Why pray if God has a plan?

A couple days ago I received an email from a friend of one of our college students. This friend is not currently a Christian but God is seemingly leading him to search out answers. He wrote me with one of his questions and I am posting my response in this blog. Hope this helps many of you.

Hey – – – -,

Glad to hear that you are wrestling through some of these issues and asking the tough questions. I have struggled with theological realities many times, and seeking out answers has always been enlightening, and personally, life-changing. I pray it will be the same for you.


When we begin to approach Divine realities we must first establish that trying to finitely figure out an infinite being and His infinite ways is slightly absurd. We can begin to simply scratch the surface and comprehend bits and pieces, but so often we are left confused, and sadly, filled with unbelief, because all things theological will not compute rationally in our human minds. For instance, when we talk of eternality we are speaking of no beginning and no end. God, by definition, is eternal. Now, as I previously stated, we can understand in a small way eternality, but we have no way of truly illustrating it, or fully comprehending it. Why? Because our entire being – mind, soul, and body – resides within the realm of time. Our whole thought process is shaped by time, and therefore, thinking outside of time is not just non-sensical, but quite frankly, can’t actually be done. We are inescapably held captive to our own limited sub-conscious and reality. Therefore, this truth must always be established prior to ever attempting to understand the attributes or outworkings of God.


Your statement concerning the Divine plan and total omniscience of God is completely accurate. As an individual with a truly Biblical worldview, I do believe that God not only knows all that is going to happen, but actually has a plan set in place and is fulfilling His desired will throughout this time. Isaiah 46:10 tells us that He declares (or decrees) the end from the beginning and Ephesians 1:11 states that “He works all things according to His will.” These passages would seemingly indicate that God not only knows all things, but actually causes all things (or at least some of all kinds of things) to occur. In essence, God not only knows the script of human history, but He is actively writing it. 


To which your question is raised: why should we pray if God already knows/causes everything that is going to happen to happen? If God has a chosen people who will be saved, then why pray for anyone else to be saved? If God has already ordained who will be the next president of the United States then why pray or vote? If God hand crafted my wife specifically for me, and caused us to come together, then why did I ever worry about or pray over my future wife? Well, my friend, here is the finite answer to your infinite question.


First and foremost, the reason I do anything is because I know from 1 Corinthians 10:31 that all that I do in this life is primarily for the glory of God – to bring Him great pleasure and magnify Him before others. Prayer is one vehicle of accomplishing this great purpose. You see, prayer was never intended to be a manipulation tactic. Unfortunately, many Christians see it as such. True Biblical prayer is not about changing the mind of God, but rather getting in on His plan, and having our minds changed by His Spirit. Jesus actually prayed this way the night before His crucifixion in Luke 22:42-44. So, when I ask the heavenly Father for anything, I do so knowing that His answer will always coincide with His will, and that He is pleased with me His child for coming to Him with my prayers of confession, petition, intercession, and praise. 


Secondly, the incredible irony is that, as we have stated, the sovereign God does have an eternal plan. Not only is He causing people to be saved, to get married, to have children, to work jobs, to enjoy sports, to eat food, and so forth, but He is also – as a part of His plan – actually driving us to pray. The prayer of His people is a huge part of His providential plan.


Third, James 4:2 declares, “You have not because you ask not.” What the apostle James is saying is that we literally do not have certain things, are not seeing people become Christians, are not seeing peace in our land, etc., because we are not earnestly crying out to God for it. What does this teach? That even though God has a set plan that He is going to accomplish, we – as a small part of that plan – are still completely responsible for the decisions that we make, the prayers that we pray, and that those prayers actually are acted on by God to change things. Crazy, I know. This is one of those things that are intrinsically infinite and blows our limited cognizance.


So, I don’t know if this helped you out or not, but I will certainly be praying that God reveals increasingly more of Himself and His ways to you because I know that He will hear and respond to those prayers and you, my friend, will be the better for it.

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