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Does Prayer Change the Mind of God?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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August 24, 2022 9:00 am

Does Prayer Change the Mind of God?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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August 24, 2022 9:00 am

Have you ever heard the saying, “Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes me”? Pastor J.D. is going to challenge that sentiment head-on as he continues the series, ASK.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. God has sovereignly placed you in certain situations precisely for the purpose of praying his promises and changing his plans. For you to employ divine power to create a different destiny than the one that everybody's headed to. And God sovereignly puts you there to let you see that problem.

For you to ask. He wanted you to be there. That's why he placed you there. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, so have you ever heard the saying, prayer doesn't change God, prayer changes me? I know I have, but is that really what scripture teaches us? Pastor J.D. is going to tackle this sentiment head on today in a message he's very practically titled, Does Prayer Change the Mind of God? And you just might be surprised at what he has to say.

Don't forget, you can reach out to us at or give us a call at 866-335-5220 anytime. But for now, let's grab our Bibles and open our hearts to what God has in store for us today. If you have your Bible, take it out and open it to Exodus 32. Exodus 32, we're in our third week of a series on prayer. We've called that series Ask, and it comes from the idea, the observation that you could summarize all of Jesus's teaching on prayer, simply with the word ask.

Just ask is what he taught us. Today, I want us to consider a mystery in prayer, one that I know troublesome of you and will even keep you from praying. Sometimes when I'm bored, I like to ponder life's greatest mysteries, things that really stretch my mind and blow my mind when I try to think about them too much. Like, for example, the word bed, you know, it actually, when you spell that, looks like a bed. And I think, wow, that was somebody intended that.

That's genius. It just blows my mind. Or when I learned in the eighth grade that Yoda and Miss Piggy were voiced by the same guy. Again, I just messed up my entire world when I found that out.

Everything came crashing down. Or the thought that I had the other day that when I'm in a restaurant waiting on my waiter to bring me food, that I'm the real waiter. And again, everything just kind of mind blown. Or in middle school, in middle school, when somebody pointed out to me that if a ghost was trying to kill me, he was really just trying to make me his best friend. And it all just, it all seemed to be better then. I wasn't scared anymore because he just wanted friends.

And that's why he was haunting me. Or how about this one? Reading is essentially staring at dead trees and hallucinating.

That's right. Everything's coming unraveled for you now, isn't it? Let me tell you something I've learned to say, by the way, it impresses people. I turned the subtitles on TV when I watch TV, so I can read what's being said. And then when somebody asks me the next day what I did the night before, I say, I read for a couple hours. And it just sounds like I'm a lot more brilliant, right?

So you should try that. Here's the last one. There are no children left on earth who were born in the 20th century. Everybody who was born in the 20th century is now officially an adult. Isn't that mind blowing?

Isn't that depressing? Well, today's subject is one of those things that will really blow your mind if you think about it too much. Maybe not as much as the bed one, but if you think about this one too much, it's the question of what role our prayers have in changing God's plans. In other words, do our prayers actually convince God to do something that God was not otherwise planning to do? Because as I'm going to show you in a minute, there are scriptures that clearly indicate that God's purposes are eternal, that God knows the end from the beginning, that nothing ever surprises him, that is it ever dawned on you, that nothing ever dawns on God. And because of that, God's plans are unchangeable and they are unstoppable. Well, does that therefore mean that prayer is really more for us, that it's a way of changing us?

I mean, maybe you've seen the plaque. I think you can buy one in a Christian bookstore. It's a kitschy little, you know, like picture and it's got a sunset on it. And it says something like prayer doesn't change the situation. It changes me. And man, that just sounds so spiritual like, yeah, it changes me.

But is that really what's happening? Do our prayers actually change the future or do they just change us? So I want to, what I want to do in this third week in our series on prayers, I want to explore a story that I think answers that question, or at least shows us how to think about that question. It is an amazing story, though I warn you, it will hurt your mind a little bit if you try to understand all that is going on. As we walk through this story, I then want to, after we get through it, I want to use the central truth that we find in it.

We're going to take a slightly right turn. And I want to use that to answer another question that I know we deal with. And that is this persistent plaguing question of what about unanswered prayer? Now you might say, but JD, we talked about that on the first week. And you told us that Jesus's answer to the question of unanswered prayer was to pray persistently and trustingly.

Yes, yes. But even with that answer, I know that many of us still struggle with why some prayers never seem to get answered. You prayed, it just made so much sense to you.

It seemed like any loving God would answer that. And you can't figure out why God didn't answer a certain prayer that you prayed. And you're like, I don't think the answer is to pray persistently. For example, maybe you pray for somebody to be healed and they died. And you're like, well, it doesn't make much sense to keep praying persistently about that. Or maybe you prayed for somebody to come to faith. And as far as you know, they never accepted Christ before they died. Or maybe you're 60 years old and you've prayed for 40 years that you would get married.

And now you're in your 60s. And you're like, even if God answers that prayer now, it's not like I could go back to when I was 20 and live these last 40 years over again. Or how about this one? Maybe you've got some inward struggle or some addiction and you've asked God to deliver you from that struggle or that addiction, but God hasn't. And you honestly cannot figure out why. You're like, surely that is something that God would want to do. And for example, a friend of mine says that whenever you see a teen in church with a same-sex attraction, the first thing that you are dealing with is an unanswered prayer.

Because most teens who have this struggle have prayed, pleaded for God to take it away. And often just as troubling for them as the attraction itself is why God has not answered their prayer. And some of Bart Ehrman's works, Bart Ehrman is a famous skeptic professor over at UNC. In some of his works, he talks about how when he was in college and he still believed in God, that he was starting to experience all these doubts and he prayed, pleaded for God to take away his doubts. And he couldn't figure out if God was really real, why God didn't take away his doubts. And he said, that made me conclude that God was not really there after all. For many, this issue of seemingly unanswered prayer is why you walked away from church altogether. It's why you lost faith in God.

For others of you, maybe it hasn't done that, but it's at least dampened your confidence and your enthusiasm for prayer. What we're going to get into today is going to give you, I believe a framework for approaching that question. But first let's just kind of walk through the story and then I'll take it where I think we ought to go with it.

Okay. Exodus 32, does God change his mind? In Exodus 32, Moses is up on Mount Sinai with God. Moses has gone up into the mountain to receive the 10 commandments. God had actually pointed fact here, invited all of Israel to go up in the mountain with Moses, but Israel was scared. They didn't really trust God. And they said, no Moses, we don't want to go up there and be with God.

You go by yourself as our representative. Well, Moses ends up being gone a little longer than he had expected. And so everybody just freaks out thinking that God and Moses have now abandoned them. Now, mind you, this was a totally insane freak out because why would they think that God had brought them all the way up to this mountain just to forget about them there? I mean, do you remember what had happened to them in the last month? Let me, let me go over there last month for you.

Here's what it looked like for the last few weeks leading up to this moment. God had just delivered them miraculously from the most powerful empire at the time through a series of 10 supernatural plagues. And then just as a finishing touch, as they're leaving on the way out, all the rich Egyptians take off their jewelry and give it to them as a going away present for no real reason at all. It was just so that they could leave and go to the promised land with some bling. Then God leads Israel through the desert, through a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. Then he splits the red sea open in front of them so they can walk through on dry ground. And then when the Egyptian army tries to chase them, he closes it back on top of them so they have no more enemies. Then God miraculously supplies them in the desert with food and meat every single day.

And just for an extra touch of awesomeness, he keeps their shoes from showing any signs of wear during their several mile journey to Mount Sinai. And now they think God has abandoned them. I mean, can't you feel God up in heaven, just kind of shaking his head saying, what is wrong with you people?

You really feel like after all that, I brought you here to leave you. We do the same thing, of course, which I'll explain at the end. But the point is, here's Israel blind, ungrateful and unbelieving. And they say, we need a new God because our other God has left us. And so they take off their jewelry that the Egyptians had given them and they melt it down and they create a new God, a golden calf. And they put it in the middle of the camp and they start to worship around it.

They get crunk and they have an all night orgy around it. This is Exodus 32, not Franklin street or Hillsborough street. It's Exodus 32, Exodus 32 verse seven. And so the Lord says to Moses, go down Moses for your people. By the way, whose people are they?

Whose? I thought they were God's. I mean, this is like one parent saying to the other, look what your son is doing right now, right? For your people who you brought up out of the land of, excuse me, who brought them up? I thought God brought them up. God's like, you brought them up.

Right? Keep going. You have corrupted themselves. Let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. I'll wipe them off the face of the earth. And then I'll start over with you, Moses, and I'll make of you a great nation.

But Moses implored the Lord is God. He prayed and he said, Oh Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against whose people? Your people.

Who? Who brought them up? You brought them up. By the way, is he rebuking God?

I mean, he's just corrected God twice in one sentence. Hey, not my people. They're your people.

And you brought them up, not me. Out of the land of you with a great power and with a mighty hand right now. Why should the Egyptians say with evil intent, did he bring them out to kill them in the mountains? God turned from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

Verse 13. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. Remember God, remember them?

Remember those guys? You did all the work in their life. Remember that you swore by your own self. And you said to them, I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven. And all this land that I've promised I'll give to your offspring and they will inherit it forever. God, don't you remember you said that? Have you forgotten God?

This was your promise, not mine. And the Lord relented the most amazing verse. I'm thinking the book of Exodus and the Lord relented. Some of your translations say repented. What it literally means in Hebrew is changed his mind. And the Lord repented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

What in the world is going on? Moses prayer convinces God to change his mind by reminding God of something that he evidently had forgotten. And he rebukes God in a sense by saying, hey, they're actually your people, not mine. Was God just having an off day? Did God forgot to do his quiet time that morning?

What was going on? Did Moses really change God's mind? I mean, that's what it says.

You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Isn't it true that we usually blame our lack of prayer on a lack of discipline? And so we try to fix it by making resolutions. But really, it's not so much a discipline problem as it is a theology problem. Deep down, we really don't feel like prayer makes a difference.

And even more, we don't realize the love that God has for us and therefore his desire to answer. So this month we are offering a bundle of resources to help make praying regularly a little easier. It's three books, each called Five Things to Pray. They will cover how to pray for your city and community, for your kids and for your parents. And the more that we can embrace God's heart for these most important relationships, the more we can not only grow closer to those we love, but we can praise him for how he's at work in their lives. This resource comes with your generous gift to the ministry right now.

So give us a call at 866-335-5220 or check it out at Now let's get right back to today's teaching. Here's Pastor J.D. Here's what's even more confusing. Moses, the same author who recorded this story, was going to say in the next book that he wrote, or one of the books he wrote after this, the book of Numbers, Numbers 23 19, God is not a man that he should lie or a son of man that he should change his mind. By the way, in Hebrew, it's the same word, the same word relented or repented. So in one place, in Exodus, Moses said, God changed his mind. In Numbers, Moses says, no, no, no, God's not a man.

He never changes his mind. So what, how, what do you do with that? I'm going to give you three truths that you're supposed to hold in tension.

Let me give you a little warning for you that are engineer types or accountant types. There is something in the Bible that will perpetually annoy you. Okay. And it is that because God is here and even the smart of us, our minds are like way, way, way down there. There's a lot of things that you and I will never be able to totally get our mind around. And instead of being contradictions, we have to resolve their tensions that we have to choose. We have to hold intention. This is one of those.

So if you're trying to work this out on a math sheet and not be able to carry the one and have no remainder, you're not going to be able to do it. But what you're going to see here are three truths that are clearly taught in the story that you and I are supposed to hold intention. Truth, number one, God's purposes are unchanging. Y'all verses like Numbers 23, 19 are crystal clear. God is not a man. God never learns anything new. God does not wise up with experience.

Nothing surprises him and nothing changes his mind. Isaiah, the prophet will concur with this. He's going to say, God, Isaiah, the prophet will concur with this. He says, in Isaiah 46, I am God.

There's nobody like me. I declare the end from the beginning saying my counsel will always stand and I will accomplish how much? All of my purpose.

Nothing is going to not happen that I have not purposed. The apostle Paul is going to agree in the New Testament. In Christ, we have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works what? All things according to the counsel his will.

So there you have it. Moses, Isaiah and Paul, I would argue to you are the three most significant Bible writers just in terms of the amount that they contribute to the Bible. And all three of them are saying exactly the same thing. So it is very clear that God's purposes are unchanging, but truth number two, you got to hold intention is number two, God's plans are unfolding. You see this story says that God changed his course of action based on Moses' prayer.

Here's the irony of the story. God was the one who told Moses to go down and see the situation. Verse seven, Moses didn't have any idea what's going on. God's the one who sees it and he's like, hey, Moses, go down for your people have corrupted themselves. Moses doesn't know about it.

God's the one that points it out. Furthermore, the very thing that Moses uses to change God's mind is God's own promise. God, of course, had not forgotten his promise. Moses didn't really need to remind him as if God had forgotten. When you put all this together, what you see, listen, is that God had placed Moses into a situation so that Moses would see the problem, remember God's promise, and then petition God to change his course of action. In other words, God wanted Moses to ask this. So he sovereignly put Moses in a place where he would see the problem and then remind God of his promise, which leads me to number three, the third truth to hold intention. Our prayers are instrumental.

Y'all, the text is clear and we got to take it at face value. Without this prayer, God would have destroyed Israel. This prayer was instrumental in getting God to change his course of action.

And I know for many of you, your minds are starting to spin and you're like, well, wait a minute. What if Moses had refused to pray? Would that have meant that God would not have saved them? And then would that have meant that it wasn't God's will after all to save them? And what does that mean for me? If I failed to pray for somebody that God wants me to pray for, does that mean that the thing that I didn't pray for wasn't really God's will after all, or would God have just gotten somebody else to pray for?

And you feel like your mind is about to explode. I've told you before that these are the wrong questions that you and I are supposed to ask about these situations. Scripture never teaches us to think about the will of God that way. It's beyond us to think this way. It teaches us to think in a different way. One of the best illustrations of that is a statement that I've used with you in a number of places in different parts of the Bible. One of these days, I'll come up with a better statement or I'll find a new one, but for now I haven't found one and it's just so down to earth and clear. So for those of you that have heard this before, I apologize, but for those of you that haven't, this is like, this is how you're supposed to think about it.

It's a quote from a guy named A.A. Hodge, who was a 19th century Princeton theologian. Here's the way he asked this. Does God know the day that you'll die?

What do you think? Yes. Has he appointed that day?

Yes, he has. Can you do anything to change that day? No. Then why do you eat? To live. What happens if you don't eat? You die. Then if you don't eat and die, then would that be the day that God had appointed for you to die?

All right, good question. Quit asking stupid questions and just eat. Eating is the preordained way that God has appointed for living. In this story, God would say, quit asking stupid questions and just pray because prayer is the preordained way that God has for executing his will on earth. God has hardwired the universe so that it runs on prayer. Moses in this story does not dwell on the unchangeable purposes of God as he does the unchanging promises of God and how they apply to the situation. What you and I are supposed to take away from this story is that God has sovereignly placed you in certain situations precisely for the purpose of praying his promises and changing his plans. For you to employ divine power to create a different destiny than the one that everybody's headed to and God sovereignly puts you there to let you see that problem, for you to ask. He wanted you to be there, that's why he placed you there.

I want you to let that really just sink in for a minute, okay, before we move on. God has sovereignly put you in the situation now with all the problems that you see, with all the dysfunctional people that are a part of your life. He puts you there to see it and to remember his promise and to release his power into the situation. Like Moses, he has sent you down into a family or a group of friends or a neighborhood.

Some of you have looked around at your family and you have thought, how did I become a part of this family? Why did God give me these people to call my family? The reason is because he puts you there as his emissary. He wanted somebody to see the problem and he wanted somebody to believe in God's willingness to help and you are his instrument, like Moses, you have been sent down. What I'm trying to tell you guys is the system is rigged.

The whole system is rigged. He put you there sovereignly in that place to perceive the problem, believe the promise and release his power. You see a lot of times when people talk about the sovereignty of God, they talk about it as if it keeps them from action. They say silly things like, well, if God's sovereign, then what does it matter what I do?

Because if I don't do it, then somebody else will just do it. Scripture actually points you to the exact opposite place. It is realizing that God sovereignly puts you in places as the instrument of his power.

That's what actually gives you the motivation to pray and the confidence to speak. Once I was sitting next to a lady on a plane as we were headed to Taipei, I was headed to go visit a few of our missionaries over there and I sat next to this lady. I didn't know who she was. And I know she was reading the David Jeremiah book.

David Jeremiah is a very popular radio preacher. So I strike up a conversation with her and I'm like, well, where are you headed? I knew she was headed to Taipei, but what are you doing? And she said, well, she said, you know, I retired about a year and a half, two years ago. She says, I made a lot of money really fast. And I just, she goes, I'm gonna be honest with you. I'm trying to find myself.

I'm just still not happy in life. And I'm trying to find meaning and find the supernatural. She says, I guess you could call it a search for God. And I said, does he live in Taipei? And like, you know something?

I don't know. And she said, she laughed. She said, no, he doesn't live in Taipei as far as I know. She said, I'll be honest with you.

I've had sort of a really disappointing experience. I'm really attracted to the way of life over there, but I'm really not any closer to answers than when I started. She said, I just came back to the United States because my sister has gotten really sick and we don't think she's going to make it that much longer. And, and I know that, you know, she might pass away and we're about the same age and I might pass away. And she goes, I'm just so confused. And I'm not really sure.

I'm not really sure right now. I said, well, what's with the David Jeremiah book? She said, well, I was flipping to the radio stations and I came across this guy named David Jeremiah, and he sounded like he knew God. So I thought, well, I'll buy his book and maybe he can lead me to God. And I said, well, what have you thought as you read it? She said, I don't know.

She, I've only read a few pages, but I'm just honest, I'm confused. And I don't know where to turn. And I've said, God, if you're out there or if you're up there, would you please reveal yourself to me? And I said, ma'am, I don't want to be too presumptuous, but I think God has answered your prayer. We've got eight hours.

Okay. And so I pulled out my Bible and for two hours we sat there and I just walked her through just moment by moment of the life of Jesus. And, and we got toward the end of that two hours. And I said, ma'am, how many people do you feel like are on this plane?

She said, I don't know about 250. And I said, probably right. And out of all these people, you and I got a sign to sit next to each other. I'm telling you, you have prayed for God to show himself to you. And this is what God is trying to do and not anything special, but I'm just God's instrument in the moment. And he wants you to belong to him.

And it was somewhere over the Pacific that she bowed her head and put her trust in Christ. Now I know, I know what some of you cynical and skeptical people are sitting there saying, you're like, let's have happens to you. Cause you're a pastor. No being a pastor in that situation is a liability. Okay. When they found out I'm a pastor, they clam up and start apologizing for their friends or whatever they did.

It just, it's bad. The reason that it happens to me, the reason that it happens to me is because I have learned to live with the awareness that God is always at work around me. And he never accidentally puts me anywhere. And so when I opened my mouth, I'm just opening it in faith, saying, I wonder what my heavenly father is up to and why he had me sit next to this lady on this plane. The same thing would happen to you. Not if you learn a ton about the Bible or become super eloquent. It would happen to you.

If you simply began to live with the awareness that our sovereign God has sovereignly put you in a situation to see a problem and believe a promise and to release his power. Now let me just give one little caveat. It's not like every time I open my mouth that this kind of thing happens.

Okay. Three out of four, maybe nine out of 10 times, it goes nowhere, but I'm telling you this awareness gives me such incredible confidence because I realized that I have a sovereign father Exodus 32, who says, go down and see that. I'm putting you there to see it because I want to use you to release my power into that situation. What a powerful truth here on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. If you like this teaching and want to hear more just like it, you can find us online at So J.D., we're offering a bundle of three books right now called Five Things to Pray that cover three different yet related personal topics.

What would you say is the best way to use this bundle of resources? Yeah, Molly, these are three books that I use and that I'm happy to commend to our Summit Life listeners. Each of these guides will give you instruction and biblical promises about how to pray for an aspect of your life, your kids, your parents, or your community.

There's also a little space on each page for you to write in the names of specific situations. Every prayer suggestion is maybe what I appreciate most about this series. Every prayer suggestion, every prompt is based on a passage of the Bible. The prayers that start in heaven are the ones that are heard by heaven, and it's a way of you praying God's words and His promises back to Him to engage and enact His promises in your life.

Take a look at this bundle of resources right now at It's something I'm happily and enthusiastically commending to you because I think it'll make a difference in your prayer life. This bundle of books comes with our thanks when you donate right now. The suggested giving level is $35 or more, and every penny you donate is used to advance the gospel through this ministry. Give today and ask for your set of five things to pray books when you give us a call at 866-335-5220.

That's 866-335-5220. It's even easier to give on our website at I'm Molly Bittovitch, so glad that you were with us today. Be sure to listen again tomorrow as we conclude our short study on prayer called Ask here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-06 08:28:13 / 2023-03-06 08:40:10 / 12

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