Does Belief in Divine Sovereignty Deter Prayer?

Some Christians think that a belief in God’s absolute sovereignty discourages a healthy prayer life. In reality, though, God’s sovereignty provides us with some of the greatest motivations to pray. I’d like to highlight just two of those motivations from Proverbs 21:30-31:

There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the LORD. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the LORD.

God’s Sovereignty Keeps us from Despair.

At first glance, verse 30 appears to describe a sinless environment. Only in a world without sin can it be said, “There is no wisdom, understanding, or counsel against the Lord.” Such a condition existed prior to the fall and will exist after the return of Christ. In contrast, we see plenty of opposition to the Lord in our day. In the language of Psalm 2:2, “The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed” (NAS).

However, Proverbs 21:30 is not teaching the absence of opposition to God. Actually, it’s teaching the non-existence of human wisdom, understanding, or counsel that can prevail against the Lord (see NIV, NLT, ESV). It’s expressing the same truth expressed by the Scripture writer in Psalm 33:10-11: “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (NAS).

This is, in fact, a great encouragement to pray. The whole world stands in opposition to God. All the great intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, and world leaders take counsel against the Lord and His Christ. But they will not prevail. According to the text before us, we have the assurance that their counsel shall fail. God’s purposes and promises shall never be thwarted. Hence, the sovereignty of God should encourage us to persevere in prayer, knowing that our labors will not be in vain (see also Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 15:58; Gal 6:9).

God’s Sovereignty Keeps us from Self-Dependence.

Although the horse may be legitimately employed as a means of waging war, it should never be the ultimate ground or basis of our confidence. “Victory,” says the wise man, “belongs to the Lord.” This is why, according to Deuteronomy 17:16, God forbade the king of Israel from multiplying horses. He did not want Israel’s king to rely too heavily on the means of warfare and protection but rather to place his ultimate confidence in the Lord. And history shows that when Solomon violated this commandment, the nation of Israel began its descent from greatness to weakness and shame.

We can preach the gospel, we can pass out good literature, we can invite people to church, and we can employ a host of other legitimate means to extend Christ’s kingdom. But ultimately, as the apostle Paul puts it, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor 3:7, NAS). That ought to encourage us to pray! If success is ultimately determined and achieved by the sovereign power of Almighty God, then what better can we do than to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10, NAS).

In summary, these important verses from Proverbs remind us that a belief in the sovereignty of God does not hinder prayer. On the contrary, God’s sovereignty provides plenty of motivation to pray. Now let’s get to it!

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

Bob Gonzales bio


Dr. Robert Gonzales (BA, MA, PhD, Bob Jones Univ.) has served as a pastor of four Reformed Baptist congregations and has been the Academic Dean and a professor of Reformed Baptist Seminary (Sacramento, CA) since 2005. He is the author of Where Sin Abounds: the Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives (Wipf & Stock, 2010) and has contributed to the Reformed Baptist Theological ReviewThe Founders Journal, and Westminster Theological Journal. He blogs at It is Written.

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