(The following is a guest post by blogger Leon Dean from Come, see a man)
I heard this statement in a bible study recently: “The earth controls heaven.” Those four words piqued my curiosity immensely. According to my thought, God created the earth and God dwells in heaven, so therefore, heaven controls the earth.
But that thought misses the principle of prayer as seen in the bible, which is that God does not act if man does not pray. The move on the earth (men praying) precedes the move in the heaven (God acting). God has limited Himself to man’s prayer. Of course, men cannot make God do what He does not want, but men can prevent God from doing what He wants by failing to pray.
That may sound kind of crazy, so I want to present three verses that show the principle that the earth controls heaven:
1. Exodus 17:11 – “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” Here, God in heaven is causing the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites, but only when Moses, who is earthbound, lifts his hands.
2. Ezekiel 36:37 – “Thus says the Lord God: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock.” Surely God wanted to increase His chosen people, but He would not do it unless the house of Israel asked for it in prayer.
3. Isaiah 45:11 – “Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: Ask me of things to come; and concerning my children and the work of my hands, command me.” Have you ever thought of praying as commanding the Lord? This is the earth controlling the heaven.
Realizing that the earth controls the heaven is key to understanding the importance of prayer, but it also raises a deeper question: Why did God limit Himself to man’s prayer?
Leon, thanks for the three clear verses and your comments. Matthew 6:10 is the same. The Lord asked us to pray that God’s kingdom will come and that His will be done on earth. Is there any doubt that God wants these to happen? NO. But they will not happen unless we pray and they will happen when we give ourselves to pray.
God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. He created man for one purpose (Gen. 1:26) to reveal His image and His likeness, to reveal Himself through man. This also says that He desires man to be involved in what He is doing (not the opposite, God being involved in what man is doing), and so doing He is revealing Himself when man is obedient to His direction. The earth is not in control of God – you are taking these verses out of context. For man to be involved with His God he must be in communication with Him, which man accomplishes when he is in tune with the will of God. The purpose of prayer is for man to determine the purpose, plan, guidance of God to accomplish His purpose according to His plan, which he will do according to the guidance by the Holy Spirit Who abides in those who are His; those surrendered to allowing God to direct their choices in the way their life is to go, and, in so doing, allowing the glory of God to be revealed (God working in and through us will accomplish this).
Ralph, while I cannot speak on behalf of Leon (the writer), I think what you said is in harmony with the basic thought of this post. God created man in His likeness, desires man to be involved in what He is doing (i.e. prayer). Through man’s involvement He expresses Himself and is glorified.
Nowhere in this post does Leon explicitly say that “man controls God.” Though apparently that is what you understood. What Leon did say is that “God has limited Himself to man’s prayer” in regards to His move. I believe the author is referring our CO-operation with the already operating God.
As you said in your reply, God is expressed in man’s cooperating with Him in prayer. Thus, He is ultimately glorified by choosing to require man’s prayer for His move. God predestines, plans, chooses, draws, accomplishes, applies… God does everything. He simply requires that we cooperate with Him in that through prayer. And it’s so awesome that God is even glorified by us getting in on the action!
I think maybe the attention-grabbing, pot-stirring title of this post may have caught you off guard and made you think Leon was saying something else.
Do you agree?
If not, in your response please also explain what context exactly Leon is taking these verses out from. I think that would help me better understand what you’re view is.
I have the same feeling as Chris and I too have not spoken with Leon. “Earth Controls Heaven” to the extent that earth is one with God’s will. God has His will and wants some on earth to reflect it in prayer. This is the thought in John 15:7 “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” and in 1 John 5:14, “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
Your write up on “earth controls heaven” is an added benefit to my knowledge, and a challenge to my prayer life. It has actually impacted me in a way. I want more of your write up. If you chose to visit Africa anytime soon, let Nigeria be one, because my people will get more blessing from your teaching. Thank you.
An interesting observation. However, I believe that the Bible clearly reveals that God guides all of his creation including my prayers. On the other hand, he also created us persons who are relatively independent and responsible to him. Both of the Bible’s teachings are true, God’s rule of everyone and everything and human responsibility to pray to and follow Jesus. But your passages do not demonstrate that “earth controls heaven” but that God blesses persistent prayers in agreement with his will.
I think you’re right. There are two principles to consider here, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Rather than opposing, I think these are two sides of one coin. Both are justly represented in the Bible, both are true. The side people personally lean towards, God’s sovereignty or man’s responsibility, will probably determine whether they “like” this post or not.
The title of this post has attracted attention. However, Leon is not taking a shot at God’s sovereignty. (Though some with Calvinistic leanings are afraid he is). I really think he’s simply highlighting the other side of the coin, man’s responsibility.
It is true Bruce, as you say, that God blesses persistent prayers in agreement with His will. But I don’t think that’s all these verses are telling us. I think they’re bringing out a deeper and more profound truth: God often chooses to require man’s cooperation for His move on the earth, ultimately bringing glory to Himself through this.
For example, Jehovah could appear in fire and glory right now, preach the gospel to the entire world all at once, and cause everybody to believe. But He doesn’t do that… He chooses rather to call unqualified, sinful men, save them, fill them with Himself, and then send them to preach the gospel instead.
Prayer is the topic of man’s cooperation written about here though. God is plenty powerful enough to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. He needs neither man, nor any created being to do anything for Him. He is self-sufficient. However, He chooses to require man’s cooperation in prayer for His move on the earth so often, because it brings Him glory.
That is why God is “appalled” in Isaiah 59:16 when He finds no intercessor on the earth. I don’t think Almighty God would be appalled at there being no intercessor, if he simply wanted to bless someone’s persistent prayer. I think these verses shed light on a greater underlying principle regarding man’s cooperation and God’s move on the earth.
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.
37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.