Sometimes people wonder, “Why pray if God is sovereign?” If God rules everything, what difference can our prayers actually make? Tim Keller provides an interesting take on this question in his book, Prayer.
Why call this a “practical” mystery? The teaching is that our prayers matter––”we have not because we ask not” ––and yet God’s wise plan is sovereign and infallible. These two facts are true at once, and how that is possible is a mystery to us. We feel that if God is completely in control then our actions don’t matter–– or vice versa. But think how practical this is. If we believe that God was in charge and our actions meant nothing, it would lead to discouraged passivity. If on the other hand we really believed that our actions changed God’s plan–– it would lead to paralyzing fear. If both are true, however, we have the greatest incentive for diligent effort, and yet we can always sense God’s everlasting arms under us. In the end, we can’t frustrate God’s good plans for us (cf. Jer 29:11).
If you are looking for a great work on a crucial subject, check out Prayer by Tim Keller.