As a pastor I am often asked the question, “Why pray if God is in control anyway?” There are many ways to answer that question, but as I read in Genesis 24 the other day I saw the answer right there in the account of the search for Isaac’s wife. You are probably familiar with the story. Abraham sends one of his servants to search for a wife for his son from among his relatives. So, the servant goes to the land of Abraham’s relatives and prays that God would make it clear to him who Isaac’s future wife is to be, “now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink’ and who answers, ‘Drink. And I will water your camels also’; may she be the one whom thou hast appointed for Thy servant Isaac” (Gen. 24:14). As you know, this prayer is answered in the positive and Rebekah fulfills this criterion exactly.
The intriguing part of this narrative, however, comes in Genesis 24:15 which says, “And it came about before he [the servant] had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah . . . came out with her jar on her shoulder.” So, you see what is so amazing about this. Before the prayer had even come off the lips of Abraham’s servant God was already answering it. Furthermore, it was an answer to a prayer that was prepared before the prayer was ever uttered. After all, Rebekah would have had to leave her house a long time before the servant ever got to the spring. Also, Rebekah could have gone anywhere that day, but she went to the spring. Yet, the narrative account makes it clear that Rebekah coming to the spring was an answer to prayer. I think it is quite clear that God was already answering before the prayer began. So, God can ordain the answer before the prayer is spoken, ordain the prayer itself, and respond to the prayer. It all works out in His good providence!