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  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. Revelation 1:3
   
 


Does God Change?

Does God change His purposes or His plans because men pray? Is anything at all changed because men desire to have them changed? These are serious questions, and they demand a serious answer.

It cannot be conceived that God, who from eternity has had a plan to which He is working, should change that plan or purpose because man wants it changed. “Like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes knows no haste and no delay.” –The Desire of Ages, page 32. “Above the distractions of the earth He sits enthroned; all things are open to His divine survey; and from His great and clam eternity He orders that which His providence see best.” –The Ministry of Healing, page, 417.

In view of these statements, some will immediately conclude that prayer does not and cannot accomplish anything. If God orders that which He see is best; If His purposes know no haste or delay, man can no more change God’s purposes than he can change the stars in their appointed path. Therefore, what use is prayer?

It is clear that God would not encourage us to pray and promise to answer, if nothing was accomplished by prayer. The statement is clear: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16. Just what does it avail?

In apostolic days, prayer availed much. The lame were healed; the blind had their sight restored; the lepers were cleansed; the paralytics had use of their limbs restored; even the dead were raised. Acts 3:1-8; Matthew 9:27-31; Luke 7:22, 12-15. In view of God’s readiness to help us in answer to prayer, we are exhorted to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6); to ask, seek, and know (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:90; to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41); always to pray (Luke 18:1); to pray that we may be accounted worthy to escape (Luke 21:36); to pray with all prayer, and supplication, and thanksgiving (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6); to continue in prayer (Colossians 4:2); to pray for all men (1 Timothy 2:1); to pray everywhere (verse 8).

If we therefore were asked if prayer changes God, we would answer that prayer does not and is not intended to cause any change in God. His purpose is not changed. There are times when He may have alternate ways of working or may permit a certain choice of procedure, as in the case of David where He gave him a choice of three kinds of punishment because of his transgression: seven years of famine; three months of defeat in battle; three days of pestilence. 2 Samuel 24:12-14; God’s purpose was not changed though David repented; but the king did have a choice of punishment.

Men Are Changed

If we were asked if prayer does not change anything we would definitely assert that prayer changes things, that prayer moves the arm of Omnipotence, that prayer can move mountains, clear away difficulties, heal the sick, change the entire course of a man’s life, and even change history.

There are those who believe-and Christians among them-that prayer is primarily a means of getting something out of God, which He may hesitate to give, but which persistent prayer will effect. In support of this view they cite the account of the unfortunate widow who wearied the judge to the extent that he at last gave her what she desired, for no other reason that that she annoyed him. Luke 18:1-8. In like manner, they believe that if they pray long enough, God will grant their request. They forgot that the parable was given not to show what God is like, but what God is not like. God does not give men what they ask because they pray long.

Prayer is not primarily to get from God what a man wants, but rather to make man satisfied with what he has. It is not necessarily to relieve him from pain, but to give him peace to bear it; it is not to attempt to have God change His mind, but to have man accept God’s mind. Prayer is not an endeavor to outline some plan of action for God to follow, but to ascertain what God’s plan is and acquiesce in it; it is not to ask that God’s will be changed, but that God’s will be done. The chief aim of prayer is for the supplicant to come so completely into harmony with God that God’s will becomes his.

If the real purpose of prayer is to bring a person into harmony with God, what has thereby been accomplished?

  1. The man is now a partner with God and ready to co-operate with Him in whatever God wants done.
  1. His mind has been taken from what he prayed for to something better. He has almost forgotten what he was so intent upon getting, and is now occupied with what God wants him to do.
  1. He has learned what Paul did when he said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11.
  1. He has learned to trust God fully, and has discovered that answer to prayer is not a problem to him any more. All his prayers are answered according to the promise, “What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. A true Christian will ask of God only that which God wants him to have; his will is God’s will, and he asks that God’s will be done; hence, whatever he asks, he will get. He is in close touch with God, and sensitive to God’s will.

Prayer is that simple. Learn to harmonize with God; attempt to ascertain His will. As soon as you have done this, your problem is solved. You may then ask for whatever you want, and expect to get it; for you will want and ask only for that which is in harmony with God’s will, something He wants you to have. You will in all sincerity and simplicity inquire, as did Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Acts 9:6. In addition, God will make plain what he wants you to do. You will not continually be imploring God to do your will. You will leave the matter with God and be content. Christ was so sure that the believing supplicant would receive a favorable answer to his request that He could assure His disciples, “If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast in to the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:21,22.

Such answer to prayer can be true only where the one who prays is so completely in harmony with God that his will and God’s are one. It was on this principle that Elijah declared, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” 1 Kings 17:1.

Elijah’s Attitude in Prayer

Elijah would never have dared use such language had he not had a previous understanding with God that He would support and confirm his word. God empowered Elijah to speak as he did, doubtless to enhance the prestige of His prophet, as would be the case when his prophecy came true.

As a result of lack of rain, a famine arose, and Ahab commanded that Elijah be found. When they met, Ahab accused Elijah of being the cause of the famine. Elijah answered that the real cause was Ahab himself in that he had forsaken God. He then took charge of the situation and commanded Ahab to gather all the prophets of Baal and Astarte together. Ahab would not have heeded Elijah’s command had he not already been impressed with Elijah’s authority. It is noteworthy that when God told Elijah to call Ahab, God said, “Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” 1 Kings 18:1.

After the test on the mount had been completed, and it was time for the rain to come, Elijah prayed for it as if he were responsible for its coming. Seven times, he prayed, and then the rain came. Verse 42-45.

This story of Elijah illustrates what Jesus meant when He said, “Ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree,” but “greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” Matthew 21:21; John 14:12. To shut up heaven for three years was a great miracle than causing a fig tree to wither and die.

We have no other reason to believe that God at this time will cause mountains to be thrown into the sea at the command of a man. Nor do we in the least doubt that god could do this if the occasion called for it. Christ uses this extreme illustration to bolster His word that God will confirm what He has said, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark 9:23.

Purpose of Prayer

In summing up what has been said in this chapter, we reach these conclusions: Prayer is not intended to procure for us the things we want from God. Prayer is primarily the way to bring us into harmony with God, so that His will and ours will be one. When this is brought about, peace and contentment will come to the soul. There is no longer any anxious pleading with God that He do our will, but a willing conformity on our part to accept whatever He sees is best for us. We will continue to pray as we have done before, but “our prayers will take the form of a conversation with God, as we would talk with a friend.” In addition, the conversation will not all be on our part; “He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Often there will come to us a sweet, joyful sense of the presence of Jesus. Often our hearts will burn within us as He draws nigh to communicate with us as He did with Enoch.” -Christ Object Lessons, page 129.

In this sweet communion that may be ours, we do not keep asking for things any more than we would of an earthy friend. We are talking with God, telling Him our joys and sorrows, and getting from Him the counsel we need and the blessed assurance that He loves us.

Memory Verse:

“If you can’?” said Jesus, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Questions:

1.   Do you feel that your prayer life is improving and your moving toward God’s will?

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2.   Can you see yourself beginning to change what you used to pray for? Explain.

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