Questions: Shouldn’t prayer be useless? Imagine you are a young teenager and your mom is sick in the hospital with cancer and almost about to die. You pray to god that she be healed and make a full recovery, but this is pointless for two reasons that go very well together. 1) God is all-knowing and has a perfect plan for you and he is never-changing (Number 23:19). God, being all-knowing, has already decided, long before the earth was even made, whether he was going to let your mom live or die on that day. His perfect plan could include something like you finding the cure for cancer because of your mom’s death. So when you ask god to heal your mother he will obviously say no because he has bigger things in store for you, whether you know it or not. So why even bother asking him if you know what he is doing is the best choice? I think god is capable of making the better choice than you. Also even if god wasn’t all-knowing Numbers 23:19 clearly states that god never changes his mind. Leaving prayer absolutely pointless.
That is an excellent question and I really had to think about it for a while.
First, I must contend with your application of the scripture in Number 23:19. I am not a theologian, but it would seem to me that God is speaking within the context of this instance. In earlier verses he very specifically blesses Israel instead of cursing them. It is only a short time later Balaam again wants to curse Israel. Nothing has changed but the location Balaam. So in this case, God does not change his mind. Within this context, it also appears to me that the statement “is not man that he should change his mind” may refer to the whimsical changing of mind for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed in that story to provoke God to change his mind.
I believe there are many scriptures which tell us God does change his mind. In Genesis chapters 6-9 Moses certainly appears to change God’s mind about destroying Israel. In Matthew 15: 22-28 Jesus appears to change his mind about healing the gentile woman’s daughter. Scripture says God changed his mind about destroying Nineveh when they repented.
So I think I am concluding that God’s character never changes, but he can alter his responses to us based on our change of heart, prayer, and actions.
The other item you mention is God’s perfect will for your life. I know that is a widely taught belief, but I am not sure it is scriptural. God wants us to love him and be humble and kind and all those other character type things, but I am not sure he is concerned about whether I buy a Ford or a Honda for my next car. I think God’s will for our lives is more what I would call “foundational”.
Now, you are 100% correct and I agree that he is all-knowing, which means he does know the final outcome of the situation you relate. So he does know ahead of time if the teenager will pray or not. But the point of the entire instance may not be in the sickness of the mother, but in the call to prayer of the teenager. I once heard the phrase “The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want, but to learn to want what God wants.” So perhaps God is calling the teenager to prayer so the teenager will be changed.
Now I also asked myself, “But if God knows whether the teen will pray, what is the point?” The point is that God is just. He act with justice. If that teen were to someday end up in hell because he rejected God, he cannot say that God did not call him into a personal relationship with him. And if the teen does respond to the call to prayer and is changed in his heart, no one else will be able to say God chose him for no reason, because the teen did choose to respond.
The concept of God’s justice is so often overlooked, but it is the reason for so many of God’s actions. We must remember that in the end, no one in heaven or hell will be able to claim God wasn’t “just”, so God must go through many actions, even though he knows the outcome ahead of time.