Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Does Prayer Change God?

Another question that arises when dealing with prayer is whether or not prayer changes anything... More specifically, does it, or can it, change God?

This one can be tricky, for there are text that seem to depict God as unchanging and then there are those that give the appearance, at least, that God's mind has indeed been changed.

One of the more popular examples is probably Moses' encounter with God on the mountain found in Exodus.

I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

It definitely seems that God's mind was changed here, for God intended to destroy the people, and then God, seemingly due to Moses' plea, "repented" of the violence which was threatened.

However, this doesn't sit well with me. For I do believe (for now) that God is something that cannot be changed, and I do not think that God changes situations because people ask. If God does do this, then it raises a whole plethora of questions.

What is the criteria for God to change? What prerequisites have to be met?

Why does God change some situations for some people and doesn't change some for others who are just as sincere and just as faithful?

Does it depend on who is asking? I thought God doesn't show favor? (though Moses sought the "favor of the LORD")

Does it depend on how many people are praying? Mega churches would have a great advantage here.

Then of course there is the simple reality that God simply didn't answer my prayer and did answer someone else's. Why?

Here is my thoughts on at least this text dealing with Moses and the Israelites. If we were to look at the whole picture, or Moses' journey so to speak, we see Moses has come a long way on his little "faith journey" when we see him on the mountain before God then we we saw him standing before a burning bush in his first encounter with God.

At the burning bush Moses gave one excuse after another before he finally pleaded with God and said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else."

At first Moses wanting nothing to do with leading the people out of Israel, and now on the mountain before God, Moses is willing to give up his own life in order to save the Hebrew people. ("but now, please forgive their sin - but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.) it's interesting that God ignores this request by Moses and says that those who sinned will be blotted out of the book, then a plague is given to the people and many of them die.

So the question that arises is... "Did God change or was Moses being transformed?"

Was God really going to destroy the people and then ended up repenting, or is this the author's way of showing the progress Moses had made throughout his journey?

I tend to think the latter being the postmodern guy that I am... For it's all about the journey not the destination, right?

What do you think? Does prayer change God's mind or does prayer and our interaction with God ultimately change us in one way or another?


GailNHB said...

I often wonder how we can possibly know what God was thinking or whether or not God changed his mind. How do we separate the Biblical author's opinions and desires and biases from what truly happened in God's mind? Did the author even know? Isn't there someplace in the Bible that says God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours?

Why are you making me do so many mental gymnastics? Can't I just keep asking for what I want and not worry about how or why any of it happens or doesn't happen???

Jkub said...

Yes, Isaiah 55 says Gods thoughts and ways are higher than ours. The whole chapter is about Gods mercy.