At the Last Supper, Jesus told His apostles, ‘If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.’ (John 14:13)
But does that mean that we can influence God’s decisions? Do our prayers have the power to change God’s mind? Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, a listener called in and asked whether our prayers can change God’s mind, or if our destiny is already set. Patrick responded:
“That is one of the deepest questions one can ask. It’s a mystery, but remember that mysteries are not something that we can know nothing about, it’s something we can’t know everything about. So let’s proceed as far as we can.
The mystery here is that God does not exist in time and space the way we do. So everything is ‘now’ for God. He doesn’t look into the future, He doesn’t look back at the past, He sees everything all at once as now.
Now, we can barely begin to imagine what that would be like. In our case, we experience time as a series of ‘nows.’ It’s always now. We have a past that we can reflect on, we have a future we can look forward to, but in a way we are kind of like God in that we are always living now. But God doesn’t live exactly that way, because He is outside of time.
What this means is that when Jesus, for example, tells us to pray to God, pray to the Father for the things that you need, He says that He already knows what you need, but He desires that you pray for these things so that He can grant them to you according to His will.
So what we know for sure is that God wants us to pray for these things, He will not always give us the answer to prayers that we’re seeking, but He’ll give us what the best thing is for us. That in itself is a mystery.
But it doesn’t mean, in one sense, that we’re changing God’s mind, because God doesn’t change. He doesn’t say, ‘Well, I don’t really want to do that, but OK.’ But we see situations in the Bible where it certainly seems like that.
With the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham is interceding with God, saying, ‘For the sake of 50 just men, would you spare the city?’ And God says that yes, in that case He’ll spare the city. So His plan is to destroy the city, but for 50 just men He won’t do it. And Abraham realizes there are not even that many just men, so he bargains God all the way down to 5 people. If he finds 5 just people in the city will God spare it? And God says yes. Now, you know from reading the passage that in the end the city does get destroyed, and we can presume it is because Abraham couldn’t even find 5 just men in the city.
But there is an example where we see God seeming to change His mind, or in that case He says He would change His mind. That’s a human way of explaining a reality that, on the one hand, God is the one who answers our prayers, He does want us to pray and ask Him for the things that we need. But at the same time, and this is where the mystery comes in, He is unchangeable.
So, in a way that we don’t fully understand, we can hold those two truths simultaneously. They are not contradictory, but they are paradoxical – that God does not change, He is impassible and immutable, but at the same time He does answer our prayers, because He wants to.
It is a very deep topic, one that people have wondered about for centuries. But I think that’s where the answer lies.”
Listen to the full call below:
The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays at 9:00 a.m. Eastern/6:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.