“To declare that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God…His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills.” ~Arthur Pink
Either our God is completely sovereign, or He’s not.
Wouldn’t you agree?
I ask this because I’ve often heard some popular phrases that would imply that we as mere mortals possess a trigger that releases God’s great power. To hear it, you would think that He, the Creator of the Universe, is somehow immobilized, waiting for a cue from us before He does anything. Here are a few I’d like to contemplate with you:
– For God’s word to be effective, you must speak it…
– We unleash God’s work when we claim His power…
– God is “at work” in my life (however well-meaning this sounds, I don’t remember putting God on my payroll. Do you?)
Can we “hold Him back”, as if we can tie His arms behind His back with our unbelief or behavior?
Taken a step further, if we say the right words or believe long enough, does that “allow” God’s response?
It comes down to this: Are we the supreme authority or is God?
Who pushes the power button?
In considering these questions, I found that scripture does have some overriding principles on this topic:
1) If we really believe God is sovereign, then we know that His will – WILL be done no matter what.
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19)
The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission.
2) If God is sovereign over all things, then He is sovereign over man. Take the words of Daniel 4:35:
“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (NIV)
Wow. I don’t think you can get any more straightforward than that. So where does that leave us? If He doesn’t need our help, and there is no way we can somehow manipulate him, why pray?
Part of the sovereignty of God is that chooses to use the prayers that He instills within us – and not because we initiated it. The balance lies in that He is the one that first moves our hearts towards prayer in His will in the first place, guiding our decisions as we go. There is a divine mystery in how God mingles our prayers with His overriding plan. He uses and includes them towards His purpose.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
But wait…here’s where it can get confusing. There are scriptures that do seem to refer to prayer as being a force that influences God. James 5:16 says that “the prayers of a righteous man availed much”, while 1 Peter 3:7 warns husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way “so that your prayers will not be hindered”.
Interesting as it may seem, both of these scriptures and others like it represent the biblical principle that our obedience (or lack of) does effect our prayer life. We are encouraged to live in righteousness to reap the natural blessing of answered prayer. Furthermore, who first made that man righteous? It is God…so it all begins and ends with Him.
In the same manner, prayers can be hindered as a result of our own sin. If a parent takes away the privileges of a disobedient child, that child’s blessings were hindered by his own doing, not because he has short-circuited the parent’s ability to bless him.
Sometimes I grieve at the role reversal that we Christians often assume. We still continue to fall for the same ancient lie that we “will be like God”. (Gen. 3:4-5). God said to the rebellious Israelites as He still says to us today:
“You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay?” (Isa. 29:16).
I don’t know about you, but it is a great relief to my soul to know that my life does not depend on my faith in my own faith. I would blow it every time! I am blessed to know that God gives us faith in Him to trust His control in all things.
What about some instances when God seemed to change His mind in response to prayer? I can think of a couple in the Bible, like Abraham’s prayer over Sodom and Gomorrah, (Gen. 18: 16-19) or Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 20) for a longer life. In the next post, We’ll tackle them head on. Hope you can stop by and chime in!
How are some ways you think we can get caught up in an unbiblical perspective of our own mortality?