Do Prayers Change God’s Mind?

Humans Always Change; God Never Does

Humans Always Change; God Never Does
We as humans often change our minds. We like something one minute and don’t like it the next. We may feel good about someone one day and not like them the next day. We may believe one thing at one time, then learn new information and change our beliefs completely. So often we try to see God as we are, as One who changes or changes His mind. However, I don’t believe He changes His mind, at least not in the sense that we do.

God is Not Like Us
The Bible says God is always the same – He never changes.  He does not have moods. He does not like someone one day and dislike them the next based on feelings. He also does not learn new information that may cause Him to change His mind, because He knows literally everything. However, we definitely see God hearing the prayers of men and although it may appear that He changes His mind based on man’s prayers, He does not change at all.

Intercessory Prayer
Consider this passage in Exodus 32, where Moses prayed to God to avert His wrath:
Exodus 32:9-14 NASB  The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and 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 entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.  “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. This passage gives us the classic example of what is called an intercessory prayer. Moses intercedes for the Israelite people when God was ready to destroy them because of sin. This Bible version even uses the terminology that God “changed His mind.” However, in Numbers 23:19 it says God doesn’t change His mind. Malachi 3:6 God says He changes not. James 1:7 says with God there is no variation. So what’s the deal?

Circumstances Changed – God Did Not
So what happened between the time God was about to pour out His wrath and the moment God had mercy instead? Intercessory prayer – which changed the circumstances. A man stepped in the path of God’s wrath and prayed for the people who deserved the wrath. You see, God would have acted on His wrath, which is wholly consistent with His unchanging character. But when a man steps in and prays for the people, the circumstances changed. At that point, God acted on His mercy, which is also wholly consistent with His unchanging character.From a man’s perspective, it seemed like God “changed His mind.” But in reality, God did not change. The man Moses changed the conditions through prayer so that God could extend mercy instead. The same is also true of salvation through Jesus Christ. God had every right to destroy all men because of sin. However, Jesus stepped in and changed the circumstances, bringing us under a New Covenant of grace and mercy so that we can be saved.I imagine God’s wrath like a lava  flow coming down a mountain. If you are in the way, it will certainly harm you. But if you move out of the path of the lava, you will be safe. The lava did not change its path nor did it cease to have the hot destructive characteristics of lava. You just moved. So that is what intercessory prayer is like. It allows a change of environment, from one of danger to one of safety, without violating the eternal unchanging nature of God.The good news in all of this is, in Christ, God hears you when you pray! So intercede for others and for your nation in prayer.