Seventh Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is a Profound Privilege

      1. With Respect to Who God Is
        As one ponders all these truths about prayer and who God is, one cannot but fall down in worship. God, the Unsearchable (Job 11:7), the Incorruptible (Rom. 1:23), the Eternal (Ps. 90:2), the Only-wise (Rom. 16:27), the Most High (Ps. 83:18), the Holy One (Rev. 16:5), can be approached, and conversed with in prayer! How is it, that the Lord who does all things after the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11) interact with our own desires that we express in prayer – what is the relationship between the ultimate purpose of God, and our human desires? I do not know. And even beyond this mystery, how can it be, that the Lord of the universe would incline his ear toward men? This is the true mystery of prayer – for there is absolutely no reason in us that God should chose to hear us. Yet he does. What an awesome privilege!

      2. With Respect to Who We Are
        As sinners, we are separated from God, and deserve nothing but eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23), and yet as Edward Bickerateth so rightly put it that prayer gives us, “every day, yes, every hour, this great privilege of access to the King of kings and the Lord of lords, to the Most High and the Most Holy, and this with the utmost freedom and confidence; the access not merely of a servant to a master, or a subject to a king, but of a child to a tender parent” (Edward Bickersteth, A Treatise On Prayer, p. 8). Though our sins were as scarlet, by the blood of Christ we are washed clean – through his great gift, we have this profound privilege. Let us now pray all the more fervently, for God is sovereign, and through Christ, we have access to the throne room of grace (Heb. 4:16).


Sixth Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is Beneficial Because it Changes Us

      1. Abiding in Christ
        In John 15:7 Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This principle that Jesus laid out is key to our understanding of the relationship God’s sovereignty has with our prayers. When we abide in Christ, and his words abide in us, we can ask God for whatever we want and it will be done! When Jesus says this, he speaks of our conforming to himself. God does not change when we ask him for things, rather, we change as we grow in our abiding, and as his words grow in us. “Only prayer according to God’s will is granted” (Hunter, p. 60), our own wills must move to match his if our requests are to be granted.

      2. An Example from Scripture Showing How Prayer Changes Us
        When Paul entreated the Lord three times that the thorn in his flesh to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7-9), God did not remove the thorn. Rather the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). But rather than cause Paul to be angry, it caused him to change, and align himself with what God wanted and gladly boast about his weaknesses so that the power of Christ might dwell in him (2 Cor. 12:9).
        While at first Paul did not understand that God desired the thorn in the flesh to torment Paul for his own benifit, Paul learned through prayer that God allowed the thorn in the flesh to torment him so that the Lord would be glorified through Paul’s weakness. Originally, Paul did not want the thorn in the flesh, but through prayer, he came to realize that it was for his own benefit, keeping him from pride (2 Cor. 12:7) and allowing him to display the power of Christ (2 Cor. 12:9).
        Paul knew that what God had planned was better than anything he could have thought of himself. Therefore he was more than willing to submit himself to the sovereign plan of God. Paul understood that God knows best and is working all things for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose as clearly shown in his letter to the Romans which he penned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:28).

Fifth Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is Beneficial Because God’s Sovereign Plan is Good
      It would not do us much good if God was sovereign but was not good. Though he would have the capability to answer our prayers, there would be little to look forward to in asking God for something or even in praising his name (Hunter, p. 49). In fact, we might actually get what we ask for when in fact it would not be best for us! The Bible clearly states that God is good (Ps 25:8, Nah. 1:7), and so in God’s sovereign response to prayer, all that he does will be good. As a parent desires to give good things to his or her children, so much more, the Bible says, does God, our heavenly Father, desire to give what is good to those that ask (Matt. 7:9-11).

Third Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is Effective Because God Commands It

      1. A Simple Command
        In both the New and the Old Testament God commands his people to pray (Isa. 55:6, Matt. 7:7, Phil. 4:6, Eph. 6:18, 1 Thes. 5:17). Though people desired to pray, if God had not commanded it, there would be no way that it would be of any effect. If fact, if God had not commanded us to pray, it would be sin to do so. Because God is sovereign, he has the authority to command us to pray. A person would be foolish to think that God would respond in a positive way to them if they approached him in a way that he had not ascribed; far from being beneficial, it would be deadly (Lev. 10:1-2).
        Prayer is commanded by God, and therefore is effective as a means for such things as to ask for temporal blessing (Gen. 28:20), to ask for spiritual blessing (Matt. 6:33), to ask for help in time of need (Heb. 4:16), to repent (1 Kgs. 8:33), and to praise God (Ps. 66:17). All these things we can do with confidence, knowing that God has commanded us to do them according to his sovereign plan and has provided us a way to approach him (Heb. 4:16).

      2. A Command from a Sovereign God
        Rather than speak to the question of how God, being sovereign can be influenced by the prayers of his people, if in fact he is influenced at all, there is a positive way to look at the fact that a sovereign God commands his people to pray. God is sovereign, and therefore because he commands his people to pray we can know that regardless of how, prayer is a means for God’s will to be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Therefore, because the sovereign God of the whole universe, who is able to do all that we ask and abundantly more (Eph. 3:10), has commanded us to pray; let us pray all the more and with boldness!

Second Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is Effective Because God’s Will is Not Influenced by Humans

      1. God is Not Divided
        When a person prays and asks God for something, that prayer does not alter the will of God. If it did, God would not longer be sovereign, because his will would no longer be supreme, but rather, God would be doing the bidding of a mere human. It is foolish to think that prayer changes the will of God, for people have many different and conflicting wills. One person may pray for rain, another sun and therefore if God’s will was affected by humans, he would be a walking contradiction (Hunter, p. 61). As Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25). When talking about God’s sovereignty, no one would claim that if there is a conflict of interests between his or her will and God’s that his or her own will would prevail. (Robert C. Sproul, “Does Prayer Change Things?”, Tenth: An Evangelical Quarterly, 6 (July, 1976), 53). God is God and therefore is not influenced by human will.

      2. A Never Changing Sovereign God
        In addition, if God’s will was influenced by human prayers, then he could not be working “all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). There can be no changing the purposes of God, for his purposes are “eternal” (Eph. 3:11). What chaos there would be if God’s will changed to match the will of humans, having one mind yesterday and another today (Pink, p. 207). God never changes (Jam. 1:17) and therefore his will is not changed by men, but rather he is constant, immovable. This truth builds trust towards God and to pray because God’s will does not bend to the suggestions of mere men but the Lord does as he pleases and will accomplish everything that he desires.

First Principle Drawn From God’s Sovereignty in Relation to Prayer

    1. Prayer is Effective Because God is Sovereign

      1. A World Without a Sovereign God
        While the truth that God is sovereign does present problems to the human mind in regards to its interaction with prayer, before we go to far down the road of belittling God’s sovereign control over all things in order to “solve” the problem, as some do (such as Gregory A. Boyd in his book, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God), we must look at the other side of the coin. What if God was not sovereign? What if, although willing to answer prayer and desiring to provide for his children, God was unable to do so? There would be absolutely no reason to pray to God at all! Because he would be just like us, unable to do anything about it. “At its root, prayer grows from the certainty of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Job says, ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted’ (42:2). Obviously it would be a waste of time to pray to a wimp” (W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears, p. 47). God rules over all, and therefore has the ability to do whatever He pleases, and that includes answering prayer.

      2. The Sovereignty of God Exemplified in Answered Prayers
        In our own Christian experience, this writer, as well as countless others pray to God for example, for the salvation of lost souls, that they would place their faith in Christ. And sometimes we receive answers to the positive! But if God was not sovereign over all things, these prayers would be total foolishness! Aside from our own personal experience we see in Scripture countless examples of prayers that were offered up to God that were answered – prayers that apart from God’s sovereignty could not have been answered. Christ Himself prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail and that he would be restored after his denials of Christ (Luke 22:32), and Peter was restored (John 21:15-17). Abraham’s servant prayed that God would guide him in the selection of a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:12-14), and God did (Gen. 24:15-27). When God was going to destroy the people of Israel for their disobedience (Ex. 32:10), Moses entreated God to turn from his wrath (Ex. 32:11-13), and God did. Joshua prayed that the sun and the moon would stand still (Josh. 10:12), and they did (Josh. 10:13). Hannah prayed that she would have a son (1 Sam. 1:11), and she did (1 Sam. 1:19-20). Far from being a problem, prayer only works because God is sovereign.

Prayer and the Sovereignty of God – Introduction

Prayer and The Sovereignty of God

  1. Introduction

    1. The Difficulty
      Many questions are raised when the topic of God’s sovereignty and prayer are mentioned in the same sentence together. These questions are the direct result of any extended thought on the fact that God is sovereign, and yet we, as mere humans, can pray to God and be answered by him. The many broad sweeping statements in the Bible made by Jesus regarding prayer, are perhaps the most confusing at first glance,
      “Ask, and it will be given to you…For everyone who asks receives” (Matt. 7:7-8).
      Initially, this might not cause anyone to lose any sleep, but then the difficulties begin when a person tries to synchronize the simple truths about prayer in the Bible with the powerful, overarching statements about God’s sovereignty such as found in Daniel 4:35,
      “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” One can not but help to wonder how God’s sovereignty and prayer practically fit together. But we must be careful as we proceed to look into these topics for as C. S. Lewis reminds us, “Prayer is not a machine” (C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, p.10) but rather is born out of our relationship with God, not from knowing information about him, but from knowing him (C. S. Lewis, p. 7). In order to set the stage for a discussion of some practical principles about prayer that come out of the truth that God is sovereign, we will first give basic definitions of both prayer and God’s sovereignty.

    2. A Basic Definition of Prayer
      Prayer is simply converse with God. Or as John Bradford expressed it, “Prayer is a simple, unfeigned, humble, and ardent opening of the heart before God; wherein we either ask things needful, or give thanks for benefits received” (John Bradford, “Godly Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer, Belief, and Ten Commandments, with other Exercises”, The Writings of John Bradford, I, 111). There are many ways that prayer is referred to in the Bible. It is sometimes described as “calling on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26), “entreating the Lord” (Ex. 32:11), “pouring out one’s soul to the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15), “praying and crying out to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20), “seeking and imploring the Almighty” (Job 8:5), “bowing one’s knees to God” (Eph. 3:14).

    3. A Basic Definition of God’s Sovereignty
      Essentially the sovereignty of God refers to the fact that “He has absolute authority and rule over his creation” (James Montgomery Boice, “The Sovereign God”, Foundations of the Christian Faith, I, 149). In Scripture, God’s sovereignty is sometimes referred to “his rule over all” (1 Chr. 29:12), “his being God” (Ps. 46:10), “his kingship over the earth” (Ps. 47:7), “his possessing all authority” (Matt. 28:18), “his having working all things after the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). In order for God to be sovereign he must be all-knowing (Ps. 94:11; 139:4, 1 Jn. 3:20), all-powerful (Gen. 18:14, Heb. 1:3, Rev. 4:8), and totally free (Ex. 33:19, Rom. 9:20-24). God’s sovereignty is really to speak of the “Godhood of God…to declare that God is God” (Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, p. 23) and that there is no other (Deut. 4:35; 39, Isa. 45:5; 22, Joel 2:27).