Q. How can anyone expect to change God’s mind by means of prayer?
A. Biblical teaching says clearly, “God is not a man who changes his mind” (Num. 23:19). That looks like the end of the story. However, another verse seems to say the opposite: “God repented of the evil which He had intended doing to His people” (Ex. 32:14).
Actually both could be true, since Jewish theology says that when necessary God leaves the throne of justice and moves onto the throne of mercy. The implication is that the decision He makes in accordance with the justice of the situation can be mitigated if human beings appeal to His mercy.
One explanation is that it is not God who is changing but human beings. If we remain as we were when He judged us, His decision stands firm. If we repent and become different, He now sees a different situation that could call for a different decision. What about the case of a sick person for whom family and friends offer desperate prayers? This too could be seen as an individual – the patient – becoming a new person. Just as the doctors can give a patient a new lease of life, so too do sincere prayers have the potential to earn the patient a new dispensation.