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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Does Prayer Influence God?

Charles Stanley - Does Prayer Influence God?

Charles Stanley - Does Prayer Influence God?
TOPICS: Prayer

As a follower of Jesus Christ, what is your most powerful asset? What is your greatest privilege? And what is the most practical gift God has ever given you? Well, the answer to all three of those questions is prayer. And sometimes we take that for granted. We just sorta think, "Well, you know, I can always do it when I need to". And if you ask most anybody, "Do you believe in prayer"? They're gonna say yes. If you ask them, "Do you pray"? More than likely, they're gonna say yes. And if you ask them, "To whom do you pray"? They're going to say, "To God". And then you ask them, "Well, tell me about your God," and you're gonna get all kinds of unbiblical, hazy, fuzzy answers about who God is.

And one of the circumstances that surrounds that is the questions and the doubts that often times creep up in people's lives, and they think, "Well, I do believe in God, and I do pray, but". And what happens is instead of having a prayer life of faith, they have a prayer life of "hope so". They pray and hope so. They make their request and hope so. They talk to God about their needs, their desires, and then they hope so.

God never intended our prayer life to be a "hope so" kind of prayer life. He intended it to be a life of confidence and assurance and absolute steadfastness, that we can come to Him, make our request, believe in our heart that our Heavenly Father is a God of love and of power and of grace and of goodness, and that He's there to hear and answer the prayers of His children. That's what He's up to. That's the kind of God He is. How do we get to Him? Through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the most awesome privilege you and I have to be able to talk with Him, listen to Him, and know that out of love, He's speaking to our heart.

So, what I'd like to do in this message is I want to deal with this whole issue of this: "Does Prayer Influence God?" Does it or does it not? And so, in the process of doing so, I want to answer about four little sticky questions that oftentimes are sorta laying back there in our minds. And when we pray, once in a while they'll crop up, and when they do, they diminish our faith at the moment when our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him with confidence and assurance and boldness. So, I want to clear that up.

So, I want you to turn, if you will, to a very familiar passage in the Sermon on the Mount, seventh chapter of Matthew, and beginning in the seventh verse. Some of the simplest things that Jesus ever said about prayer. And oftentimes people have the idea, "Well, all I have to do is just ask, and I'll get it". But what you have to remember is this, that the purity of our heart, listen, the purity of our heart affects the response of God to our petitions. Listen to what He says, verse seven of Matthew seven: "Ask, and will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened".

Then He asks the question: "Or what man is there among you, who when his son asks for a loaf, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" That's the kind of God He is. He is a good God who desires to give His children good things.

Now, there are about four questions I want to answer, four little haunting questions that sorta lay back in our mind that sometimes causes a problem. And so, oftentimes people will respond, and they will say, "Well, if these things are true, then why"? So, let's look at about four of them. And I want you to listen carefully so you'll be sure you hear what I say and not what I don't say. Here's the first one. Somebody says, "Well, if God already knows all of my needs... you say He's omniscient, He knows all of my needs. If He knows all of my needs, then why do I need to talk to God about something when He knows it all anyway"? Well, let's settle one thing.

Number one, you're not informing Him. You're not coming with information. And so, therefore, we're to pray to Him even though we know He says, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him". Why should you ask Him? Because here's what you're doing: you're honoring God. You're honoring Him as the source of your needs. You're honoring Him as the resource for all your desires and your needs. And what you're doing is you're honoring Him by asking Him. He wants us to ask Him. Otherwise, what do we do? We take it for granted. When things are going well, I wonder how often you stop to really and truly thank God. When do we start being concerned about our health and thank Him for it? When we are sick. When do we start being thankful for where we live? When something happens to it. What we drive? When something happens to it. Who our friends are? When suddenly they're gone.

You see, God wants us to ask. He wants us to ask because what it says is, it says, "We understand who You are. We know that You're the resource, and so we're coming to You". He says, "You have not because you ask not". Listen, just because God knows your needs is not the sign that because He knows it, He's going to meet them. You don't ask Him? Why not? Because you either take Him for granted or you're too prideful to ask Him. You say, "Well, I don't believe God, I don't want to bother God". Let me ask you, how can you bother omniscience? You can't bother God.

Well, you say, "Well, I don't think God's interested in those little things in life". Like what, for example? Listen, if it's something that you find that you would like to have an answer for, God is interested. You need wisdom and direction something? God's interested. There's some need in your life, whether it's financial, physical, material, relational; whatever it is, God's interested. He cares about what's going on in your life. So, just because He knows is not a sign not to pray.

Second question I think that often comes up is this. If God has already predetermined what He's going to do in a given situation, why should I pray? Looks like that's a total waste of time. If He's already determined what He's gonna do, why should I pray? There's a very good reason, two good reasons why we should pray when God has already predetermined exactly what He's gonna do in a situation. Number one, think about it. When you and I are praying about something that naturally God already knows what He's gonna do, why should I pray?

Here's the reason. Because as you and I begin to pray, whatever God is up to, what He's going to do is gently, patiently, quietly, sometimes quickly, sometimes over a period of time, He's going to begin to work in our will and our desire. And what happens is He brings us into harmony with His will so that when He does what we ask Him to do, or He does what He has chosen to do, we're gonna be in harmony with His will. There's no peace where there's no harmony. You can't have peace with God when you're out of harmony with Him.

So, let's say, for example, your friend is sick, very, very sick. And does God know what He's gonna do? Yes, He does. Well, if God already knows what He's gonna do, then why should I talk to God about it when He's already made up His mind? You don't know what He's gonna do. And secondly, let's suppose, for example, that God says, that God knows He's gonna take that person off the scene, gonna call him home or call her home.

Well, you say, "God already knows; why should I pray"? Because when God begins to work in our life and brings us into harmony with His will, what He's doing is preparing us, listen, preparing us with the awareness of His presence so when we walk through that stormy valley, we're gonna have peace. That's one way. A second reason is this, and that is sometimes when God already knows what He's gonna do, and He wants us to pray because you may be the very instrument that God's gonna use to bring it to pass.

Let's say, for example, your friend is sick. God burdened you deeply, and you begin to cry out to God for their healing. Well, at first you don't know whether it's the will of God or not, but the longer you pray, the stronger you become in your feelings, and the more you just believe within your heart God wants to heal them. And what I want you to see is this. God uses you as, listen, uses you as the instrument. Could He do it without you? Surely, He could. But He uses us as the instrument. Then what happens? God becomes glorified in the process. Our faith is strengthened. Then what are we doing? We're motivated to then pray stronger, more faithfully, more often about other situations and circumstances.

So just because He has determined what He's going to do does not mean that you and I should not pray. Because He want, listen, God works in cooperation with us. That is, many things He does through us. There are lots of things He could do without us. For example, He could get the gospel to the whole world without any of us, but He's chosen through the preaching of the gospel, the singing of the gospel, the written Word or whatever it might be, that's His chosen way to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And so, prayer has this awesome aspect to it that I think often times we forget.

Then there's another question that oftentimes comes up, and that's this, and that is: Does the success, listen, does the success of God's eternal decrees depend upon our prayers? Now, what is God's eternal decree? That's simply this: God's plans that He before creation determined to bring about regardless. That is, there are some things God's going to do no matter what. Pray or not pray, He's gonna get it done. And so, we think about some of His decrees. You think about, for example, He chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, his twelve sons, the nation of Israel. God chose them as His chosen people, and He says, "Here's what I'm gonna do".

And my friend, it doesn't make any difference what goes on in this world and how many councils meet and how many wars are going; it doesn't make any difference. When God decrees something, He's going to get it done. And so, therefore, our prayers have absolutely no effect on those things that God has predetermined that He will do unconditionally. Now, there are some things that are conditioned. For example, He says, "If my people who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray," then He says, "and repent of their sins," he says, "then I'll hear from Heaven and heal their land". That's conditioned upon what? If they pray. But there are some things that God says, "This is what's gonna happen, no if, ands, buts, and no prayer's gonna have any effect on it".

So, is God influenced in His decrees by our prayers? Absolutely not, have absolutely no effect upon them whatsoever. Some things He will do no matter what. But that's not where our problem lies. Because you see, suppose... in other words, if we're not to pray about those things that God has decreed, those predetermined things that He predetermined long time ago, can't do anything about that. But you and I are responsible for our life, and if we don't pray, what are the consequences?

If we don't pray about our life, there are consequences. We fall into sin, we become discouraged, we get depressed, we become fruitless and barren in life. Our life doesn't count as it ought to, why? Because you see, prayer is the thing that keeps us connected. In other words, prayer is like that power line. And where there's prayer, there's power; and where it's prayerlessness, there is no power. And you keep wondering, "Well, why is it I keep falling into sin, and why can't I do this, and why aren't my sermons effective, or why aren't my witnesses effective, and why don't I understand this, and why this and why that"?

I'd ask you a simple question. How much time do you spend before the Father seeking wisdom and guidance and direction and His power in your life? And listen, His insights into His Word, and the strength to do what you know that God wants you to do, that's the power line. You cut it off and you've got a problem. And what I'm talking about are those things that short-circuit the power line. We doubt: "Well, if God already knows, why should I pray? Well, if He's already determined, what difference does it make"? It makes all the difference in the world because we're responsible for our own life, for our own actions and lack of actions in life.

And when you get connected with Him in your prayer life and it becomes the heart and core of what's going on inside of you, you know what's gonna happen? You're gonna have a peace and joy and contentment, and listen, God's gonna begin to use you in people's lives. And you say, "Well, I want to be used of God". Then start praying. Now, don't pray this. Don't pray, "Oh God, please use me". Here's what you pray. You listening? Say amen. Here's what you pray: "God, get me fit to be used". You know what He'll do? He'll wear you out. You get fit to be used, and He'll go to work in your life.

So, you got a choice. You can live your life selfishly to yourself, doing your own thing, look back over the years and think, "What happened"? And here, the Bible talks about God wiping away all tears. You know what's gonna make us cry in Heaven? I can't prove this, naturally. None of us know exactly what's gonna happen, but I have a sneaking suspicion. One glimpse of what we could have done, who we could have been, what we could have accomplished, how we could have impacted other people's lives, and we didn't; when I think about anything that should make us tear up in the judgment, even though it's a judgment of rewards, that would be it.

Now, there's one last question. Does our prayer change God's mind? So, I want you to turn to a passage of scripture, the thirty-second chapter of Exodus, thirty-second chapter of Exodus. Let me tell you what's happening. Moses has been up on Mount Sinai and he's received the Ten Commandments and God is seeing what's going on, and here's what the Lord said to him. He said, "They've corrupted themselves". And verse nine of the thirty-second chapter says, "The LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people. Behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.'"

Then Moses cries out to God. Here's what he says, he says, "Now why does Your anger burn like this? You brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Why are You gonna let the Egyptians say that their God just brought them out there to kill them in the wilderness? Turn from Your anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," and so forth. So, the Bible says in verse fourteen, "So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people".

Now does this mean that you and I can go to God when God's decided He's gonna do something, and change God's mind? No, think about this now, think through this. Who placed the burden for God's people on Moses's heart? God did. Why did He do it? Because He saw the corruption of their heart. He knew what was going on. They're down there throwing, having this big, big party with this golden calf, worshipping a golden calf that did not bring them out of Egyptian bondage. And so here's God saying, "I'm going to punish them". And Moses crying out and saying, "Please change Your mind, don't do that". So, what happens? God burdens Moses's heart. Moses has this awesome compassion for the nation of Israel. He cries out to God, "Please, please, please, please give them another chance". God says, "Okay, all right". So, God changes His mind.

Now, now listen carefully. Are you listening? Say amen. There are three things that never change with God: His character, His purposes and His promises. They never change. So, when we think about God changing His mind, He can't change His mind about loving us unconditionally. He can't change His mind about anything that has, deals with His character, His purposes, or His promises. Can't change, He's an unchangeable God. And so when the Bible says He changed, watch what happened. So, He said, "Okay, Moses, I hear what you're saying".

Then Moses comes down from the mount and he finds all this going on, so what does he do? He reams into them a message of judgment, and he burns the golden calf. He crushes it, spreads it on all the water, and then makes them drink it. And then he calls those on his side, he said, "You who are gonna be on my side, tribe of Levi". Then he says, "Pull your sword". Wait a minute, now, he'd just been crying out to God for God not to do something like that, and they killed three thousand of them. God knew the condition of the people. He placed upon Moses's heart this awesome burden to pray for them. Did God know what He was gonna do? Yes, He did. And what happens? Moses, in his compassion for them, in his passion for them, in his love for them, sees how they are corrupting each other, and they kill three thousand of them.

Sometimes you and I will come to God and ask Him to do this or do that or do the other, and you know what we're gonna find out? God knows all along what's best. And so, while He heard his prayer, because He's a God of grace, He honored Moses's petition as intercessor. But ultimately, God accomplished His will, and that is He destroyed those who were corrupting the people. Can you and I pray and persuade God to change His mind about things? Don't try that. That's not the issue. The issue is, listen, whatever God chooses to do, He's going to do. Do our prayers have any effect? Yes, they do. A better way of expressing it is not so much that we change God's mind, but that God responds to us according to the situation in His awesome wisdom. So, we're not convincing God. We don't convince God to answer our prayer. He's willing to. We get ourselves in a position before Him whereby He is able to freely grant us the petition of our heart.

So, we don't pray and ask Him to change something that He's decreed that will happen. We ask Him to deal with those things in our personal lives that He chooses to deal with, which is every aspect of our life. And when we come to Him with a pure heart and we seek His will, He will show us; sometimes quickly, sometimes we will not know until He acts. He will show us His will. He will accomplish His purpose. He will bring us into harmony with His will and purpose when it is not at first what we want. He will meet the desires of our heart and the needs of our heart because that's who He is, our Father, our loving Heavenly Father who is good, who is powerful, who loves us unconditionally, and who is kind to us.

Does it make a difference whether you pray or not? Yes, yes, it makes a difference whether you pray or not! Does it make a difference whether you pray or not about your own life? Yes! What about the people, your friends? Yes! What about people you don't know? Yes! Because that's how much God loves us. He's willing to use you to impact somebody else's life. Now, watch this. Because more than likely, before you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you know what God was doing? Answering the prayers of somebody or somebodies who were praying for you to get saved. That is the grace of God.
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