Why pray if God has already made up his mind?

“Please, Dad, the sun’s come out, can we go to the park?” “No, son,” Dad replies, “I already decided to make today clean-up-the-garden day.” And the son shuffles away disheartened, because when Dad’s made up his mind, that’s it, he’s not open to any ideas but his own, and there’s no room for appeal. The answer to every request is, “Whatever Dad has decided.”

So why bother asking for anything, when it’s already been decided what’s going to be done? And is that how it works with God too? – because in 1 John 5:14, God listens to prayers “according to his will.” It sounds like our requests are limited to what God has already fixed as his will, and there’s no point in asking for anything else.

But in 1 John 3:22, we “receive from God anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” Think what that would do to the relationship between a child and his Dad. Dad’s got a son who loves him, and Dad is so moved by that he tells his kid, “Anything you want, son, it’s yours.” This doesn’t sound like God has made up his mind at all. He hasn’t decided ahead of time what he’s going to do. Instead, he ‘s open to all kinds of ideas from his children. He wants to hear what we have in mind, and he’s willing to answer all of it.

And that’s God’s will for those who “believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” and “love one another,” verse 23. To believe in God’s Son is to believe we are God’s children as much as Jesus is, because his Father is our Father too. And because we’re God’s children, we take on the nature of God’s children. Can you imagine what that then does to our prayers? – because as God’s growing children, our requests in prayer are more and more for other people and their needs, just as Jesus’ prayers were. And according to John, God loves listening to us, and he’s open to all our thoughts and ideas. We can appeal to him on behalf of others (just as Jesus appealed on behalf of Peter – Luke 22:32), and we can reason with God as to the best course of action in a difficult situation (just as Moses did in Numbers 11:1-2), and we can even change God’s mind (Exodus 32:9-14).

God is open to whatever we ask, because what we ask for has the Spirit behind it (1 John 3:24). As a child of God, then, we can ask and God’s response may well be, “Sounds good to me; let’s go with it.”


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