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,