I need to address something that is hindering the American Christian’s prayer life, and try to make something clear to our understanding. Please hear me carefully when I say there are some misunderstandings, or misapplications, of key Characteristics or Attributes of God which leads many good Christians to pray less! You know what attributes are right? Attribute = A Tribute. A Tribute to God’s character/nature, such as: Unique—Infinite—Eternal—Immense, etc. Are you with me here?
I have been encouraging prayer in believer’s lives, and more so within the Church since 1992. And in all that time I have noted that the greatest hindrance to Christians praying is a misunderstanding of two of God’s great attributes which are: His Sovereignty and His Immutability.
- The Sovereignty of God! God is Sovereign! This is true, but many blame great tragedies on God being Sovereign. They say, “Well, we just have to trust God’s Sovereignty, He’ll work things out.” Or they’ll say, “God’s in control!” or “God Knows!” And they will do nothing, and pray less about serious matters. Again, God is Sovereign, but too many of His children misunderstands or misapplies His Sovereignty. They are blaming God for things happening in our world that God is not doing. It does not mean that God is always going to do whatever He wants. He has His unique desired strategy of rule.
Sovereign is made of two words—“Sove” meaning “Supreme” and “Reign” meaning “Rule” or Ruler; “Supreme Reign” or “Supreme Rule.”
God is Supreme Ruler of the Universe; however, He gave stewardship of the earth to us, man. The problem was He gave dominion over the earth to man, to Adam and Eve, and they lost it. They lost it through a deception that triggered their God-given freewill to make a wrong choice. God allowed that choice to stand in the face of His Sovereignty!
God’s Sovereignty is a natural result of His Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence. What’s at issue to misunderstanding is, to what extent God applies His Sovereignty—specifically, how much control He brings to bear over the wills of men.
God has the power and knowledge to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so anything that does happen must, at the very least, be “allowed” by God; nothing in the Universe happens without God’s permission!
The reality of human choice/freewill (and human accountability) sets the utmost boundary for God’s Sovereign control over the Universe, which is to say there is a point at which God chooses to allow things that He does not directly cause.
God’s “Sovereignty” means that He is absolute in authority and unrestricted in His Supremacy. Everything that happens is, at least, the result of His permissive will; even if certain things are not what He would prefer. The right of God to allow mankind’s free choices is just as necessary for true Sovereignty as His ability to enact His will, wherever and however He chooses. There are times when God will not interfere until a believer chooses to enact his right and privilege to pray for God to change a course of action.
“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezek. 22:30) God is Just! There are consequences to evil, sinful actions, but He is a loving, merciful Father Who hopes someone will plead for the people.
James tells us, “Ye have not because you ask not!”
Many believers will pray less, or not at all, about important things because of a misunderstanding about how God operates in His Sovereignty! None of this is meant to imply that man has any sovereignty or control over God.
The second Attribute misunderstood is . . .
- His Immutability
This means that God does not change, has never changed, and will never change. That is to say, He cannot change His Character, nature, purpose, or ultimate plan, but the Bible gives us several examples that indicate that in certain desperate times, His love and mercy longs for someone to change His mind. The Book of Jonah gives us a prime example of such a time.
1 “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
So Jonah ran to Tarshish instead on a boat in his anger. There arose a storm—he was thrown overboard—God the great prepared fish, which swallowed Jonah. Amazingly, it took three days in the belly for Jonah to get over his anger at God’s command to preach a warning to an evil people he hated. Then, and only then, did he cry out to God.
2:1 “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.”
10 “So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”
God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh a second time to preach warning of destruction in 40 days!—they all repented!
3:10 “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” God relented; softened; changed His mind!
If we prayed more from a position of abiding in Him, God may change His mind—interfere with disaster—bring healing to extend life—bring rain in a drought season—what do we need rescuing from? Submit to God—Pray On!