January 21, 2021

Why Pray, since God Doesn’t Change His Mind?

Nathan W. Bingham & John Tweeddale
Why Pray, since God Doesn’t Change His Mind?

Our prayers do not have the power to alter the perfect will of God. Doesn’t that make prayer a waste of time? Today, John Tweeddale explains why we should pray to our sovereign, holy God.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm on the campus of Reformation Bible College with their academic dean, Dr. John Tweeddale. Dr. Tweeddale, why should we pray if God will not change His mind?

DR. JOHN TWEEDDALE: Well, in the book of James, we're told that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). And that raises the question, "In what way does prayer benefit us?' And one way that people talk about this question is to ask, Does prayer change God's mind? And the simple answer to that is absolutely no. So some people then will wonder, Well, then what's the point of prayer? We have to realize that God not only ordains the end; He ordains the means. And so prayer is a means by which God accomplishes His sovereign will. And so prayer goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

First and foremost, we might want to say that prayer is the chief exercise of faith, to quote the great Reformer John Calvin. So in prayer we express our devotion to God. We express our dependence upon God. We express our love for God. So as you read the Old Testament, one of my absolute favorite expressions we get in the Old Testament is when God bends His ear to listen to the heart cries of His people. So the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, the God of all galaxies, delights to listen to our prayers of confession, our prayers of lament, our prayers of praise. And so prayer is an exercise of our dependence upon God, because we know God delights to hear our prayers.

But prayer is not only an exercise of faith; it's an exercise of obedience. We're commanded to pray. So in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus' disciples go to their master and they say, "Lord, teach us to pray." And Jesus gives them the Lord's Prayer. And He says, "Pray like this" (Matt. 6:9). And so for generations, Christians have used the Lord's Prayer as a model prayer as an exercise of obedience to Jesus. But we can use all of Scripture as a guide for prayer. The psalms of David are a divinely inspired prayer book. And my encouragement to those listening here is if they struggle praying, take Psalm 100, take Psalm 119, and pray a verse a day so that you're praying God's Word back to Him. Or if you read through the thirteen letters of Paul, usually the first chapter of Paul's epistles are a prayer for that particular church. And so you can pray the prayers of Paul; you'll pray prayers of adoration and confession and supplication and thanksgiving, all types of prayer. So prayer is a command that we're to obey.

But lastly, prayer is an exercise of worship. In my own devotion over the past year or two, one thing I've really enjoyed doing is reading through the gospel of Luke and noting every time Jesus prays. And we realize in Luke's gospel and also in John's gospel in John 17, prayer becomes the platform for Jesus to commune with His heavenly Father. And so what Jesus prays for us, we as His people should pray for one another. So in prayer, we commune with our heavenly Father by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the person and work of Christ. So prayer becomes a platform for communion with the triune God.