“God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).
God does not change His mind. The theological term for this is God’s immutability – that His character, His will, and His promises are firmly planted. They will not change. That is, in fact, very good news for us.
Consider for a second the implications if God DID change His mind. It would mean that He came upon some new knowledge that changed His judgment. Or He realized He was acting out of proportion. Or that He was manipulated into second-guessing Himself. In all those cases, God changing His mind would mean that God is not perfect in His judgments, ways, and wisdom. And we need Him to be.
Even though, then, it’s good news for us that God doesn’t change His mind, it begs a question about prayer, doesn’t it? Namely, why should we keep praying if God doesn’t change His mind? Let me propose three reasons:
1. Because God told you to.
Jesus told a story about an annoyingly persistent widow recorded for us in Luke 18. The woman in the story kept pestering, pestering, pestering a judge who at first had no intention of doing anything for her cause, and yet by her sheer persistence, was eventually worn down to give her what was due to her.
The point of the parable is not that you can annoy God into action; it’s that if a judge who does not fear God or respect men can be made to listen, then how much more confidence should you have in a God who loves you to do what is right?
Once again, in Matthew 7, Jesus pointed to persistence as a key attribute of prayer, saying, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Persistence in prayer, then, is an obedience issue. Jesus has commanded us to it, and we must follow.
2. Because your prayers will change.
Beyond the issue of obedience, we must keep praying because, over time, our prayers will actually change. We will find that we started praying for one thing only to find that through the process of persistence we actually begin praying for something different.
Think of it like this: When you live in a house, you are going to notice things that other people don’t. You’ll notice chips in the paint, that picture that never quite hangs right, or some other thing that you only see because you look at it day after day. With the passage of time, new details emerge to you that would be lost without your persistence. The same thing happens when you pray.
You might, for example, be praying for a job. So you pray, “Job, job, job.” But as you focus your attention on this singular issue for more and more time, you realize that the better thing to be praying for is not a job, for the job only represents something else that has now been exposed. You find, over the course of persistent prayer, that your prayer changes from “job, job, job” to “trust, trust, trust.”
3. Because you will change.
This, of course, leads to another reason to pray. It’s not because you are going to change the mind of God; it’s because over time the change will happen to you.
Most of the time, when we come to pray, we already have decided in our minds what the answer to that prayer needs to be. But then the issue lingers. We pray and the issue lingers more. Slowly, as the issue persists, we find other issues bubbling to the surface that we might not have been aware of except for the fact that our senses are heightened because of our need.
We start out praying that we would have a job, or have physical relief, or have a deeper friendship, and find the deeper issue of security, or trust, or fellowship with God exposed. We find the need behind the need – the deeper issue behind the felt pain – and we come to see part of the redemptive power of God in answering prayers slowly and differently than we expect. It’s so that we can not only have what we perceive we need, but so that we might see what we truly need and then be truly healed in a deeper and more holistic way than we even realized.
4. Because God has chosen your prayer as His means of action.
One final reason. It’s because God, who doesn’t change His mind, may have already chosen for your prayer to be the means of action.
We tend to think of the sovereignty of God in sections. That is, we think of God being sovereign over an outcome, and if God already knows the resolution of a situation, then why should we pray about it? We aren’t going to change the outcome…
Except we are. Because God is just as sovereign over the process leading to the outcome as He is over the outcome itself. In other words, God may well have chosen not only what He’s going to do, but also the catalyst by which He is going to act. And that catalyst is prayer.