As Christians, we trust in the providence of God. We know that God often works behind the scenes in events on earth in order to accomplish His will. But since God has an eternal plan He is already accomplishing, where do our prayers fit into the picture?
Take a look at Genesis 24, which recounts the story of Isaac and Rebekah, and consider the following insights on the biblical text.
- “Wife for my son” (24:3): Because Abraham was getting old, he wanted to take steps to ensure the continuation of the line of promise and the fulfillment of the covenant God made with him. He didn’t want to die before ensuring the next generation in this line of promise. So he had Eliezer, his chief steward, swear to find a wife for Isaac from among his own people.
- “I will not eat” (24:33): This was not just a social visit. Abraham had assigned Eliezer a task, and until that task was accomplished, Eliezer would not be content with mere socializing over a meal. Eliezer explained that his master was Abraham, that he was on a mission on behalf of Abraham, and that Abraham was a man of great wealth. He then revealed he was seeking a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. He described God’s revelation that Rebekah was the woman of choice. He wanted everyone to understand that Rebekah was God’s choice, not merely his choice.
- “The thing has come from the Lᴏʀᴅ” (24:50): Both Laban and his father, Bethuel, recognized God’s hand of providence in selecting Rebekah.
- “Will you go with this man?” (24:58): Rebekah no doubt saw the providential hand of God in all this as well. She did not hesitate to leave with Eliezer. God had chosen. She obeyed, thereby proving herself worthy to be Isaac’s wife and continue the line of promise.
- She became his wife, and he loved her (24:67): Under God’s providential guiding, Isaac received the perfect wife. This brought him great comfort while he continued to grieve the loss of his mother.
- “O Lᴏʀᴅ, God of my master Abraham” (24:12): Eliezer is clearly a devout man. He prays in this verse for God’s blessing, he worships when God answers prayers (verse 26), and he recognizes God’s providential guidance (verse 27). It is no wonder that Abraham trusts him.
It is clear from our passage that God sovereignly and providentially handpicked Rebekah for Isaac. But even though God is sovereign, human beings cannot forfeit praying to God to bring about certain things. God sovereignly handpicked Rebekah, but notice that Abraham’s servant first prayed that God would grant him success in finding the right wife (Genesis 24:12-14).
God is sovereign over all things (Ephesians 1:18-23), and He has sovereignly ordained not only the ends but also the means to those ends. In other words, God has sovereignly ordained not only to bring certain things about but also to accomplish certain things as a result of the individual prayers of His people. Therefore we should most definitely pray for specific needs (see Philippians 4:6; see also James 4:2).
Remember, God is sovereign, and He providentially controls the universe and human history. But through His providence, He also made a place and purpose for our prayers.