If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?
We are responsible for our lives. That is stewardship. But God is sovereign. How is that possible? How can we be responsible for that over which God is sovereign?
When a large business deal I had worked on for six months looked like it wasn’t going to close, I asked my wife and son to pray about it with me.
When it was my turn to pray I basically begged God to let the deal go through, then concluded, “God, you already know what’s going to happen. In fact, you have sovereignly decided what is the pleasure of your will. Give us wisdom not to miss the way.”
When I finished, my son asked, “Dad, if God has already decided what’s going to happen, why pray?” Good question.
God is sovereign but we are also responsible. The Scriptures lay down these two ideas side-by-side, without apology, and without much explanation. In fact, we see this principle throughout the Bible. Here are a few examples. You probably know of others.
- “In his heart a man plans his course (our responsibility), but the Lord determines his steps (God’s sovereignty)” (Proverbs 16:9).
- “The horse is made ready for the day of battle (our responsibility), but victory rests with the Lord (God’s sovereignty)” (Proverbs 21:31).
- “Unless the Lord builds the house (God’s sovereignty), its builders labor (our responsibility) in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
- David wrote, “I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies” (Psalm 44:6). David didn’t trust in his bow, but in God. But neither did he throw his bow away! He used it with all the skill he could muster.
- Paul writes, “To this end I labor (our responsibility), struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (God’s sovereignty)” (Colossians 1:29)
- Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it (our responsibility), but God made it grow (God’s sovereignty)” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
On top of all this, God invites, even instructs, us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).
This idea that “God is sovereign but we are responsible” lies at the heart of stewardship. At its core, stewardship means receiving all our abilities, resources, love, relationships, spiritual gifts, possessions, and places as “gifts on loan” from a sovereign God. It means to keep an attitude of accountable responsibility tempered by profound gratitude.
Frankly, why would we want to pray to God for help unlessHe is sovereign? Because He is sovereign, it actually means something when we pray.
Yours for changed lives,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.