Yesterday, I began to address the difficult topic of how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and prayer. These questions arose out of a study in Acts 12 that clearly shows that God is sovereign over the entire situation – both in James being martyred as well as Peter being rescued from imminent death. The passage also demonstrates clearly that even fervent but faithless prayers have great power.
And so the logical question before us is:
If God is sovereign and ordains every detail of history, then why bother to pray?
In the first blog post I addressed logical statements and then questions of prayers of adoration as well as confession. We can see that prayer in these two cases benefits us more than it benefits God and therefore, the reason to pray in these two ways is for our growth and sanctification.
But what about intercession – praying for someone else’s needs (as the church was doing for Peter in Acts 12) as well as supplication – praying for our own personal needs before God.
In searching Scripture I found two reasons for praying in this way that helps to reconcile God’s sovereignty.
God Commands Us To Do It
Alright, I’ll start out with the one that probably won’t sit well with you or end the conversation. Although this is the one that should end the discussion. We pray because God commands us and invites us to pray regardless of the results. He both instructs us and offers to us the ability to bring our prayers for others and for ourselves before His throne whether the results turn out in our favor or not.
James 5:13-16 states:
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, modeled this for us by praying for Peter in Luke 22:31-32 as well as throughout the gospels. If God Himself here on earth can pray for others and pray for Himself, then we are to follow His example. Because prayer does affect change because the God who is sovereign, commands us to pray, and uses those prayers to bring about His will.
The second reason that Scripture teaches that can help us reconcile God’s sovereignty with prayer is a thing called concurrence. Concurrence is that the actions of two or more parties can occur simultaneously, or at the same time, and work together even if those parties have different intentions or roles.
An example of concurrence would be in the life of Job. During Job’s life, the Chaldeans stole some of his camels. The Chaldeans were looking for some hump-backed mammals to add to their mix, Satan was trying to discredit Job’s faith, and God was allowing these things to happen to prove his servant’s faith. All three parties had different intentions and yet all three contributed to the situation concurrently, and God was still sovereign over the entire situation.
The same is true with divine providence and human responsibility. The same is true with God electing and saving sinners through the preaching of the gospel and His Word. And the same is true with God’s sovereignty and prayer.
True Biblical Calvinism and reformed theology does not state that humans are mere puppets with no action. No, God is sovereign over the ends as well as the means and He uses people concurrently to preach His word, pray for the lost, pray fervently over needs and sufferings, and to be part of the means.
God calls us to be as a farmer to plow the fields, sow the seed, and water the land just as we preach the gospel, pray at all times, and disciple those brothers and sisters in Christ. And God will work in and through those things to accomplish His perfect and good will all the while being sovereign and in control.