Does Prayer Change Anything?
The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. Exodus 32:14
In my addiction, I found some comfort in blaming destiny, God, or anything beyond my control. I prayed for change, but I remained addicted. I certainly felt like my choices were not my own and frankly, it was easier to believe that I had no part to play in my own misery. I found strange consolation in the fatalistic idea that that prayer can’t change anything.
The concept is, that as God is sovereign and knows the future, I cannot change His mind about anything, so why pray at all? If God already knows what He is going to do, why waste time asking?
Today’s passage certainly would seem to indicate that Moses’ prayer changed the Israelites future. In His anger over the golden calf incident, God was ready to smite the Israelites, when Moses intervened on their behalf, begging God to spare them. God relented and seemed to change His mind.
How can this be? If God is in control of everything, if He knows the future, and if He is beyond time, then how could He even be capable of changing his mind? I’m afraid I am woefully incapable of answering for God here. I cannot explain the mystery of how a timeless God can reach down and interact with us in time, except to say that the story indicates that, from our perspective, He does so.
The lesson for us is clear, even if our understanding of God is not. In the story, God made it apparent, that at least from our limited viewpoint, our behavior and prayer matter. In our experience, prayer can and does have an impact on our future.
In my addiction, though there were outside forces I was not responsible for, I was still responsible for my behavior, my prayers, and for seeking help with my problem. I am not responsible for understanding the mysteries of eternity and sovereignty. I am only responsible for continually denying self and turning to God.