Then the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had pronounced against them.
Prayer does have an effect upon God and the future.
God is open to changing course in view of the interaction within the relationship, including prayers. The potential effect our urging has upon God introduces an open-endedness into the situation, because He so values relationship. Proverbs 15:8 says He delights in our prayers. He loves hearing from us! Prayers really do shape the future in ways different from what would have been the case if no prayers had been uttered.
We have the (God-given) power to give God less welcome and room to work. We can narrow God’s possibilities because of His commitments to self-limitation (Mark 6:5). We can do this through our silence. God is genuinely affected by the absence of prayer, by our giving Him the silent treatment (Isaiah 65:1).
*Within all this, we must also remember that we can tend to think the only things at work in a given situation are our prayers and God. Let us not fall into the “Genie in a Bottle” view of God where we think He must answer all of our request affirmatively in every detail. We have to keep in mind that there are billions of factors contributing to the present moment. We know very few of them. See Daniel 10:13. Wow.
But our prayer can be one of those billion factors contributing to the present moment for God’s sincere consideration. Or, we can choose not to pray, and our (nonexistent) prayer will not be available to God for consideration in shaping an outcome.
Prayer is a gift from God for us to deepen our relationship with Him, and to participate in His plan by using the means in and through which God can work on behalf of His divine purposes in the world.
We may be doing well, praying here and there, but is there more? Much more?
Please consider the following contrast:
A life of action, with a little prayer
A life of prayer, yielding effective, inspired action