The following was written by Dave Lindsey, a member of STF-USA. Dave and his wife Sue host a Simple Church in Whiteland, Indiana, (south of Indianapolis)
A common Christian doctrine is that God has determined when and how everything is going to happen and that He does not change, so that all of life is predetermined and it’s all God’s will. This doctrine comes from scriptures like:
Malachi 3:6 NIV
“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
We need to understand though that not every statement in the bible is universally true about God. Instead, all statements must be understood in their context. For instance, when we see other scriptures that show God does change His mind, we need to determine if a statement is universally true or if it must be confined to the immediate context of the bible.
One great lesson that shows can indeed change His mind can be found in the story about King Hezekiah. He was generally a good King that reigned over Judah from around 726 BC until 698 BC. Toward the end of his life Hezekiah becomes ill and God sends the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah to tell him that he will not recover from his illness and die.
Isaiah 38:1 NIV
In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Now if God doesn’t change then Hezekiah has no other option except to accept his “fate.” But look at Hezekiah’s reactions to this news.
Isaiah 38:2-5 NIV
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.
If all of life is God’s will and cannot be changed, then prayer becomes insignificant. Yet there are many scriptures that state the importance of prayer.
James 4:2b “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
Ephesians 6:18a “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”.
The lesson in the story of Hezekiah is that prayer can and does change things. We must understand that there is a spiritual battle raging between good and evil and that God is on the side of good. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, in other words he wasn’t going to be distracted by anyone or anything else. He humbled himself and turned to the only one who could change his current situation, God.
The doctrine that God is in control of all of life has had a negative impact on the prayer habits of too many Christians. As ambassadors for Jesus Christ, we need to help people so that they can have a personal relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ, the type of relationship that we can go to Him with confidence and ask for help in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 REV
Therefore, let us draw near to the throne of grace with open and honest speech, in order to receive mercy and to find grace to help us in our time of need.