Q. I’m confused about something and would be grateful for your help. Does prayer change God’s mind? Can someone be moved to the head of the line if we pray hard enough? (Cuba, Missouri)
A. To answer this question, we first need to admit our limitations. I cannot pretend to know the mind of God. No one can, so long as we are still on this side of heaven.
But what I do know is that Jesus told us to pray. He said that whatever we ask for in prayer will be granted (Mk 11:24; Jn 15:7), and he even said that we should pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5:44).
Throughout the Scriptures, which we believe to be inspired by God, we are instructed to pray for the sick (Jas 5:14), for leaders of government (1 Tm 2:2), for ministers of the Gospel (Eph 6:19).
I do not think that prayer changes God’s mind. In his infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, God already knows what’s going to happen.
But that divine plan, I believe, takes into account the fact that we will pray for certain things and is guided in advance by the prayers that we will offer. So people, in my view, don’t “jump the line” because we pray for them; they are already standing at the front because God knew from all eternity that we would do exactly that.
As I said, I don’t purport to know exactly how it all works, and I look forward to grasping it better when, hopefully, I arrive in God’s presence. Meanwhile I will continue to pray for others, especially those in particular need, because Jesus told me to — and I trust that they will continue to pray for me.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, NY 12203.