The Openness Of God: Does Prayer Change God? -- By: William D. Barrick
MSJ 12:2 (Fall 01) p. 149
The Openness Of God:
Does Prayer Change God?
Professor of Old Testament
A proper understanding of two OT prayers, one by Hezekiah and one by Moses, helps in determining whether prayer is the means by which God gets His will done on earth or the means by which the believer’s will is accomplished in heaven. A chronological arrangement of the three records of Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah reveals the arrogance of Hezekiah in his plea for God to heal him. Because Hezekiah missed the opportunity to repent of his self-centered attitude, God revealed that his descendants would become slaves in Babylon, but Hezekiah’s arrogance kept him from being concerned about his children and grandchildren. His pride further showed itself in his inability to trust God for defense against the Assyrians. God healed Hezekiah, not so much because of his prayer, but because of the promises that God had made to Hezekiah’s ancestors about sustaining the Davidic line of kings. Hezekiah’s prayer changed Hezekiah, not God. Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32 sought a change from God’s expressed intention of putting an end to Israel and starting over again with just Moses. This suggestion was not something that the Lord ever intended to occur; such a course would have voided His expressed purpose for the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49). God did not change His mind regarding His plan for the twelve tribes; He rather altered His timing in order to keep His promises to them. What He did in response to Moses’ prayer cannot be taken as normative action. His “change of mind” was a tool to elicit a change of response in Moses. Moses’ prayer changed Moses, not God.
Two very different views of prayer pervade the church today. The first view teaches that prayer is one of the means by which God
MSJ 12:2 (Fall 01) p. 150
gets His will done on earth: “Effective prayer is, as John said, asking in God’s will (John 15:7). Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven. Rather, it is a means by which God gets his will done on earth.”1
The second view proclaims that prayer is one of the instruments by which the believer’s will is accomplished in heaven. This view holds that prayer can change God:
Prayer affects God more powerfully than His own purposes. God’s will, words and purposes are all subject to review when the mighty potencies of prayer come in. How mighty pr...
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