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Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign. He works all things in accordance to His will (Ephesians 1:11). He knows the end from the beginning and His purposes are always accomplished (Isaiah 46:9-10). So in light of God’s sovereignty, why should we pray?
God commands us to pray
Firstly, we’re commanded to pray. This may seem tedious as we know it very well; but we must never overlook this simple fact. We’re not to pray only when we feel like it, or wait until we “sort our life out” before we approach God in prayer. We must pray continually and habitually, making a discipline of prayer which then becomes a delight (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Furthermore, if our Lord and supreme example made a practice of prayer, it is then inconceivable that we would not follow suit (Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23).
Prayer is effective
At the Passover meal, Jesus warned Peter about the impending attack from Satan purposed to draw him away from Christ (Luke 22:31). Peter was outraged. He vehemently denied such a claim, declaring that he’d follow Jesus to the point of imprisonment and death (Luke 21:33). Jesus responded to these sincere protest by foretelling how Peter would eventually betray Him (Luke 22:24). Peter did exactly that, and the death of Jesus left him and the band of disciples dejected.
Fast forward over a month or so, and Peter is passionately preaching before thousands at Pentecost. How was this so? What was it that brought Peter from despair to boldness and a strengthened group of disciples? Jesus’ prayer. Because Jesus prayed for Peter, He turned back to Jesus and strengthened the brethren. Christ’s prayer is effective.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”(Luke 22:31-32)
Peter was eventually imprisoned, numerous times in fact. So the church prayed (Acts 12:5). They cried out to God asking that He may intervene and have Peter freed. Yet somehow, the night before his trial, Peter was knocking on Mary’s door (Acts 12:13-14). Through the prayer of the saints, God had sent an angel to release Peter (Acts 12:6-7; 11). Here we see God’s sovereignty as Luke writes of how Peter “described how the Lord had brought him out of prison” (Acts 12:17), and the effectiveness of the prayer of the saints in bringing this about. The prayer of the saints is effective.
Like you and I, the prophet Elijah was human. Nonetheless, his prayers were immensely effective because of the God to whom he prayed. This is the basis upon which James calls his readers to pray for the sick among them (James 5:13-18). The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.(James 5:16b-18)
Prayer is a means to God’s ends
God is not a spectator of human affairs and happenings of this world. Nor are we mere puppets acting under his control. His sovereign ends come to pass by way of earthly and human means. Therefore, we are to be labourers, availing ourselves for God’s use to fulfil His plans through our efforts and prayers.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.(1 Corinthians 3:6)
You do not have because you do not ask God.(James 4:2)
We’re commanded to pray, it is effective and is a means by which God accomplishes His purposes. In His sovereignty, God responds to our prayers. Therefore, God’s sovereignty does not render prayer futile, but incentives it and makes it worthwhile.
For more on the topic of prayer, listen to this episode of the On The Table Podcast!