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Getting to Know Our God and Jesus – Part 4

Our prayers are not only to impact and change us, but at times, they can impact God and Jesus and change how they might accomplish His will.
Read Time: 9 minutes

God’s Amazing Flexibility

Another area in which we have had to modify our understanding over the years is the matter of God’s willingness to change His pathway in response to what His children ask of Him. We have learned to sit back no longer passively and wait to see what God will choose to do in our lives, but rather consistently talk to Him and ask for specific outcomes if it is His will. This approach to how God works in our lives makes prayer powerful. Our prayers are not only to impact and change us, but at times, they can impact God and Jesus and change how they might accomplish His will.

Consider the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. There’s no doubt at all why Jesus gave this parable. Luke records that Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (v. 1).1 We used to call this parable “the parable of the unjust judge,” but you can see by context that it really isn’t so much about the judge as it is about the persistent woman.

God hears our prayers and may respond to our cries

At the parable’s end, Jesus says, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (v. 7). So the parable’s point is to illustrate that God hears our prayers and may respond to our cries. Let’s be like the persistent widow and keep asking and talking to God!

We need to be patient in our requests to God. It’s His timeline and His family. Abraham and Sarah had to wait over thirty years to have the child of the promise. Isaac and Rebekah had to wait twenty years to have children. Jacob waited almost forty years after holding on to the angel while begging him to do something to save his family, to see his family finally grow spiritually.

Joshua and Caleb waited almost forty years to finally enter the promised land, even though they had not failed in their faith. David struggled and fled from Saul for about fifteen years after being anointed King to finally become King over Judah. Patience, patience, patience! It’s God’s timeline, and He wants us to grow our relationship with Him to the point where we will trust Him in everything.

Sometimes, God Will Accommodate Our Requests

In Genesis 18, Abraham talked to the LORD and asked if He would spare Sodom if there were fifty righteous, then forty, and finally all the way down to ten. The amazing part of this incident is that the angel was willing to spare the city for Abraham’s sake if he found ten righteous in Sodom. Abraham did not think it was wrong to ask and believed God could modify His plan if He found ten righteous in the city.

Some might think that since Abraham talked with an angel, only angels, not God, can modify their plans. But the point here is that plans can sometimes be modified if we ask. Later, we will see that angels and God sometimes modify their plans because believers request a change.

Gideon was very afraid of the job God asked him to do in Judges 6. Gideon twice asked God for a sign with the fleece, and each time, God was willing to provide the support Gideon needed to increase his faith. When the Lord told Samuel (1 Sam 16) to anoint a new King beside Saul, Samuel was afraid. He said to the Lord, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” (v. 2). So God compassionately dealt with Samuel’s fears and created a plan to accomplish the goal without Saul knowing in order to protect Samuel’s life.

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” (v. 2-3). God could have just told Samuel to “Go as I told you!” but He understood Samuel’s fears and modified the plan to help Samuel through it. 

Remember when Hezekiah held his huge Passover and invited people from the north to attend? The Bible records:

For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chr 30:18-20). 

Notice the direct link in the record that the LORD heard Hezekiah’s prayer, so He healed the people. Our God is not a rigid ruler waiting for us to break a rule so that He can punish us! He is a compassionate, loving heavenly Father who understands our weaknesses and is willing to bend the rules and accommodate us in our times of need. What a wonderful example of how we must learn to deal with our children and ecclesial members who are trying to aim at God’s high standard but who, at times, fail.

Notice how Jesus handled the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. Jesus tried to escape the Pharisees, who were attempting to drive a wedge between Jesus and his disciples. On the way to the region of Tyre, the woman of Canaan cried to him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (v. 22).

The disciples asked Jesus to send her away, and Jesus tried to explain to her he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, but the woman kept coming (just like the persistent woman in the parable). Finally, when Jesus saw her faith, he responded to her continual pleading and healed her daughter. This healing may not have been in Jesus’ plan for that day, but he responded to the sincere pleas of a faithful woman and modified his plan.

Jesus lived and responded much like God.

In fact, not only was his plan for that day modified, but he realized God was showing him this was a turning point in his ministry and that he needed to go back to the Gentile area of the Decapolis, where he then feed the 4,000, many of whom were Gentiles! Jesus lived and responded much like God. He listened to the crying and pleading of a faithful woman and responded by modifying his plan to accommodate her needs.

As we come to know our God and Lord Jesus better, we too can learn to respond to the needs of others, even if it involves modifying our plans.

Sometimes, God Will Change His Revealed Pathway

Remember when the angels rescued Lot from Sodom in Genesis 19? They told him to “Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” But Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords! (v. 18).2 Wouldn’t you think that Lot would do whatever the angels asked after being rescued from destruction in Sodom by the grace of God? But he feared disaster would overtake him in the hills and he would die, so he asked permission to flee to Zoar, and the angels modified their plan to accommodate Lot’s fears.

When Moses was gone for forty days up in the mountain, and the people rebelled, the LORD said to Moses:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you. (Exod 32:9-10).

But Moses pleaded with God, reminded him of how the Egyptians would view this, and also mentioned the promises to Abraham. So “The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (v.14). This angel was ready to wipe out most of the nation right then and re-grow it from Moses like he had done earlier with Abraham. But because of Moses’ pleading, God modified the plan.

Notice that in the end, because of their unbelief, most of this generation died off in the wilderness, and God swore in His wrath that they would never enter His rest (Heb 4:3; Psa 95:11). In the end this did not change the result, but because of Moses’ pleading and asking, God modified the plan to let them live for now and raise the next generation. As God reminded Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.” (v. 33).

When the Assyrians invaded Israel and Hezekiah became sick, the prophet Isaiah told him:

Thus says the LORD, “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover,” but then Hezekiah prayed and wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had walked very far, God told him to go back and tell Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria.” (2 Kgs 20:1-6).

If Hezekiah hadn’t responded and prayed, he would have died without a son, and one of his brothers or uncles would have become the next King. When God saw his sincere response, God agreed to add fifteen years to his life and deliver him and Jerusalem from the Assyrians. This is a dramatic lesson for when dreadful things happen in our lives. God is waiting to see how we respond, and He may change His intended pathway depending on how we deal with and respond to the situation and what we ask of Him.

Sometimes God Will Work With the Pathway We Choose

Most of the time, we need to decide on a pathway moving forward prayerfully and then faithfully continue in prayer that God will bless our plan or make it clear that this is not a good pathway. In Genesis 24, Abraham made Eliezer swear not to take a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites but to go to Paddan-aram to find a wife for Isaac, and God blessed Abraham’s pathway.

Note in verse 12 that Eliezer understood and used Abraham’s method when he prayed that God would bless his mission and provide a woman who would give him a drink and water his camels. From Abraham, Eliezer learned that he could choose a pathway and then pray that God would bless that choice.

When Saul forced David to leave the land (1 Sam 21), he decided to live near Achish, king of Gath, in Philistine territory. David was very afraid of Achish, so he pretended to be insane when he came before Achish. We might think this was just a clever plan by David, but he revealed his fears and his dependence on God to bless this pathway in Psalm 34 when he wrote:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psa 34:4-7)

David completely put his trust in God’s ability to bless the choice David made, and somehow make it work against all odds!

In Esther 4, Mordecai reminded Esther to trust that God could bless his plan to have Esther appeal to the king for her people. Mordecai didn’t know for sure God would prosper his plan, but he did know that if Esther remained silent, she and her father’s house would perish, and God would provide deliverance from another place. That’s how faith works! We choose a plan to move forward, knowing God can bless that plan, but also very aware that He might decide to go down a different pathway. It’s all God’s choice, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” (Rom 8:28)

God Can Even Use Our Mistakes and Sins to Bring About Good

The most impressive case of this is in Genesis 50 when Jacob died, and Joseph’s brothers made up a story about Jacob requesting that they beg Joseph to forgive their sin and all the evil they did against him because they thought once Jacob was dead, Joseph would punish them. Joseph clearly states that he knows, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (v. 20).

Joseph learned how to forgive people who plan and carry out evil against him, by trusting that God is in control, and has the power to turn evil intentions into good for those who love God. God did this with the covenant with the Gibeonites in Joshua 9, and He even allowed David to father Solomon by Bathsheba after he committed adultery and murder. When Onesimus ran away from Philemon, God had Paul convert him and then sent him back as Philemon’s brother in Christ!

Some Outcomes Are Fixed With Only One Pathway God Will Use

The clearest case of this is when Jesus prayed in the garden for God to find another way to save us all besides his own crucifixion. Jesus totally understood that God’s pathway can be altered, so he asked for another way. But at the same time, he realized that God fixes some pathways and will not be altered. So, he trusted his request to his loving Father and submitted with “your will be done.” (Matt 26:42).

You will find similar situations in Abraham pleading for Ishmael in Genesis 18, David pleading for the life of his first child with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12:16. Jeremiah had to be told not to continue praying for his people (14:11; 15:1). In all these cases God had determined a pathway that would not be altered, and faithful people had to submit to God’s choice and let His will be done.

God and Jesus are flexible with us

The Lessons For Us

This article has been all about the power of prayer. Our loving heavenly Father and Jesus, our Savior, listen to all our prayers. They have the power to accommodate us by making pathways work that we choose, or by changing pathways they have chosen. In any case, we need “always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) because we know they are in control.

When we realize how flexible our God and Jesus are with us, it should motivate us to be like them and accommodate the needs of others whenever we can. Our faith must grow to become so strong that we believe God will bring about our eternal good no matter what others do to us, which pathways we have chosen, or what events are the will of God that we cannot change. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18).

Sue and Jim Styles,
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA

  1. All Scriptural citations are taken from the English Standard Version.
  2. This is one of the places the Sopherim changed Yahweh to Adonai because they couldn’t understand how Lot would call the angels “Yahweh.” Google it!
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