Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?

There are two primary views of prayer in Christianity. One is that God uses prayer as one avenue to bring about his sovereign purposes in the world. The other is that man uses prayer as an instrument to bring about his will in heaven and on earth.

Open Theism is the theology that God does not know the future and he is, therefore, “open” in his relationships and dealings with people. Because of this belief, Open Theists claim that prayer can change God’s mind. Greg Boyd, one of the spearheads of Open Theism, says that this view of prayer helps God decide or change his mind, since he does not know everything. E.M. Bounds, the 19th Century Methodist minister, wrote, “Prayer affects God more powerfully than His own purposes. God’s will, words and purposes are all subject to review when the mighty potencies of prayer come in. How mighty prayer is with God may be seen as he readily sets aside His own fixed and declared purposes in answer to prayer” (my emphasis).

But is this true? Do we really serve a God who can be manipulated, persuaded, and influenced by human reason and emotion in prayer? I think William Barrick had it right when he said, “Indeed, if man is capable of changing the mind of God, then it might be argued that man knows more about governing this world than God. However, God does know what He is doing. The appearance of change is merely the fact that God had already planned to ‘change’ when His people have finally come to behave in the way He had anticipated they would in response to His words and actions.”

Instead, we can say that God uses people’s prayers as an avenue to bringing about his ultimate will. Prayer changes us. God uses prayer in our lives to pray in accordance with his will so that we are in alignment with what is on his heart and mind. We must remember that when God “changes” his mind, he already decided he would do that. We must remember that the God who seems to “repent” at times in the Old Testament does not repent like a man (see an article by John Piper for a greater discussion of this). We need to know that this the same God who “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11), “does whatever he pleases” (Ps. 115:3), and “works all things for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

We must submit to Romans 11:34-35 when Paul writes, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” Know that you aren’t changing the Sovereign, Almighty God when you pray. He is changing you from one degree of glory to another into a greater degree of Christlikeness.

Praying with you to be more like Christ,

30 replies on “Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?”


The argument I am making (and I am in good company), is that God uses prayers to change the wills of men, not his. God is completely sovereign and has ordained all things, past, present, and future. God has chosen to give some people mercy (the elect), therefore he works in them to ask for mercy so that he might give it to them.

What interpretation do you have for the verses above?

You can read Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, and the chapter on “God’s Providence” for a more in-depth look at this.

You can check this link out as well:


You said, “God uses prayers to change the wills of men, not his”.
No doubt what ever! His essential character, His will, His purposes, His promises etc. do not ever change at all. No one would be able to trust some one who changes every now and then! But He is the same for ever. Praise be to His Holy Name. I too believe in the never-changing character of God and in His sovereignty.

But you said, “God is completely sovereign and has ordained all things, past, present, and future” I think your view about God’ sovereignty is closer to the Muslim doctrine of the sovereignty of God. If this is so, is man a mere puppet in the hands of God? Do you really mean that God has ordained all the evil that is in the world today?

But you said again, “God has chosen to give some people mercy (the elect), therefore he works in them to ask for mercy so that he might give it to them”.
If this is so, what do you make of the verses which clearly say that He does not wish any to perish and that He desires all men to be saved (1Ti.2:4; 2Pt.3:9)?



Thanks for the prompt response. But you did not say any thing about my first question. Are we to think that God makes people to do wrong things and then punish them for the same? If so, where is justice?



A great example (among others) would be to look at 1 Samuel 24:1. It says, “Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “GO, number Israel and Judah.” We find out in verse 10 that David sinned–he admits this himself. The word “incite” means to instigate, spur on. God did this. Why? For his ultimate glory! At the end of the chapter, God shows David and Israel mercy. God would not be able to show mercy without sin. God is not a helpless, frustrated God in the heavens who cries, “Crap! I can’t believe they did that again. What am I going to do?”

Furthermore, if we flip ahead a few books to 1 Chronicles 21:1 we read of the same situation, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” Aha! There it is. Whew, God is off the hook. Not so fast though. We know that Satan cannot do anything more powerful than God. Remember, Satan is not God’s equal-opposite. Enemy, yes. Equal, never! How do we interpret this, then? We know that God cannot tempt people (James 1:12-13). However, God’s ultimate goal in the universe is to display his glory and in this situation, he wants himself to be glorified in the giving of mercy to David and Israel. And so, because God is sovereign over all creation, he can cause things to happen that would be wrong for us to do, but are not wrong for God himself to cause. For example, it would be wrong for us to flood the world (which we couldn’t do anyway) and kill every living thing, but it was not wrong for God to do in order to punish sin. God is not the author of evil in that he is the one committing the sin, but the Bible does teach that the wicked acts of men are not outside his determination (see Ex. 4:21; 1 Sam. 2:25; and read 1 Kg. 22:20-23; Job 1:12; Ez. 14:9; Acts 4:27-28). Remember, God is working for the ultimate good of those who love him and for his own glory (Is. 42:8; Rom. 8:28; 11:36).

I hope that helps.


Let me also point out that though the Bible makes it clear God ordains all things (even man’s sin), God is justified in punishing them, and we are NEVER to blame God (just as David took responsibility for his own sin).


Thank you for your prompt response with excellent answers. I am so proud of your knowledge of Scripture. Good job indeed! You seem to be a bit of a theologian!!

Is it not better to say that God permits evil for a reason and for a season than to say that God ordained it in the light of all the scriptures that you have quoted? When Satan stole the dominion which God had given to man (Gen.1:28 cf. Lk.4:4), God no longer came walking in the Garden as He was used to before the fall. Now He remains hidden (Is.45:25) and works out His redemption through Christ His son and through the Holy Spirit.

Our original question was whether God changed His mind when men prayed?
God never changes His character, His purposes, His laws. But He changes His decisions when men pray based on the unchangeable laws by whcih He is at work in this world today. Wnen man chooses to do evil, punishment will come; but when man repents, the punishment is averted. To choose to do good or evil is in the hands of man as God has given Him the freedom of choice.

God has fore-ordained His purposes; He has given men freedom to fall in with His purposes. God has fore-ordained heaven and hell. But He has never pre-destined as to who would go to hell. Hell is prepared for Satan and his angels (Mt.25:41). If men go there, it is because they have rejected God.

Yes, I do know that no one can come to Christ except the Father draws him (Jn.6:44). That is why we are asked to pray for all men in 1Tim.2. I know from the history of the church that when ever there was a praying generation, there was a heavy harvest of souls. This is an undeniable truth of history. No revival ever came to people who never wanted it. But it always came when people were hungry for God and would go with out food and sleep and seek after Him. People come to Christ in masses in certain places and at certain times not because God had predestained them for the same, but because there was a group of men and women who obeyed God’s command to pray and faint not, to pray with out ceasing, to pray in spirit, praying with all supplications and prayers, and who devoted themselves to prayer. There is one prayer to which God would never give a ‘no’ for an answer. That is when we pray for souls. But there is strife and agony in that prayer. Spritual warfare becomes a reality. Happy-go-lucky people could never enjoy a harvest of souls. It is only for those who are willing to agonize in prayer (Rom.15:30-32).

What do you think?




I couldn’t agree more than we are called to pray for people who do not love Jesus. it is a a war. It is hard work. There is strife and agony. However, Acts 13:48 rejects your idea that “People come to Christ in masses in certain places and at certain times not because God had predestained them for the same, but because there was a group of men and women who obeyed God’s command to pray and faint not, to pray with out ceasing, to pray in spirit, praying with all supplications and prayers, and who devoted themselves to prayer.”

The verse says, “And when the Gentiles heard [the gospel], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed .” God works through the prayers of his people.

Think of it this way: I am building a desk. I need to hammer a nail into the wood to attach the leg. I represent God. The hammer represents prayer. The nail is the gospel. The leg is a non-Christian. The base of the table is the kingdom (or family) of God. Who is the one who is ultimately doing the work? I am! What is the avenue which I chose to do my work? A hammer! Still, even with fervent prayer, it is not our prayers that save someone. We must remember that without the preaching of the gospel, no one will hear and henceforth, no one will be saved (Rom. 10:8-17, focus on v. 17).

As far as your statement: “To choose to do good or evil is in the hands of man as God has given Him the freedom of choice,” I would have you re-examine the passages I presented in the last comment (Ex. 4:21; 1 Sam. 2:25; 1 Kg. 22:20-23; Job 1:12; Ez. 14:9; Acts 4:27-28). These show quite clearly that God is behind the action.

Further, no doubt people who reject God go to hell! I agree wholeheartedly! However, what is that grounded in? If man could reject God, without God willing it to happen, then that person would, in essence, be doing something that is more powerful than God. Now, though God predestines people for hell, the blame for condemnation is always on the sinners, not on God or anyone else. As Charles Spurgeon said, two truths cannot be contradictory. God elects some and does not elect others, yet we still have a responsibility. The Bible teaches both, so we must believe both.

You said, “God has fore-ordained heaven and hell. But He has never pre-destined as to who would go to hell.” I would ask where you find this in the Bible?

Here are some passages for meditation:

Romans 9:17-22,
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.

Romans 11:7,
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,

1 Peter 2:8,
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Matthew 11:25-26,
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Jude 4,
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Thanks for the discussion. I look forward to your thoughts.



You said, “These show quite clearly that God is behind the action”.

How true! Not a dog can move its tongue with out God’s permission (Ex.11:7); not a sparrow will fall to the ground with out Him (Mt.10:29). God is behind every action in that with out His permission nothing could ever take place; but it is not necessarily what He ordained. Do you think that all the rape and murder that is going on in this world is ordained by God? I believe much of these could have been stopped if His people would rise up and pray against them. Don’t you think so?

Then you said, “We must remember that without the preaching of the gospel, no one will hear and henceforth, no one will be saved (Rom. 10:8-17, focus on v. 17)”.

How wonderfully true it isl. Please get it from me, neither God nor His angels would ever preach the gospel of the grace of God today. May I say with all humility that we could fail God in this world if we failed in our responsibilities of preaching and praying. I brought this to your notice to show how important human role is in God’s economy today.

If every thing happening in the world today is God’s will, why should our Lord teach us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt.6:10). My contention is that His perfect will is accomplished in heaven; but if that should take place here on earth, we MUST pray. My thesis is ‘With out prayer God’s perfect will never be achieved here on earth’. Can God save a person who does not want to repent and call upon Him? My contention is that, God can not.

1Thes.2:18 Paul says that Satan hindered him coming to Thessalonica. So Paul would tell the Roman believers to strive with him in prayer that he would be able to visit them in the will of God (Rom.15:30-32). My contention is with out prayer, God’s perfect will is not accomplished here on earth, or in the life of the church, or in the life of individuals. Do you think every child of God is living in the will of God? Does not God will our sanctification (1Thes.4:3)? But how many of the born again ones are living in sanctification and in holiness? Is that the way God ordained it? Never so. But God’s will can only be accoplished by agonising prayers as Satan hinders the work of God at every stage.

My contention is that God will not do any thing spiritual in this world today except in answer to prayers.

Your thoughts are awaited. Thank you for sparing time for this discussion. We have so many things in common; but the differences could be sorted out by a few exchanges like this. I am sure you do not want to have an idea which is not Biblical; nor do I. By such exchanges both of us could learn. Have a great day serving Him. To His name be all glory. Amen.


Thanks for your response, empy. I think we’ve somewhat exhausted the conversation (though it’s been going on for hundreds of years). I can’t say I’ll change my mind in a day and I can’t see you changing yours either. Your thoughts are appreciated, know that.

God bless you in your ministry. And to his name be all the glory, indeed.




It was great talkig to you. I see you as a man on the move for our Lord. And may God bless you in all your efforts for His glory.

As for me, I believe that God has predestinated His purposes; but God chooses people not basically for salvation but for service. Of course, those who serve Him must also be saved, therefore election is for salvation as well. But basically it is for service.

Today man is given authority to decide. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hears my voice and open…” . If His voice is not heard and obeyed … . One can have only so much grace as he/she wants. “You have not… because you ask not” (Js.4:2). Ps.2:8, “Ask and I will give you nations…”. Read also Eze.36:27; Isa. 62:6,7; Isa.64:4 and many other verses which talk about God waiting for men to pray through which He would carry out His purposes. Wesley and Moody never ever had the same theolgical presuppositions. But they had one thing in common. They were both men of prayer and the result was God mightily worked on their behalf.

Well, James, it was great talking to you. I do appreciate your knowledge of the Scripture and your thought patterns. I come from the same theological background as you and till I began to experience wonderful answers to prayer, I was just like you trying to burn out for the Lord with out much closet time with the Lord. But I was forced into my prayer room and I began to see things taking place which would never have taken place if I had not prayed that way. Thus I came to the present stand.

Please, if you do not mind, I humbly request you to read my post on prayerlessness and post a commend there. Let us love Him and serve Him as never before. To His name be all glory. Amen. Here is the link for your comment. . Thanks and Bye.


Thanks to you as well, empy. I do understand that we need to pray–a lot. We pray because God commands it. I might not have time to respond, since I’ll be leaving for South Africa in the morning, but I will try. If not, I might have time to respond after the month of July.

grace and peace,



As long as we are human there will be differences of opinion. But what really matters is a heart of love. And I know from the brief association which I have with you that you indeed have a heart of love for the Lord and for His work. I promise to pray for you as you go to S.Africa. Do drop me a mail through my site if you have a special need for prayer. As a retired, handicapped man who is unable to walk and confined to bedroom, my ministry these days is to pray for others and to promote prayer awreness. My prayers are with you. May the Lord bless you in your mission for His glory. To Him alone be all glory now and for ever more. Amen and amen.


Thanks! I really appreciate that. Pray that our team would experience the Lord in all his fullness and that we’d make a lasting impact on the students, orphans, and anyone else in SA!


I would merely say that in God, ALL options are. That is the primary requirement for his omnipotence. So if something is observed as a “change” to God’s plan following your prayer, you don’t change God’s mind, only that option was already there and you were allowed to observe it, i.e. “bring it about”. Heretic as it may sound.


Hi James,

Good to see you back. I hope you had a wonderful time in SA. As I promised you, I did pray for you. Why don’t you share with us some of your stories there?

Hi every one, it is good to be around people who pray. It is even better to share ideas to sharpen our prayer life.


You said,

“Fop some crazy reason God has chosen to use us to accomplish His plan of redemption. But without prayer we have no idea how God wants to bring that plan to pass therefore we consult with Him so that He can reveal His sovereign plan to us”.

Your second sentence is an excellent observation. Mission begins with God. As we go to Him in prayer He reveals to us His plans for the world. Then we take it back to Him in prayer that He might use us to fulfill His plan through us. This indeed is the accepted pattern that we all agree on.

But your first sentence could be understood slightly differently. Instead of saying “for some crazy reason God has chosen to use us to accomplish His plan of redemption” why can’t we see in the light of the fact that God has given dominion on earth to man at creation (Gen.1:28) God will not do any thing here on earth with out us. In Gen.1:6,8,10 it is God who is the name giver. But after Adam was created, Adam is the name giver (Gen.2:19,20). Man is created as God’s representative on earth. He has been given dominion or authority over this earth. Please read Psa 115:16 “The LORD has kept the heavens for himself, but he has given the earth to us humans”. Of course we know Psa 24:1 “The earth and everything on it belong to the LORD. The world and its people belong to him”. May be we can look at it and say, the Lord is the landlorad and we are the tenants. And He has given us authority to do what we want to do here. May I also say with all humility that unless we permit, He can not do certain things here (Cf. Rev.3:20) on earth and in our lives. So man is an integral part of redemptive work. The eternal Christ had to become Jesus of Nazreth in order to accomplish the work of redemption simply because man ALONE is given authority over this earth. God will not, does not and , may I say with all humility, indeed can not do any thing here with out our co-operation and with out our ‘permission’. So prayer is we inviting God to carry out His purposes for the earth through us. God will never ever force His ways in our lives. It is for us to discern His mind (Amos.3:7) and ask Him to do it through us. With out us He will never ever do it. What do you think? I am not here for an argument with any of my good friends. I am just presenting the way I look at things for your reflection and comments.


Did you notice what I said in an above post? I said, “God has fore-ordained His purposes; He has given men freedom to fall in with His purposes”.

I think essentially we agree on this issue. God has foreordained what would happen to me if I obeyed Him. Likewise He has foreordained what would happen if I disobeyed Him. The decision to obey or not to obey is given to me. But since we are a fallen race, we will never ever choose Him or obey Him on our own. Unless the Father draws no one can come to Christ. And Father gives grace to those for whom the redeemed ones will intercede. Hence the all important place of our prayer in the redemptive plan of God. He is not willing that any should perish. We are asked to pray for all men (1Tim.2:1). Again, I am not placing it here for any argument with any one. I am trying to see how well we can fix in the role of prayer in the eternal plan of God.

Truly comments are welcome. All the very best. All glory be to God alone.



I plan on including a few stories in the upcoming days. As you can expect, it’s been hectic being back in the States.

I don’t have time to read your comment in full right now, but I promise I will soon.




If passages from the Bible that either describe God as repenting, relenting, or changing his mind are actually describing something else entirely, can we really trust the words of the Bible? What other things that the Bible describes are actually talking about something else? Also, why would the Bible describe God as changing his mind if he in fact was not? Why would it not just state something along the lines of “And God appeared to change his mind about…”

I think it is dangerous to hold to a doctrine which denies that what the Bible says isn’t actually what the Bible means while substituting a meaning that is not supported by Scripture.



First of all, the Bible wasn’t written in English, so there are so many words that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek have that English does not know what to do with, so we do our best to interpret those words. There are other examples in the Bible. One example would be the word “all.” Take Colossians 3:11, for example. Part b of that verse says, “Christ is all and in all.” Someone could easily take that to mean (at surface value), “Christ is in every person, no matter their heart condition.” On the contrary, this word “all” (Gr: pas) means “some of all types.” Christ is in some white, some black, some Asian, some African, some old, some young, etc, though not every single person. Also, as the ESV Study Bible points out for that verse, “Paul shows that Jesus, who is all, and in all, binds all Christians together in equality, irrespective of such differences.”

As far as what you are saying about God changing his mind, I would simply ask, how can you deny Scriptures (unless of course you aren’t Christian) that rock-solidly support God’s unchangeable nature? You seemed to avoid passages like Psalm 102:25-27, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Psalm 33:11, Isaiah 46:9-11, and Numbers 23:19.

But you do bring up a good point. At times in Scripture, there seem to be places where God changes his mind (repents, regrets, etc.). Admittedly, this doesn’t happen often. All of the examples, would include: Exodus 32:9-14, when God did not destroy Israel based on Moses’ prayer; Isaiah 38:1-6, when God added 15 years of life to Hezekiah; Jonah 3:4-10, when God did not bring judgment upon Nineveh; Genesis 6:6, when God said he was sorry when he made the earth; and finally, 1 Samuel 15:10, when God said he was sorry for making Saul king.

Theologian Wayne Grudem puts it this way (I quote him because he’s a lot smarter than both of us): “These instances should all be understood as true expressions of God’s present attitude or intention with respect to the situation as it exists at that moment.”

Take Nineveh for example. God doesn’t come right out and say, “I will withhold judgment if you repent.” But it’s implicit in the warning. God would not have warned them without the possibility of his relenting judgment. The warning, then, would have just come from an angry, uncompassionate deity. But we know that God is far from that.

In Hezekiah and in Exodus 32, God said that judgment would come if the situation remained the same. Of course, the situations changed, by God’s design and for his glory. Exodus 32:13 quotes Moses saying, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self…” Moses is evoking God’s name’s sake and glory. God did not destroy Israel for his own glory.

Again, Grudem says that in cases where the Bible says God is “sorry,” this can be understood “as expressions of God’s present displeasure toward the sinfulness of man.”

Furthermore Ryan, I think your assumption puts God in a box of human-like emotions. God is not a human. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” What do you say about that verse. That is black and white: God does not repent like a man. It’s different than the way we repent and change our mind — because God is unchangeable. I like the way John Piper puts it: “This [the idea that God repents because he could not see what was coming] is not a compelling argument against God’s foreknowledge. First of all, the argument assumes that God could not, or would not, lament over a state of affairs he himself chose to bring about. That not true to human experience; and more importantly, God’s heart is capable of complex combinations of emotions infinitely more remarkable that ours. He may well be capable of lamenting over something he chose to bring about.”

In the 1 Samuel 15 passage, after it says that “I regret that I have made Saul king,” (v. 11), it says in verse 29, “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Again, this is another very black and white statement. So, it seems as if there is a way that God does repent, and another way in which he does not. God repents in a way that happens in spite of foreknowledge. We repent because we lack foreknowledge.

I hope that helps.


Interesting question. I’m just a philosopher-wanne-be, but I do know that God has recently answered 2 of my prayers that date back roughly 20-25 years. I am so humbled by His answers because I had given up. I literally quit praying for these 2 things at least 10 years ago because I truly thought God didn’t care about them. Turns out He did and I just needed to be more patient before He gave me the answers.

He IS an amazing God!


What Wayne Grudem says is “If we were really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts, and that God does bring about remarkable changes in the world in response to prayer, as Scripture repeatedly teaches that he does, then we would pray much more than we do. If we pray little, it is probably because we do not really believe that prayer accomplishes much at all.”


i wonder if it’s in God’s Will to make me happy and successful… i’ve been in trauma, abuse, and failure since 2008.. Sometimes, i wish i would’ve died in 2001 when i had a dream that year that i did so i would’ve just been happily in Heaven with God and my family wouldn’t have forgotten me and would love me more… Should i just shut up and pray? i always get scared to when i want to, and just wish other loving followers of God would help pray for me too… i just feel so useless and worthless… And feel like nothing but a sex toy guys just want to use me as… :'(


Arianna, God’s will is that you are his princess, his special daughter, created to know Him and be with Him and His family forever.

In this world, there is suffering, but despite the circumstances, we can have joy in relationship with God. To prove how valuable you are to God, he allowed his one and only — his very own — the only one purely worthy, to take your destruction for you. That’s how valuable and worthy God considers you (despite your failings).


Thank for the encouragement. it made me feel better! ^-^ And i’ve been realizing that will of his recently that He loves me unconditionally! ❤


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