(By Matt Waymeyer)
So far, we have considered two reasons to pray in light of God’s sovereignty. Today we will consider two more.
3. God is able to respond to our prayers.
Rather than hindering the prayers of believers, the sovereignty of God ought to motivate them to pray, for “prayer grows from the certainty of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty” (The God Who Hears, 47). Put another way, if God does not reign in sovereignty over His creation and is not able to accomplish whatever He desires in and through it, why bother requesting of Him what He is unable to deliver?
To illustrate, if a five-year-old boy repeatedly asks his mother to make it stop raining on a Saturday morning, this may create a precious memory, but in the final analysis the boy’s request is misguided. As much as his mother might like to alter the weather, she simply lacks the ability to do so, and therefore to request this of her makes little sense. But when the children of God come before the throne of grace, they come with the full assurance that their heavenly Father is able to accomplish whatever He is pleased to do, for nothing is too difficult for Him. And this ought to motivate them to pray.
“To be worth praying to,” Hunter writes, “God has first of all got to have the power to do what we ask. Second, he must have sovereignty over creation to do what he wants to do” (The God Who Hears, 48). So perhaps the question, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” could be replaced with the question, “If God is not sovereign, why pray?” Believers must come to their God presenting to Him their requests because He has both the authority and the ability to grant what they have requested in their petitions and intercessory prayers.
4. God actually does respond to prayer.
The fourth reason that believers should pray is that God not only can, but actually does change the course of history in response to prayer. Jesus said, “[A]sk, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” As Wayne Grudem points out, Jesus “makes a clear connection between seeking things from God and receiving them. When we ask, God responds” (Systematic Theology, 377).
Scripture is filled with examples of God granting to His people what they have requested in their prayers of petition and intercession. First Chronicles 4:10a records the prayer of Jabez in which he said, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!” In response to Jabez’s prayer, “God granted him what he requested” (v. 10b). In Exodus 32:10, God told Moses of His intentions to destroy the people of Israel because of their idolatry. But Moses interceded on behalf of Israel (vv. 11-13), and in response to his prayer God relented and did not destroy them (v. 14). And as James records, God responded to the earnest prayers of Elijah in both initiating and ending a three-and-a-half-year drought (James 5:17-18; cf. Genesis 18:22-33; 32:26; Daniel 10:12; Amos 7:1-6; Acts 4:29-31; 10:31; and 12:5-11).
At the same time that it is acknowledged that God is sovereign, then, it must also be acknowledged that “[t]he effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b; cf. 4:2). In fact, immediately after answering the question of how to pray in Luke 11:2-4, Jesus goes on to answer the question of why to pray by giving two reasons—because God rewards diligence in prayer by granting requests (Luke 11:5-10), and because God delights in giving good gifts to His children (Luke 11:11-13).
In the words of Richard Pratt, then, “Prayer is a powerful human effort that can significantly affect not only the lives of individuals but the very course of world history” (Pray with Your Eyes Open, 112). This truth, no doubt, should be a powerful motive for the children of God to pray. As Grudem writes,
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,…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 (Systematic Theology, 377).