Does prayer change God's mind?

In Revelation 22:13 God describes Himself saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." God is omniscient. He has known His plans for the world since the beginning of time. God does not change His mind because He already knows what is to come (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 46:9–11).

Some people have questioned the notion that God is unchanging because of examples in Scripture where God seems to regret His actions or change His mind. For example, in Genesis 6:6 God says He regrets creating man because of their sinful ways. The Hebrew word for regret used in this context is nacham. While this word can be translated as regret, it also means to feel sorry, to have compassion, or to be comforted. God does not regret creating humankind, but rather feels sorry that they have fallen into sin. Likewise, God sends Jonah to Nineveh to tell the people to repent or He will destroy their city. They repent and God "relents" and does not destroy them. Scripture uses the word nacham here again. This is not to say that God regretted His decision to destroy them or that He changed His mind, but rather that He was comforted by their repentance and had compassion on them. First Samuel 15:29 says, "And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that He should have regret."

So if God has already made up His mind, why should we pray? The Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing, in faith in Jesus' name (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Matthew 21:22; John 16:24). We should pray with the right motives, depending on God alone, and choosing to obey Him (James 4:3; Matthew 7:8; 1 John 3:22). Ultimately, Scripture instructs us to pray in God's will. "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him" (1 John 5:14–15).

Prayer may not change God's mind, but it does change our hearts. Prayer is how we communicate with God. Through prayer God reveals His character to us. We learn that He loves us and wants what is best for us. He knows our needs and our wants and already has a plan to fulfill them. He imparts wisdom to us and speaks truth to us. Little by little He transforms our hearts so that our will becomes His will.

Prayer does change things. God is omniscient and sovereign. His mind does not change. But God does use prayer as part of carrying out His will. He uses it to change us, and He uses it to draw our attention to His participation in circumstances. Prayer is mysterious in many ways, but it is a privilege gifted to us by God, through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, so that we can communicate with Him and participate in His work in the world.

Related Truth:

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What is the importance of daily prayer in the life of a Christian?

What is the power of prayer?

Does God hear my prayers?

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