When we Christians pray we often include this statement; “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done. When we pray and ask for specific things we say “if it is Your will” bless me with such and such, or please heal my relative. But if we were honest we would probably say bless my will or, my will be done. This is my will Lord please do what I’m asking. We don't come out and say it that way we want to sound pious and we really do want God to bless what it is a we want. We don’t want to upset Him so we say “if it is your will”. If He doesn’t answer our prayer right away or the way we really want Him to we will remind Him of the time that He had the prophet Isaiah tell King Hezekiah to put his house in order because he was going to die but, after Hezekiah prayed God told Isaiah to go back and tell him that he would not die and in fact He was going to add fifteen years to his life.
2 Kings 20:1-6 (NKJV)1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.' "2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying,3 "Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,5 "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David." ' "
When you look at this it seems that if you pray the right kind of prayer that you can get God to change His mind and do what it is that you are asking. In other words change God’s mind to match your will.
When I started this series on “God’s Will Versus My Will” I asked three questions.
Can you change God’s mind?
God does not change his mind. However, we do see verses in the Bible that seem to imply that He does. When the Bible describes God, it uses human terms to describe Him. The “theological” term for this is anthropomorphic language, which is the use of human forms and structures to describe God so that with our limited human intelligence we can grasp what He is like. When the Bible talks about God’s feet or the right arm of the Lord, we understand that is just a human way of talking about God. But when we use more abstract terms like repent, which to Christians means to change our minds or our ways we try to apply that to God. If you think about it how is it possible for the Almighty Creator of the universe to change His mind about anything like He made a mistake.
There’s scriptures that seems to say that God was sorry that He made man and then on the other that He changed His mind about punishing the him.
Genesis 6:6 (NKJV)6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Exodus 32:14 (NKJV)14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
On the other hand there’s scripture that says that God doesn’t change His mind
Malachi 3:6 (NKJV)6 "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Numbers 23:19 (NKJV)19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Is God confused? —”Should I do this”? “Should I not do that”? Does He decide on one course of action and then think, “Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all, and change his mind”? But what would it mean for God to change his mind? Or are all his plans and purposes immutable (unchanging over time or unable to be changed)?
By saying the God is immutable I mean that He’s consistent, He’s the same eternally, He never changes. While He never changes it doesn’t mean that His relations to us never change. In saying that God is immutable we mean that he is consistently the same in his eternal being. We were once enemies but we are not His friends by His grace through Christ.
Romans 5:10-11 (NKJV)10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Let’s look at what happened with the ancient city of Nineveh. This is another instance where it appears that God changed His mind. God to His prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them that in forty days the city would be overthrown. The king and everybody else in the city fasted and repented, and after the city was spared, much to the disappointment of Jonah.
Jonah 3:4-10 (HCSB)4 Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!”5 The men of Nineveh believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least.6 When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes.7 Then he issued a decree in Nineveh: By order of the king and his nobles: No man or beast, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water.8 Furthermore, both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from the violence he is doing.9 Who knows? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish.10 Then God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.
When we look at it though if God had overthrown the city after then repented He would have shown Himself to be mutable (changeable). How? Well God said that if wicked people turn from their sin then they will live.
That’s God’s nature. Had He overthrown Nineveh it would have shown Him to be at one time displeased with sin, and at another time displeased with repentance.
Ezekiel 18:21-24 (HCSB)21 “Now if the wicked person turns from all the sins he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die.22 None of the transgressions he has committed will be held against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced.23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” ⌊This is⌋ the declaration of the Lord GOD. “Instead, don’t I ⌊take pleasure⌋ when he turns from his ways and lives?24 But when a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, committing the same detestable acts that the wicked do, will he live?
None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the sin he has committed.
When God declared, through Jonah, His intention to punish the Ninevites because of their sin and wickedness it was based on the assumption that they are and will remain wicked. However, if and when they repent, and they did, to punish them would constitute a change, more than that, a reversal, in God’s will and word. He would be punishing those who repented.
God is immutable not immobile. While man’s activity is change, not all activity is change in God. God reveals Himself in His Word and through His Son Jesus Christ and as I have written Jesus is God..
Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
For example, the Bible tells us that God is good, just, and loving. God being immutable means that when the circumstances or situation call for goodness, justice, or love as the appropriate response, that is precisely what God will be or do.
When we see the two examples in the post as God changing His mind we are looking at it from a human perspective but since He knows everything from eternity to eternity He knew what Hezekiah's and the Ninevites responses would be so He did not change. We live in time and space and God exists in eternity.
1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Notice that this scripture does not say, “if we ask anything according to His will”, (and we have a good feeling about it, God hears us). It does not say, “if we ask anything according to His will”, (and we are sincere, God hears us). It simply says “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us”. So, all the emotion, tears, feelings, and bargaining will NOT assure you that your prayers will be answered. It is not praying according to the Will of God. What we need to learn to do is pray with and by His Word. We need to study God’s Word and then when we have a need, find a scripture supporting our request. Then we need to pray the Word of God, pray WITH the Word of God, in the context that it was given by the Holy Spirit. Then there is no need to bargain because it won’t work anyway. God’s Will will be done.
Can you Change God’s Mind? No!!
In the next post in this series I’ll answer the question, “Can you change God’s mind?”
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.