Email question: If God knows the outcome of our lives, does prayer change things?
- First, God is omniscient; He knows all things. Theologians would say God knows all true propositions. But God’s knowledge doesn’t mean He causes all things. For example, my knowing the past events of my wife’s actions today doesn’t mean I caused those events. I know she showered, got dressed, went to work at church, went grocery shopping, and finally, came home. None of those actions were directly caused by me. Similarly, God’s knowledge of future events, like my knowledge of my wife’s past actions, doesn’t mean we are robots and everything is caused by God. God knowing the past, present, and future events doesn’t make Him the cause.
- Since God is all knowing (omniscient) He cannot grow in knowledge. Nothing we do surprises God.
- Therefore, when we pray we don’t surprise God because He knew we were going to pray and what we would pray about. What this means is God can begin answering our prayers even before we pray them.
- Lastly, the Bible teaches God answers prayer (Gen. 25:21; 2 Sam. 24:25; Ezra 8:23; Neh. 2:1; Acts 10:30-31). Here is an example of God answering prayer.
2 Kings 20:1-6 (NASB) In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’ ” 2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 5 “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. 6 “I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”"‘ God tells Hezekiah, through the prophet Isaiah, that he is soon going to die from this illness. Hezekiah prays and the text says God heard his prayers and grants him an additional 15 years. What is interesting is Hezekiah didn’t pray for a longer life but reminded God how he walked in truth and did what is good in God’s sight. God saw Hezekiah’s tears and heard his prayers and gave him the answer he truly desired but didn’t directly ask for.
Does prayer change things? God does the changing but He uses our prayers as part of the process. Through answered prayer God gave Hezekiah a longer life. The Bible has multiple examples of answered prayer, which should give us confidence to pray.