Does God also answer before we pray?

In 1 John 5:14-15 John tells us we can be absolutely assured “that if we ask anything according to God’s will, he hears. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Assuming, then, that what we’re asking for is according to his will, like the ability to love one another in chapter 2:23, we know he’s heard us and we know he’s answered.

Ah, but when did he hear us, and when did he answer? Did he wait for us to pray and then answer? Or did he know we’d be praying that prayer, and rather than wait until we asked it he already answered it? I mean, if he knows us that well, and he knows what the Holy Spirit has put into our hearts (Romans 8:27), why wait until we finally form the words that express what’s already in our heart?

This was stirred by an intriguing statement by C.S. Lewis that “We can (in our prayer) at noon become part causes of an event occurring at ten a.m.” In other words, we may be praying at noon for some event to happen that God already answered and made happen two hours earlier, because he knew at 10 a.m. that we’d be praying about it two hours later. God already answered, therefore, two hours before we asked.

Does that mean, then, that God has already decided the outcome before we pray? In which case, why bother praying if God’s already decided? But that’s not the point Lewis is making. Here’s what he’s saying in more detail: “When we are praying about the result, say, of a battle or a medical consultation the thought will often cross our minds that the event is already decided one way or the other. (And) the event certainly has been decided. But one of the things taken into account in deciding it, and therefore one of the things that really cause it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering.”

He’s saying my prayers may well be the cause of events that happened before I prayed. In other words, my prayers after the event may have been part cause of the event happening earlier, because God knew I’d be praying about it. God still decides the outcome, but he decided the outcome based on a prayer he knew I’d be making later.

Who knows what events God has already made happen based on a prayer I’m making now? But if it’s according to his will he hears. Or better put, he already heard it – and answered it – before I thought to ask.

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