The following question was submitted to the religious writer of the Winston-Salem Journal: “Can prayer actually change God’s will?” While the answer given by the writer contained some good observations, the most important point seems to have been missed. The fundamental truth to remember in answering such a question is this: It is God’s will to hear and answer the prayers of His people. Therefore, if the natural course of things is going one way, God may, in answer to a prayer, intervene and grant the request.
There is a clear example of this found in Isaiah 38. Hezekiah, the king, was sick and destined to die. The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, told him, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.” (Isaiah 38:1) Hezekiah then prayed for his life. He said, “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” (Isaiah 38:2-3) God then sent Isaiah back to Hezekiah with this message, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.” (Isaiah 38:5) Did God change what He had just said was going to happen? Yes. Certainly it was a complete reversal. Did Hezekiah’s prayer actually change God’s will? No, certainly not. To hear and answer the prayers of His people is a part of God’s will.
Of course, we need to remember that sometimes God says, “No.” He says “No” because He knows what is best. (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) But that’s another lesson.