If God has already planned my life, why should I pray?
Some teach that God has already planned every year, month, day, second and the details of our lives. They may refer to James 4:15 which says,
Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” James 4:15 (NASB)
They understand the verse in a very rigid way. They believe that God has determined every detail of our lives. Others understand the verse to mean that God directs only on specific occasions and times. But which understanding is correct? Therefore, the question is, “Has God already planned my life? If so, why should I pray?”
If The Lord Wills
In the Greek language, there are four “If” conditions. The “If” condition in James 4:15 is a third class Greek “If” condition. A third class “If” condition in the Greek language refers to a situation of probability. That is, James 4:15 says that it may be probable or not probable that God will allow us to do something. The verse does not say that God has determined every action we take. Yet, it does inform us that we do not know what God will allow us to do.
Isaiah 14:27 tells us that if God has planned something, we cannot stop Him from executing His plan.
For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back? Isaiah 14:27 (NASB)
God can even stop nations from fulfilling their plans.
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples. Psalm 33:10 (NASB)
Even though we may have planned an event, we may not be able to execute our plan. God may overrule our plan by causing other events to interfere.
God Interrupts and Motivates Changes
Sometimes God changes our plans by using our life circumstances. Other times He internally motivates us to change by the Holy Spirit. An example of God using circumstances to influence and guide a couple occurred when a husband and wife had a water leak in their house. They called a plumber to correct the problem. In the process of repairing the inconvenient and disappointing leak, a natural gas leak was found in their home. Later they gave thanks to God for the water leak because it caused the workmen to find the natural gas leak. God had intervened in the affairs of their life, but as an act of grace for them.
Another example of God accomplishing His will through circumstances occurred when Joseph’s eleven brothers plotted against him and sold him into captivity (Genesis 37:18-36). Genesis 37-50 teaches us that God used Joseph to save many people from a massive famine. Eventually, Joseph was reunited with his father and brothers. Genesis 50:20 reveals that God used it for good.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:20 (NASB)
Ezra 1:1 teaches us that God can internally move us to change our mind by the Holy Spirit.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom . . . Ezra 1:1 (NASB)
God also prevents us from executing our plans on occasions. A simple example is recorded in Acts 16:4-7 where we are told that the apostle Paul and his team wanted to go into Bithynia and preach the gospel, but we are told the Holy Spirit prevented him.
Not Everything Is Planned
While many other examples exist of God changing our plans, it is important to read James 4:2 and realize that God has not planned everything in our lives.
You do not have because you do not ask. James 4:3 (NASB)
Notice in this verse the Holy Spirit tells us that we “do not have because we do not ask.” This means that there are some things we do not have because we have failed to ask. That is, God has not planned every detail in our lives.
Another example that reveals God has not planned everything in our lives is given in James 5:16-18.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NASB)
Here we are told that Elijah prayed. When he did, God stopped the rain. Three and half years later, God started the rain once again.
God has not planned everything in our lives as revealed in James 4:3. God has not determined which sins we will commit. James 1:13-15 teaches us that God is not tempted by sin nor does He tempt men to sin. When we sin, we choose to sin. God has not planned everything in our lives. He has given us great freedom, but it has boundaries. Our lives are like a road. We can drive our car down the left side, right side, or down the middle of the road. We can even zigzag our way down the road. But God will not allow us to climb the curb of the road or travel off the road. James 5:2 reveals that God has given us much freedom to live as we desire. James 4:15 is simply a humble acknowledgment that God may change our plans. Christians should humbly desire that God’s will be done in our lives and also acknowledge that God may change our plans. We should desire that He change our plans if they are not the best for us or are not God’s will (Romans 8:28). “Lord willing” acknowledges that God may change my plans. When Jesus told us to pray in Matthew 6:10, He told us to desire that God’s will is done.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 (NASB)
This includes changing our plans! Why should you pray? First, because your prayer may change things, if it is according to His will. Second, God tells us to pray at all times in the Holy Spirit.
Devoted to prayer . . . Romans 12:12 (NASB)
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit . . . Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving . . . Colossians 4:2 (NASB)
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)