Does Prayer Change Things? (2 of 3)

prayer changes things 4

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the healing of Hezekiah which prompted opposing views as to the efficacy of prayer. Today we examine the evidence supporting each side.

Those who believe “God does not change His mind” feel that since God is omniscient, He already knows Hezekiah will pray and He will heal him. He just did not tell him in advance so that he will turn to God for everything, big (e.g. Sennacherib 2 Kings 19:14-19) and small (personal illness). They explained the verses indicating “the Lord changed His mind” as only apparent from man’s perspective, as “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Those who believe “God changes His mind” feel that with respect to major decrees – what God has sworn and purposed – indeed the LORD does NOT change His mind. These decrees are of eternal significance and can never be changed. However, with respect to lesser issues, e.g. pronouncing misfortune on His people in order to make them repent, God’s plan provides for alternative outcomes based on how they respond to His warnings. If they repent, God will relent on the punishment. If they persist in their evil, then God will send the harm He threatened them with.

To use a journey as an illustration, the “No Change” school is like God planning the complete itinerary, including destination (ends) and side tours (means). Everything is predestined, unchangeable. The “Change” school is like God fixing only the final destination, but allowing “options” giving people choice for side tours. You always end up where God wants you, because God is sovereign, but there is flexibility in the means.

Which school is correct? I believe the weight of the evidence is on the latter, as follows:

1. Besides Ex 32:12,14; Jer 26:13, 19; and Amos 7:3,6, there is a preponderance of passages speaking of the LORD relenting from calamity when His people turns from evil:

2 Sam 24:16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!
• Ps 106:45 And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His loving-kindness.
• Jer 15:6 “You who have forsaken Me,” declares the LORD, “You keep going backward. So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am tired of relenting!
• Jer 18:8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
• Jer 42:10 ‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.
• Joel 2:13-14 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, …
• Jonah 3:9-10 Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
• Jonah 4: … for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.

All the passages speak of God relenting (changing His mind) when His people turn from their wicked ways, because of His great loving-kindness.

(To be continued)