I read a post by a Calvinist recently that raised a question along the lines of: “What does praying to an Arminian God actually accomplish, since He can’t compel anyone to believe? Arminians pray like Calvinists when they pray for Salvation”.

Calvinists don’t seem to realize that virtually everyone who isn’t a Calvinist also isn’t an Arminian, but Arminius haunts them and it’s kind of funny. But, that aside, this question is fascinating to me because there’s a much harder question to answer:

What does praying to a Calvinist God actually accomplish?

On Calvinism, God foreordained from the foundation of the world to accomplish exactly what happens. Literally nothing happens outside His will. You are, in effect, talking to a “read-only” entity, a being that wrote the script before Creation and is following it perfectly. You pray, on Calvinism, because God told you to. Prayer is about changing yourself, despite Scripture clearly indicating that prayer is about communicating to God like a person, not an unchanging god made of stone.

Some like to add further that free will is “too difficult for God to overcome”, but what they really mean is that God can’t be omnipotent unless He can do logically contradictory things like make square circles. God can’t violate free will because then it wouldn’t be free will. It’s not about power. It’s about the meanings of words.

How do we answer the original question then? Are non-Calvinists becoming temporary Calvinists when they pray for someone to be saved? No, not at all. When I pray for the salvation of people I love, it’s no different than when I pray for God to heal someone who is sick or help someone who is struggling with a sin. I’m asking that God actually does something. For my unsaved friends and family, it could be revealing Himself to them, it could be softening their hearts, it could be any number of things.

But, the Calvinist might respond, you can’t force God to save them, so your prayers might not be answered. This is true. The prayer might not be answered. But what, precisely, is the Calvinist accomplishing through prayer? On Calvinism, it is literally impossible for God to answer your prayer, because God has already ordained all that is going to happen.

If God wanted, God could unilaterally change the will of the one prayed for, and they would become a Christian. But God has already decided who will be saved and who would be damned. Your prayers accomplishing nothing here; if you pray for a predetermined saved person, God already has an exact moment that He’ll regenerate them and you can’t alter it. If you pray for a damned person, you may indeed love the person more than God (on Calvinism), but you absolutely won’t alter His will.

On Calvinism, prayer doesn’t alter God’s immutable will. The damned remain damned. The elect remain elect.

On non-Calvinism, prayer does alter things. God may do something He wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t prayed. And this may save someone. As a Molinist, I believe God knows what you’ll pray in advance and knows who will be saved, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t respond. Just as I know my children well enough to predict what they’ll ask, and can prepare for their requests accordingly.