As we come to see the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty revealed all throughout the Bible, a question arises: Why should we pray? Today, Steven Lawson explains why God’s sovereignty encourages us to pray more, not less.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re recording live from Ligonier’s 2021 Pittsburgh conference, and I’m joined by one of our teaching fellows, Dr. Steven Lawson. Dr. Lawson, why should we pray since God has ordained all things?
DR. STEVEN LAWSON: That’s a question that I think we all begin to wrestle with once we come to understand the truth of the sovereignty of God, which is taught from Genesis to Revelation. So why should I even pray?
We need to understand a couple things. First of all, prayer does not change God. God is immutable. We don’t want to change God, and we do not want to change the will of God. I mean, that would be insanity to think that my idea of what needs to happen is better than God’s idea of what needs to happen. Prayer does not change the will of God. Prayer submits to the will of God, and prayer calls upon the will of God to come to pass, that God’s kingdom would be done here on earth as it is being done in heaven.
The second thing that I would say is it does say the effective prayer of a righteous man avails much in James 5. That not only has God appointed the end of all things, but He has appointed the means to the accomplishment of those ends. And God has appointed prayer as one of those means to accomplish those ends. He has appointed the preaching of the Word. He has appointed witnessing. He has appointed holy and godly living. He has appointed showing love to others.
In no way does the sovereignty of God negate those things. The sovereignty of God demands those things. And so, the same is true in prayer: that God has commanded that we pray—that should be sufficient right there—but also that God hears our prayers. He is a prayer-hearing God, and He does answer our prayers to the extent that they conform perfectly to the will of God.
And I actually think we can say “praise God” for unanswered prayer (from our perspective) because there are many things for which I have prayed. God had a far better plan. I am so glad that my prayers did not change the will of God. He had something far better planned and a perfect timing for them to be brought to pass. So prayer is really a self-humbling beneath the throne of grace and a calling upon the Lord, but yielding to His will as well as appealing to Him that His will would be done.
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