God rules over everything, He is the ultimate authority in the universe and sovereign over all. The nature of God’s sovereignty has been frequently discussed and debated by Christians for hundreds of years. Some have said God does not always accomplish His will in this world and the fulfillment of His purposes is dependent on the actions of men. For those who believe God limits His interference in the affairs of mankind, there is no tension between prayer and sovereignty. However, others believe God’s will is always being accomplished and He has predetermined all events that will happen. For those who hold this view of God’s sovereignty there exists a real tension between the function of prayer and the will of God.
The Bible strongly affirms the sovereignty of God. In Ephesians 1:11 we are told that God “accomplisheth all things after the counsel of His own will.” Isaiah 46:10-11 God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” A literal reading of these verses leads to the conclusion that what God has determined to do He will definitely acomplish.
If God will always do what He plans, what is the role of prayer in history, human lives and the plan of God? Does prayer change the mind of God? Does prayer serve any purpose in accomplishing God’s will or in changing the events of this world? Does God really answer prayer or does He just do what He had always planned on doing in the first place? These are not trivial questions. They cut to the heart of prayer and the believer’s relationship with God.
The Bible also strongly affirms the effectiveness of prayer. James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” In Matthew 7 Jesus promises that if we ask, God will give what we ask. James 4 says, “You have not because you ask not.” The Bible describes a real connection between praying and receiving. The Old Testament gives examples of men like Moses and Abraham who prayed and changed the mind of God. Without a doubt God answers the prayers of His children. He changes His plans and gives good things in response to the prayers of His people. The Bible teaches that God genuinely answers the prayers of His children and He always accomplish His purposes.
If the only purpose of prayer was to get stuff from God, then any attempt to answer this question would be frustrating and ultimately futile. Prayer is about more than making requests of God. Prayer is a vital part of the believers relationship with his Heavenly Father. Genuine prayer includes praise, confession and thankfulness, as well as asking. God delights in answering the prayer of His children, but God delights even more in having a relationship with them. John 15 makes answered prayer dependent upon a healthy relationship with God. Prayer is all about relationship with God. The incredible privilege of the beleiver is to personally speak to the Sovereign God who rules all things. God graciously promises to answer the prayers of His people.
In the end there is still some unresolved tension because we are not able to fully understand the Bible’s truths about God. He is in control of all things. He does work all things according to His will and He does answer the prayer of His people. The Bible affirms all these truths, and so Christians joyfully affirm them as well. We pray with faith, patience and hope because it is our privilege to do so, knowing we have a gracious Father who will hear and answer.