Does God ever change his mind? Or is he an unblinking cosmic stare that will do whatever he wants no matter what?
I know for me, I’ve been praying my entire life and for a very long time I believed that it did absolutely nothing and had no impact on this world. It was then that I stumbled upon The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, and my mind was officially blown. The chapter on prayer totally changed my perspective on prayer, its purpose, and its effectiveness.
Today I want to ask the question, “Does God change his mind?” For the longest time my answer to this question was a resounding “no,” but this answer definitely conflicts with what we see in the Bible. There are two instances in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) where God actually changes his mind as a result of prayer.
The first example is in Exodus 32:10-14. In this story we see the Israelites rebelling against God and as a result God tells Moses he will destroy the Israelites and start a new nation from Moses alone. In response Moses reasons with God and asks Him to change his mind about his people. He boldly asks God to change his mind about harming His people, and God ends up changing his mind in verse 14.
The second example occurs in 2 Kings 20. Hezekiah, one of the great kings of Israel, is about to die and God tells Hezekiah that he will die and not live (2 Kings 20:1). As a result, Hezekiah prays and reasons with God in verse 2-3. As a result of this prayer, God changes his mind and adds 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (2 Kings 20:4-6). In this example we see again that God does in fact change his mind.
When we ask questions about prayer like “does it work?” and “will it change anything,” we also must remember the question behind the question. What is God really like? Abraham Joshua Heschel states in his writings that the supreme barrier one often faces in prayer is not the words of the liturgy but rather the way one understands the nature of God. I know for a very long time my own perception of God was a significant barrier I faced in prayer, and one I still wrestle with. In the next post we’ll take a look at two very humorous and insightful parables Jesus told in the synoptic gospels in order to challenge his listeners and refine their view of God’s character, and how that relates to prayer specifically.