Does Prayer Change God’s Mind?

Picture of by Matthew Leonard
by Matthew Leonard
The Art of Catholic with Matthew Leonard

When I wasn’t hurlting like a porpoise on speed down a slip-n-slide, or trying to tear the arms off of my neighbor’s Stretch Armstrong as a kid, I often played Solitaire. (“Where is this going?” you ask.)Playing Cards

Of course, Solitaire is all about getting the right cards at the right time. And when the prospect of “winning” (a strange term when you’re playing against yourself) grew dim, I would praise God. “You’re so great, God. Thank you for life. Thank you for making me a boy and not like my gross sisters.” And so on.

In my twisted little world, I thought God would respond to some “buttering up” and give me the right card. Overhearing me from the kitchen one day, my mother called out, “It doesn’t work like that, Matt!”

And before (or after) you’re finished chuckling at my expense, take a look in the mirror. We’ve all done it. When we want or need something really badly, we “ramp up” our activities vis-a-vis God. Maybe we say a few extra “Hail Mary’s” or darken the door of an adoration chapel at midnight. “Hey God! You seein’ this?” we cry? “How about helping me out?”

Computer modeling of what I'll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.
Computer modeling of what I’ll look like playing Solitaire in 2040.

The problem with this is that Scripture (Heb 13:8) and the Catechism both tell us that God is unchangeable. You could move into the adoration chapel and it wouldn’t change his mind. (Though it might get your parish membership revoked.)

His perfect will is going to be accomplished one way or the other. We can either accept it, a choice that leads to happiness, or we can reject it, a choice that leads to misery. It’s that simple.

Still, I know some of you are still asking, “If it’s ultimately going to happen one way or the other, why bother to pray?”

Yes, God is unchangeable and his will is going to be done one way or the other. But just as there are many ways to arrive at a particular destination, God’s will can can come to fruition in any number of ways. In fact, he is constantly working around our mistakes or capitalizing on our faithfulness. Prayer is part of that faithfulness.

We pray because that’s how God set it up. It’s an homage to his providence. In fact, prayer acknowledges there is a God and that we are governed by a divine Being who is deeply interested in the affairs of our life.

Just like a parent wants their child to ask nicely (“please” is the magic word, after all), our Father desires we approach him as the children we are. Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us of our place in the supernatural order. God is Father. We are children, completely and utterly dependent upon him.

There’s certainly more to say on this subject. We’ll pick it up next week. In the meantime, keep praying and trusting!

God bless!


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