Prayer and the Attributes of God

  • April 2017 Issue
Theology Matters

The believer’s confidence in prayer is grounded in two fundamental attributes of God: His omnipotence and His omniscience. The divine attribute of omnipotence describes His power, and the attribute of omniscience describes His knowledge.

Our hope in prayer is rooted in the fact that God is unlimited in His power. He can bring to pass anything He wills. God is the Creator who brought heaven and earth into existence by His word (Gen. 1:1–3). God’s omnipotence entails His sovereignty. He is ruler over all (Ps. 103:19). His omnipotence means that all God does must be consistent with His nature. For instance, God cannot lie or break His promises (Num. 23:19). He is not the author of sin.

Divine omniscience is a result of God’s perfect knowledge. He knows everything before it comes to pass. He knows our thoughts, desires, and actions. The psalmist declares: “Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely” (Ps. 139:4). This perfect knowledge means that God understands what we need better than we do. This is why Jesus told His disciples not to babble like pagans hoping to impress God with the number of their words, “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8).

This certainty should not make us less inclined to pray; indeed, just the opposite. If God knows what we need before we ask, then we can be confident that He will take our requests seriously. If He has a better sense of what we need than we do, then we ought to make our requests without reservation, confident that He will only grant those answers that are in our  best interest. 

If He is omnipotent, we can pray in the certainty that nothing that we ask according to His will is beyond His ability to grant. As John Newton’s  hymn about prayer says, “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring, for His grace and power  are such none can ever ask too much.”

God’s omnipotence and omniscience are not the only attributes that shape our theology of prayer. We pray with an assurance of God’s righteousness, loving-kindness and goodness. He  will never harm us or answer us with spite. His answers to our requests always have His glory and our good as their intent.

FOR FURTHER STUDY To learn more, read Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis (Mariner).

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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