When we pray, we are asking God to close the door to “undesirable realities” and show us the way to a better alternative.
There is a remarkable story recorded in 1 Samuel 23 that illustrates to us the interface between a faithful child of God, prayer, and God’s response to prayer. David was trying to keep his distance from King Saul, who wanted to kill him, but, at the same time, David was fighting the Philistines in order to keep his own people safe.
It was reported to David that the Philistines were fighting against the town of Keilah and looting it. So, “David inquired of the Lord” (vs. 2; underline that statement in your Bible). God responded to David’s prayer. Apparently, David shared God’s message with his men because they expressed some hesitation in trusting God. They responded to David: “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” (vs. 3)?
So, “David inquired of the Lord once again” (vs. 4; underline that statement in your Bible). This time, God promised to give the Philistines into David’s hands. So, David responded to God and had success in driving the Philistines out of Keilah.
But then, King Saul heard that David had holed himself up in Keilah, “a town that has gates and bars” (vs. 7). Notice Saul’s message to his own men: “God has delivered him into my hand…” There will never be an end to people who think and believe and act as if God is on their side. God was not on King Saul’s side. Saul was deceiving himself. The only way to know if God is on our side is to make sure we are on God’s side!
David heard that King Saul knew they were in Keilah and that he was intending to ambush Keilah and kill David. So, as David was in the habit of doing, he prayed to God (note verse 10). “Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard?” (vs. 11). God responded to David’s prayer: “He will come down.” David asked: “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” (vs. 12). God responded to David’s prayer: “They will deliver you.”
So, David took his 600 men and left Keilah, and this particular event concludes with the statement in verse 14: “God did not deliver him [David] into his hand [Saul’s].”
What we have illustrated here is that there is an “alternate reality” that parallels the lives we live. David’s “alternate reality” was being delivered by the men of Keilah into the hands of Saul. God told him it would happen! But, David responded to God’s message and it did not happen. This shows that some of God’s predictions depend on man’s response.
The reason it did not happen—the reason God did not deliver David into Saul’s hand was because: (1) David prayed to God; and (2) David responded to God’s answer. The “alternate reality” would have happened if David had not prayed and responded accordingly.
Now, God did not violate His will or His nature in answering David’s question. The “alternate (undesirable) reality” was a possibility. When we pray, we are asking God to close the door to “alternate (undesirable) realities” and show us the way to go by opening the door to the desirable alternative. Prayer is not asking God to violate His will nor His nature. He can change our future without changing either of those invariables.
Yes, prayer changes things.