Prayer – Does it make God change His mind?

December 11, 2009

By: Shazia Yousuf

As a child, I had always believed in intense praying. I believed that I could achieve anything, and I mean anything, if I prayed hard enough. Of course I knew hard work was an essential ingredient for achievement but hard work without prayer was incomplete. A very traditional belief, this is what all of us know and have been taught at home and at religious classes and this is definitely the truth.

However, experiences in life gradually made me to scratch my head and compelled me to think and think harder. For instance, I had always desired to get straight As in O’ Level and A’ Level exams. I definitely worked very hard, I believe, and prayed harder. Yet I never got straight As. Anyways, my faith was strong, and I always believed God must definitely have something better planned out for me.

Other seemingly major, but actually minor events kept occurring in life. My belief remained unchanged. One experience, however shattered me, and left me in total dismay. That event was my mother’s sad demise. It was not sudden. She was ill for over ten years, and gradually deteriorating. But her two month long hospitalization in the ICU was a life changing experience for me. I had been by her side, saw her fighting her pleural effusion, gradually losing her interest in life and finally departing. The doctors made great efforts, the entire family prayed! Prayed in congregation, prayed in solitude, yet none of us could convince God to spare my mother’s soul. The doctors couldn’t save her with their effort and hard work and we couldn’t save her with our prayers and duas.

Maybe the effort was not enough or maybe we did not pray with the devotion that God asks from us. But this somehow did not convince me. I know how I prayed. I know how devoted I was. My mind simply could not accept this argument.

A restless soul within, I started my quest for an answer. I would wonder what God wants from us. Is He actually waiting for us to make Him realize what we utterly need.

I would wonder, when a person is ill, he turns to God in prayer. If the prayer is accepted by God, then the person recovers. Superficially, it seems as if God changed His mind, as if God can be “sweet talked” into backing down from a previously stated position, so to speak. It also seems as if God waits in heaven for our words of supplication, and, if they do not arrive, He wreaks His vengeance and wrath on us.

Furthermore, we are aware that God is an infinite Being who is by definition unchanging; if this is the case, then how can God “change His mind”?

All this somehow made me feel that God does not want anything from us! He has already given us all that He has! He created this universe and made us with all His attributes. He is Generous, Gracious, Merciful, Benevolent, and is recognized by more than a hundred attributes. God is all Love! And, He wants us to imitate His attributes.

God has also given us free will. By practicing this free will it is up to us now to decide which path we take. Whatever good that comes to us has already been given to us by God. Whatever misfortune comes our way is our own doing.

So the question arises, how do we decide which path to take? This is simple! Atonement with the absolute and aligning ourselves with the Divinity opens up the path that we need to tread upon, right in front of us. Sounds easy…right? Well it actually is!

This is where prayer comes into picture. Prayer is an awakening within us. Prayers are heard by the God within us shielded by the perishable body and selfish desires. So, what we achieve from prayer to God is not coming from outside anywhere but from within. When we pray, we pray to no one but to ourselves. There is nobody to listen to our prayers, not in sky or heaven or temple. When we pray, we forget for sometime our worldly affairs or existence. If we come in contact with God, our original form, even for a fraction of a second, our prayers are answered. God listens to us who is nowhere but within us. The guidance comes from within and the harmony in life is regained by aligning oneself with the Divine guidance.

With this concept, I now realize why God did not answer my prayers when I was begging Him for my mother’s health, and I am convinced. I am convinced that prayer is an essential ingredient to success and achievement, but I believe it is not the only one. I am convinced that I can achieve anything with prayer hard work and atonement with the Absolute being, but the reason why I pray is different. I pray because it gives me hope and courage to fight and work my way out of the turbulence and havoc that I create in my life.



  1. An eye-opening and inspiring read. If anyone can understand the essence of what the writer is trying to tell here, then I guess life can get much much much simpler for him.

    Loved the line: “God is all Love! And, He wants us to imitate His attributes”.
    Truly, God is not a magic-8 ball. God lives within us.

  2. Certainly a deep and thought provoking idea to ponder over. I agree with what the writer has articulated as it is a very well thought out notion; an expression of the writer’s personal experiences of life.

    I believe what we want God actually wants the same. It all depends on how determined WE are in achieving a certain objective. I once read somewhere that if our purpose is strong, firm and constant then that very purpose will guide you towards your destiny. Again, if we are unable to acheve a certain objective then somewhere fault lies within us. We need to look into ourselves for self analysis. We are responsible for our problems and solution lies within us. The only remedy left is to begin with our own circle of influence. Thats what the prophets did. Though they were the pure souls they repented all the time. Here, I seem to be slightly deviating from the subject under discussion…but there’s a chain of connection and its a never ending debate.

    What I’ve stated is just one angle of perceiving a certain situation. However, Quran speaks of more than one possibility. It speaks of trials, maslehat and ones mistakes. Three important things around which our lives revolve. There is always a possiblity of these three things only mentioned in the Quran. No fourth one. Now the hard times we encounter in our lives is something we have to determine whether it is a test by thr divine design, a result of our own mistakes or a maslehat.

    If I still maintain that God’s will is nothing but our will then in ammi’s case we might be overlooking the possiblity of what SHE wanted! We wanted to have her back to life but what was HER will? What had SHE decided for herself? It is,indeed, an important aspect to think over.

    The mystery of life is not that simple to solve. It has different layers of understanding. More importantly, there’s no one way of understanding a situation. We all interpret our situations according our experiences. Trials, human errors and maslehat are the three factors Quran speaks of. Which factor is applicable to a particular situation we encounter is something our conscience knows very well.

    I hope what I’ve tried to articulate in the light of this write-up makes sense.

  3. I’m looking forward to getting more information about this topic, don’t worry about negative opinions.

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