Can Our Prayers Cause God to Change His Mind? (Exodus 32:14)

10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. (NIV)

Exodus 32:10 - 14

ESV - 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you. 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, "O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

Clarify Share Report Asked January 12 2020 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
Prayer can indeed 'change God's mind'. (Luke 18:1-8, Jonah 3:10, Amos 7:1-9) [God does not repent, though, as if his first decision was 'wrong' (Num 23:19)] When God changes his mind, it is out of mercy - not because his first decision was in any way unjust. (I Chron 21:15, Gen 18:16-33)

As such, one of the reasons for prayer is to appeal to God's mercy. 

"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?" (Luke 18:7)

"The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer." Psalm 6:9

There are many other reasons to pray:

For forgiveness (1 Kings 8:30-34, II Chron 6:24-25, Jer 36:7)

For various requests concerning the body of Christ and other believers (Eph 6:18-20, II Cor 9:12-15)

For intercession (Acts 8:24, II Samuel 12:23, James 5:16) or the reverse of not praying to intercede (Jer 7:16-19, 1 John 5:16) 

So that our hearts are humbly turned towards God (Hosea 7:14)

Because God finds it pleasing (Rev 8:3-4)

For adoration of God/glorifying God: (Matt 6:9-13, II Chron 29:11, Psalm 66:3) 

For confession: (James 5:16, 

For thanksgiving: (II Cor 9:12, Eph 9:19-20)

To determine God's will: (Judges 6:39) 

For discernment: (Luke 21:36)

For reprieve from oppression or affliction (Psalm 10:17, Psalm 119:134) 

To turn our hearts from troubles or anger to righteous response: (Psalm 77; Psalm 4)

This is hardly an exhaustive list! 

God does hear our prayers, made in Jesus' name. In fact, to pray something in Jesus' name is to put the seal of Jesus' authority on it. Even if you feel sometimes that God wouldn't or doesn't listen to you [though He does], understand that God the Father does listen to His own son! This is for God's own glory. (John 14:13) 

This does not mean God will grant every wish or change every circumstance. We are stewards under Christ, and so our requests must be in line with the character of Christ.

While one will come across claims that God "cannot" change His mind as that would infer a "change in God," that charge is from philosophy and a limitation some men have put upon God. It is not in line with the merciful and character of God, who actually cares for and willingly responds to His creation, as revealed in scripture.

February 21 2024 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
I would say that the Bible indicates that God can be moved to change a course of action not only by the interceding of established believers (as indicated by the passage cited in the question), but by demonstrations of contrition from non-Israelites, as well, such as when the repentance and prayers of the people of Nineveh in response to Jonah's preaching (Jonah 3) saved Nineveh from being destroyed.

January 12 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Aurel Gheorghe
From Exodus 32:14 it appears that God sometimes, upon request, change His mind. Twice more, Moses pleaded with God on Israel's behalf (Num 14:1-16; 16:1-50) and each time God reversed His plans. 

After pleading with God not to reject Israel, God “repented” (Ex 32:14, KJV). Other translations say the Lord “relented,” “changed his mind,” “reconsidered,” “felt sorry for the people” and “thought twice” about His decision. These are human words trying to explain God’s indescribable love and compassion for His people. He didn’t relented because He was indecisive or capricious - Moses’ prayer moved His loving heart.

Another example is when Abraham asks God not to destroy Sodom if there were 40, then 30, then 20 and then finally 10 righteous people (Gen 18:24-28). In the end, God couldn't find 10 righteous people, so the city was destroyed. Yet God was willing to consider saving the city because of Abraham’s pleadings. Interestingly, God’s mercy stopped only when Abraham stopped asking. Would He have spared Sodom for 5 or only 3 righteous people? We will never know because Abraham stopped asking. 

Intercessory prayer changes God’s actions because it’s consistent with His nature. There are still consequences for those who rebel against God. Moses carried out some tough discipline for those who refused to repent. 

Lastly king Hezekiah was told by the prophet to prepare to die. Yet, Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord (2 Kings 20:1-3) and in His mercy, the Lord added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (2 Kings 20:6).

God always changes His mind when we repent and turn from sin (2 Chronicles 7:14).

January 16 2020 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

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