Friday, November 11, 2016

P2 Does prayer change God, or does it change me?

Image result for Moses praying
Psalm 106:23 "Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him, To turn away His wrath from destroying them."

In yesterday's post we began consideration of Moses intercession on behalf on the nation of Israel. Israel had been worshipping a golden calf while Moses was atop Mount Sinai, receiving the ten commandments. God told Moses to get down to the people and to leave Him alone, since He was about to destroy them and start anew with Moses. Moses' intercession led to the statement in Exodus 32:13 of "God changing His mind". We attempted to understand how God's immutability (that quality of God that describe Him not changing) relates to Biblical statements that assert His "changing His mind". We concluded yesterday with an illustration of wax melting in a car in the heat of the sun. We noted that just like the hot wax changing from solid to a liquid, we in our prayer times change in the light of God's unvarying presence. Today we want to conclude this short study by asking yet again: does prayer change me or God?

So, prayer changes me, not God
To cut to the chase, as the heading suggests - prayer does change us, rather than God. When Moses was praying to God on behalf of Israel, did God experience change within His being? Scholar John S. Feinberg in his volume "No One Like Him", page 271, notes: 

"So it appears that God must be immutable in his person, purposes, will (decree), and ethical rules, but he can change punishments for disobeying his commands without changing anything else about himself that must remain stable."

With regard to the interpretation of Exodus 32, Feinberg notes on page 274 of the same book:

"In this case as well, God must forego completely destroying Israel because of His covenant promises to Abraham (promises Moses reminds God of), promises that are unchanging. So God changes His relationship with Israel because of His unchanging covenants and unchanging moral governance of the world. The way the Biblical writer reports this is to use the anthropomorphism (a figure of speech ascribing human qualities or features to something) that God "repented" of the evil He had planned to do." 

So in the case of God, no internal changes occurred. He ever remained all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, loving and so-forth. The manner of His dealings with people will differ with respect to changes either in that person or in the situation. 

Moreover, in cases of intercessory prayer, God chooses to use such prayer as a means of carrying out His will. From the vantage point of Moses and us, God appeared to change. However, concerning God's perspective, His intentions of preserving Israel never changed. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary makes the following observation: 

"In answer to the prayers of Moses, God showed his purpose of sparing the people, as he had before seemed determined on their destruction; which change of the outward discovery of his purpose, is called repenting of the evil."

The point of the comment is this: inwardly, God never changed. Moses' experience of God's activities in prayer observed what appeared to be a change: a change in dealings, a change in how God's actions were going to affect His people.  

Closing thoughts:
As Adrian Rogers as noted: "The prayers that reach in heaven start in heaven. God closes the circuit." Would it be today that as we intercede on behalf of others, that God would change us. Would the light of His unvarying presence shine through the windows of prayer so as to mold and shape us, resulting in us releasing a sweet aroma unto Him - the aroma of prayer. 

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