God is God.
God has a will of his own for the church and its operation and for the world and its governance. Ephesians chapter 1 outlines for us that God has goals that he wants to see achieved in our world, in his Church and in our individual lives. Listen to Paul’s words to the Ephesian Christians. (1:1-11) Note the emphasized words in the passage.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He (pre)destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been (pre)destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.
God is not without purpose in the world. He has a mind of his own and an agenda of his own. From the first days of creation to the end of History God is working out a grand design. He gave to humanity a partially finished creation, with mortals becoming co-workers with him in bringing the whole creation to its intended end. God then has a game plan, which includes our participation. We participate with him by work and prayer.
Of course the issue has been raised, “If God is God, why does he need my prayers at all? Or why do I need to pray for myself or my world at all? If God knows what I need before I ask, isn’t asking a bit of a waste of time? And if he is omnipotent, why does he need my work at all? Why does he not just handle it himself?”
Some smart whit has written a poem called “God and I had a garden” which goes on to say when God had the garden to himself it ended up being a real mess of weeds and waste. But when I helped him we finally got it right. But there is a valid insight in the poem. God has so designed the universe that he has made himself dependent upon mankind for both work and prayer. Here is the true humility of God! He calls us to be workers together with him, but he has also made himself a worker together with us. We are to be co-creators, co-workers with him in this world. We are not unemployed spectators watching God do his thing, but the creation will rise and fall upon our cooperation with him.
But the question comes to the fore: What does God do when my prayer and his will collide? Does he give in to my will and roll over and play dead? Or does he ask me to surrender to his will.
If he is God, and he is, then my prayers will have to surrender to his wiser choices. He lets me be a worker with him through deeds and prayers, but when I ask for that which is not his will, because he is God he reserves the veto power for himself. When we ask for things that are not in accordance with his will, is he upset with us? Oh No! We have not sinned or offended heaven with our dreams. God simply says, “Sorry! That would never work.” and no offence should be taken by him or us.
But there are times when we pray a prayer and God says, “You’ve got it! By George, You’ve got it!” and he responds with working in his world differently than if I had never prayed. (Read C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, “Work & Prayer”. p. 104-107 for further discussion of this issue.)
But it still remains that because he is God, he exercises his gracious overruling on our prayers so that his greater design will flourish for the good of all.
John Calvin, one of the Protestant Reformers in the 1500’s, for this, among other reasons, defends the Sovereignty of God. God is God and when push comes to shove his will trumps ours, and his prayers for us trumps our prayers to him.
Can we live with that without grumbling too much? I hope so.