to the church in Rome, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid, or who has been his counselor? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” Right there, Paul says in a declarative way that from God and through God and to God are all things, to him be the glory forever.
That doesn’t sound like an unsovereign God, but rather a completely sovereign God. So what I want us to see, and hopefully this is helpful, is this, does prayer change things? Absolutely. Prayer does change things, but sometimes the greatest thing that changes in prayer is us. As God reorients our heart, our will, our ideas, and our minds to his will, his heart, his ideas, and his mind, we see that God is sovereign. It changes our perspective on whatever given circumstance. Prayer, then, serves as a means of grace that God has given us as an outworking of our faith in Christ, to see that God’s ways are better than ours. As Job declared at the end of that book, no purpose of God’s can be thwarted.
I think we also have to embrace the idea of mystery here, that God has clearly given prayer as a means to be an agent of change in this world and that God invites his people to pray; but, ultimately, why I think he does this is it creates a humility in us as his people. It shifts our hearts and wills to his heart and his will.
So hopefully this answer has been helpful to you. You can check out more resources like this at theocast.org. Thanks for listening.