Does Prayer Ever Limit God?

“Can we limit God by the way we pray?” someone asked recently in a book study I’m part of. I don’t think he expected an answer. But I’ve been pondering his question for a week now.

My gut response is, No, that’s ridiculous. God is all-sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing. How could a feeble mortal like me ever limit Him?

The question actually makes me a bit squirmy. I mean, God does as He pleases. That’s an essential part of being God, right? And He knows infinitely better than I do how to work out the affairs of the universe, so that’s a good thing. *

I thought about the view of God some people have—that He’s somehow obligated to fulfill our requests for comfort, health, and prosperity. In that view, we “limit” God by the smallness of our faith or our inability to find scriptures to support our petition. That’s a scary thought to me. I certainly want, in fact, need, God to limit me when I pray those kinds of prayers. If He didn’t, imagine what a mess the world would be (remember the movie Bruce Almighty?).

But still, I couldn’t let the question go. So I took it to God. I asked Him if, somehow, I limit Him by the way I pray.

As I waited quietly, He brought to mind a point of anxiety and frustration in my spiritual life.

You don’t really think I can change you. You think that somehow you stand in the way of My being able to transform those deep-rooted attitudes and responses. In that sense, you limit Me. As you remain in that unbelief, you remain unchanged. You think that past experiences predict future outcomes. That would be true if it depended on you. But it doesn’t. If you stop doubting and let Me in to do the work, I will help you. But I need your cooperation. I need you to trust Me and believe that with Me, this heart-change is truly possible.

As His words settled into my heart, something shifted. Hope stirred that hadn’t been there before. New thoughts came to me—life-giving thoughts. I even had some creative ideas about a specific situation that had been burdening me. Instead of trepidation, I started to feel eagerness and curiosity to see God at work—in me and through me—in that situation.

So, can we limit God by the way we pray? I still want to be cautious about how I respond to that question. However, I can see that in at least one area of personal transformation, I did.

Thoughts from the rest of you?


*For a powerful treatment of this question, you may want to read Charles Spurgeon’s sermon entitled “Limiting God.” It’s not a quick or easy read, but it’s certainly a convicting one!


One thought on “Does Prayer Ever Limit God?

  1. Karin says:

    I agree. It all boils down to faith. If we pray prayers that honestly can be accomplished by ourselves, where’s the faith and how can we expect God to do mighty things. Instead, we should pray God-sized prayers, ones that seem impossible to us, but are certainly possible with God.

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