If God has determined everything, what is the point of praying?

‘Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.’ Exodus 32:14.

In Exodus 32, God changes his mind in response to Moses prayer, which seems to show pretty clearly that it’s worth praying!

Is it not true then that God has determined everything? Has he perhaps determined the big things of history, but left the little decisions up to the actions and prayers of man?

But surely the big things of history are always the result of lots of little decisions. And whether or not God wipes out all his people (except for Moses), is surely not one of the little decisions of life. His entire plan hinges on it!

I’ve been dwelling on this question, and I’ve found Don Carson’s talk (see below) very helpful. He makes three key reflections which we must hold together:

  1. God is sovereign over all things
  2. God is personal
  3. God is always both of these

How does a sovereign and personal God who dwells outside of time, relate to a sinful people with whom he has made a covenant? Exactly like the LORD in Exodus 32. He tells Moses (the mediator he has raised up) that he intends to destroy his people, and then relents when that mediator pleads for mercy on the basis of what he has already promised.

Moses’ prayer changed things. For God had always intended that Moses would ask, and that he would respond. Is it any different with our prayers?

So go ahead and ask!