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Prayer Doesn't Change God's Mind
Scripture: Romans 8:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James...
Track 6 of 7 in the 7 Truths That Will Make You Sweat series
Running time: 1 hour, 11 minutes

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


7 Truths That Will Make You Sweat
Prayer Doesn't Change God's Mind

February 18, 2007

This lesson in my series is one that might have the most edge on it. All the lessons so far were designed to get you to talk and discuss the topic. But this one could be a lot touchier because it deals with a subject that is dear to many people's heart. Prayer is special to people and it is a huge part of the believer's relationship with God.

There is power in prayer. But I want you to consider for a moment that prayer doesn't change God's mind. To believe that it does might suggest that prayer, not God, is sovereign. It is a matter of who controls what. Does prayer control God or does God control prayer? I think that once we honestly look at prayer as described in the scriptures, we will discover that God controls and uses prayer.

Now before you get too bent out of shape with me on this, think about who God really is and who we aren't. Again, too often man views God from his very small perspective. We have a tendency to think God thinks, acts and reasons like we do or we at least try to reason who God is based on our own reasoning. But there is no comparison between us and God. He is so much superior than we are and we can't even begin to reason who he is and how he thinks.

Think a minute what life would really be like if the Creator of all things really decided things based on what we pray or don't pray. Imagine if God were to really say, "Gee Mike; that is a pretty good idea. I never thought about that before." Or worse yet, "I wasn't planning on doing that but since you are a faithful servant, I'll change my plans and do it your way." How would our existence be different today?

Now I want you to understand something, God does indeed ordain and use prayer as a means of accomplishing his will, but it doesn't make prayer sovereign. Prayer is a tool God uses to accomplish His plan. God doesn't decide what happens on the fly, based on the prayers of man.

What prayer is and what it isn't.

According to what you understand of prayer how would you define it? Many will say that prayer is a way we communicate with God, a way of talking to him. That part is true. But prayer is a lot more than that. Prayer is also the way we listen to and get into step with God.

Prayer is the process of discovering what the Lord is doing and coming alongside Him in that. Glenna Salsbury

When she talked about coming alongside, she explained it as sensing what the Lord's will is and praying accordingly. Is prayer a process?

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Someone explain for me what Paul is talking about here in this verse? Prayer is the process of discovering what the Spirit already knows. The Holy Spirit rephrases our requests to comply with God's highest and best for us.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray continually

Someone explain this to me. Notice Paul doesn't ask us to do this, he states it in a command form. How do we do this? I believe this is a natural response from the Holy Spirit living in us. The Spirit is always communing with the Father. He doesn't cease. Our job is to join Him in that effort. Joining Him is nothing more than trusting Him.

James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

There is a Hitch in Our Communicating

How did you learn to pray? Did you go through some classes to learn how to do it? Did you need a degree? Can someone quickly teach me how to pray based on what they learned? Does prayer involve a specific format? Does God hear us better of we are kneeling, have our hands folded or bow our head and close our eyes? What works the best in getting God's attention?

Now this sounds funny or stupid but there are a couple dangers that comes from thinking this way, and many Christians do think this way.

  1. Some believe in the notion that prayer requires a certain form and posture. The truth is, there is very little instruction on form or posture. There is a lot about the necessity, the right attitude and motive when praying. But there are no set rules as to where, when and the posture you need to assume. Prayer can take place anytime, anywhere and during any activity you find yourself in.
  2. Some believe in the notion that if you petition God long and hard enough, he will grant for what we ask for. Why do Christians believe that? Because they know it works in the real world. There are verses in scripture that encourage us to pray to God for the things we need. How long should we continue to ask for things from God so that he will hear is and answer or prayers?

    Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is one of my favorite verses and one that I lean on a lot. Look closely at what Paul wrote. In reference to prayer, what is Paul encouraging the Christian to do and what affect will prayer have? Contrast this verse with what Jesus had to say about the prayer in Matthew.

Matthew 6:5-7 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Notice how Jesus concluded his thoughts; many words don't affect God to reward you. Another thing, notice Jesus didn't say you will get what you asked for, you will be rewarded. A few verses down in verse 10, Jesus teaches that our interest in our prayers should be that His will be done, not ours.

There is one more spot I want you to look at where Jesus teaches about prayer. It is the conclusion of the parable of the unexpected visitor. When man asks for things from man, he hopes to get what he needs. But when man asks of God, the expectation should be totally different but the reward if far greater.

Luke 11:9-12 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

When I first studied this passage many years ago, I was confronted with a question that changed my attitude about prayer, It all depends on what you are asking for. A person in the flesh asks for things differently than a person in the Spirit. The difference is in the asking. A man of the flesh asks to fulfill his own desires. The man in the Spirit asks to fulfill the wish and desires of the Spirit. The asking is the key. The reward comes from asking for the right things.

But God, Did You Think About This Point?

How many times have you made requests of God that totally surprised Him? He totally didn't see that request coming? Have you ever worried about something so you go to God in prayer, and in many situations, you repeatedly go to him in prayer? Why do you do that?

Matthew 6:31-32 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

God knows what we need. In fact, he knows we need it before we know it. Asking him for things in prayer may make us seem more proactive but it won't tell God anything He doesn't already know. He also knows what is best for us.

How would your life be different today if God had granted every request you ever made of him? Would your life be better or would it be a disaster? Here is the point, what makes you think you are qualified to know what is best for you? The fact is, we only know what see and feel at the moment we pray. We don't know how all the pieces fit together - but thank God, He does.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Did you catch the important part…whose purpose is all this for, His! Now that is easy to say and believe yet, we often seem to think we know what is best for our lives, and if we just ask God enough times, He will give in to our plans or requests.

Here is a hard question to ponder; do our repetitious requests change what God has already planning to do? NO! We have many examples where people in the Bible petitioned God and indeed, we are encouraged to do so, but we have to realize that our requests do not change God's plans. Right before Romans 8:28 is verse 27 which goes like this:

Romans 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Do you want to know why it is fruitless to plead to God to change his plans on our behalf? Because when we pray, our Spirit is pleading for us believers in harmony with God's own will. Don't misunderstand what scripture is saying here, it is important to pray to God and make requests of him. It is an important part of the way God accomplishes His will. I just want you to understand it doesn't change God's mind. If we could change God's mind through prayer then we would be sovereign, not God. God is not a reactionary God.

1 Samuel 15:29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind."

God does not alter or make up his plans as he goes. God's work is not a work in progress. According to scripture, God's work is finished. His will is never to be questioned. Daniel 4:35 Here is the good news in all of this. If we look at Jesus and how this fact affected him, we see that this all brought him peace and rest. Jesus himself lived in reliance on the Father's will.

John 6:38-40 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

It should be comforting to know that God, who knows the end and the beginning, can be trusted in regard to His own plan for our lives. The role of prayer is to help us get in touch with what he is doing.

What would happen if you were able to change God's mind? Think of the consequences. What would be the burdens? What would happen if another person were able to do the same thing and prayed opposite what you requested? If you could change God's mind, what message would God be sending if you earnestly prayed for something to happen, say a healing, and it didn't happen. Then what?

When you pray, what do you go there to do? Do you pray to seek answers or do you pray to give direction? To find rest and peace in prayer, we must realize that things unfold as God would have them. Many times man has learned that greater blessings often times come when our requests aren't granted. God does hear our prayers and he comforts us through His Spirit - but he doesn't change his mind. He wants us to pray like Jesus did, all the time and seeking for His will to be done, not ours.

So why bother praying at all. If God already has his plan and I can't change his mind, isn't prayer a waste of time? That is not at all why we pray - to get our way with things. Prayer does some very important things:

  1. It bonds and unites us with God and it bonds believers together. When we pray together it also causes us to commune together. It is an intimate way of connecting with one another and with God.
  2. We find peace being able to lay our problems and burdens at the feet of Jesus. Through prayer we can give the problems to the one who has the control. Let Him comfort us with His Spirit as he walks with us through his plan.
  3. It allows us to get in touch with what Jesus is doing in our lives so we know how to get on board and respond.
  4. Prayer is the best way to celebrate Jesus and to say thanks. It is the best way to praise God and give him all the glory for his will and plan in our lives.