Can Prayers Affect Predestination?

Hello readers. Welcome back to Deeper Waters, the place where we dive into the ocean of truth! At the moment, we are studying the Christian doctrine of God and our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This can be read for free at We’re going to wrap up our look at predestination tonight and ask the question of if our prayers can affect predestination in anyway.

Interestingly, I recall a professor of mine recently asking this question. Does it do any good to pray for the salvation of our friends? If we believe that free-will is what is involved, then how can it be that we pray that their will will be coerced in such a way that they will come to salvation? If we believe it is all in the hand of God, then we cannot pray that he will change his mind of course. If they are to be saved, they are to be saved.

Aquinas points to the Scripture where Isaac prays and the womb of Rebekkah is opened so that she may conceive. Jacob however was numbered among the predestined. Obviously, this was part of the eternal plan of God, but the eternal plan of God took into account the temporal prayers of Isaac.

This is a question we ask however not just about salvation, but about anything else. Why do we pray if God already knows the outcome? One aspect to consider is that God acts eternally knowing always what we will pray and he does take future prayers into account. For instance, suppose you receive word of a friend who has been in a car accident except the event happened yesterday. You begin praying for your friend. You’re told the next day that surgery will be required and you begin praying for the surgery. However, like the car accident, you hear all the news a day after it takes place so you pray for the success of surgery, for instance, the day after surgery.

God sees that future prayer however and takes it into account. Now Aquinas does have reasons elsewhere for why prayer can’t change the past. The point to make is that the events that God has done in the past are done knowing what you will pray in the future. They are unchanging realities, but they are not done without the input of the saints.

While our prayers cannot change the fact that someone will be saved according to Aquinas, they can affect the secondary means whereby that event will come about. This could be just a person somehow maybe having to go to a hospital and hear the message of the gospel or having a blessing such as a pregnancy or a marriage and getting to hear the good news.

My final piece of advice is that while we may differ at times on the doctrine of predestination, let’s all remember that what matters is the salvation of souls for the glory of God. I will gladly minister alongside a Calvinist, Molinist, Arminian, or anyone else provided they hold to the essentials of Christianity. I would rather lead someone to Jesus than to my particular view on soteriology. Let us pray for the salvation of the lost, but let us also pray that the laborers will be sent, and that if those laborers are to be us, we will be faithful.

We shall begin a new topic tomorrow.

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