If God is Sovereign Then Why Pray?
Prayer | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
“If God is sovereign, then what is the point of prayer?” It’s an age-old, and understandable, question. Who hasn’t asked this? After all, if God is in complete control of the affairs of history, and perfect in wisdom, what difference do our measly prayers make? Won’t his will come to pass regardless of what we pray? So, why pray? As a result, unfortunately, many don’t.
Anytime we face a difficult question like this, it helps to step back and consider precisely what the Bible says.
“ASK, AND IT WILL BE GIVEN.” – Mt. 7:7
On, the one hand, there are many calls, commands, and invitations for us to pray. It is evident from these invitations that the authors did not see their prayers as meaningless words or wasted time. Rather, they saw prayer as achieving something.
- Jesus himself encourages us to pray, saying “Ask, and it will be given…” (Mt. 7:7f).
- There are over 20 references to prayer in the book of Acts (e.g. Acts 1:24; 4:31; 6:6).
- The Apostle Paul’s letters are filled with prayers (e.g. Col 1:3f; Eph. 3:14-20).
- Paul also regularly requested prayer, on one occasion saying, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).
- Likewise, he encourages Jesus’ people to pray “at all times” (Eph. 6:18).
- James writes, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power…” (James 5:16) and notes that the reason we don’t have certain things is because we haven’t asked for them (James 4:2).
Even a cursory reading, of these few passages, indicates that our prayers matter to God. God wants us to pray. God hears our prayers. God answers the prayers of his people, according to his infallible knowledge.
“HE DOES ALL THAT HE PLEASES.” – Ps. 115:3
At the very same time, the Bible is emphatic that God is sovereign. God’s sovereignty refers to his ability to do anything that is in accordance with his character. In other words, he rules over the entire created order to bring about his pre-appointed purposes—which nothing can stop, not even evil.
- After all, he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11)
- He does whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3; Ps. 135:6).
- He “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and in him “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
- Even the decision of the dice “is from the Lord.” (Pr. 16:33).
- He also rules over geo-political affairs, making some nations great, while destroying others (Job 12:23).
- This is why Jesus can say that all things are possible with God (Mt. 19:26).
The overwhelming testimony of the Scripture is that God is sovereign. This is more significant than we tend to recognize. After all, if God is not sovereign, then why pray at all? We shouldn’t.
“THEY LIFTED THEIR VOICES TO GOD AND SAID, ‘SOVEREIGN LORD…’” – Acts 4:24
So, what do we do when faced with a biblically clear call to pray and an equally clear revelation of God’s sovereign power? Answer: We accept them both. There is no contradiction or inconsistency here.
“But, how does that work?” The answer of pastoral-theologians throughout the history of the church is that God has sovereignly ordained human prayer as a means by which he accomplishes his sovereign purposes. That’s a mouthful, so you may want to read that again.
God’s sovereignty doesn’t exclude our prayers, but includes our prayers to bring about his purposes. Let that sink in. God isn’t a fatalistic machine that mindlessly churns out his will. God is more like a skilled sovereign artist, who willfully includes our inferior prayers into his superior purposes. As such, our prayers serve as a means to his ends.
Understanding this changes how we pray. Knowledge of God’s sovereign purposes through our prayers brings significant purpose, confidence, and joy to our prayers. God’s sovereign artistry gives our prayers purpose because we trust they are chosen means of achieving his will in the world. God’s sovereign power gives us confidence in prayer because we trust he is more-than-able to bring about all that we ask. God’s sovereign wisdom gives us joy in prayer because we trust he will always do what is best.
In God’s economy, our prayers matter—more deeply than we know.
Praying with you and for you,
P.S. Also, please join us this coming Sunday, October 28th, for DCC’s bi-monthly prayer night. Doors will open at 5:00 pm. We’ll begin our evening of corporate devotion, song, and prayer promptly at 5:30 pm.