(Pro 21:1 KJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
I may have written this somewhere else, but I wonder if God exerts more control on leaders. Do they have less free will? Think of Pharaoh. Think of Nebuchanezer. For that matter, think of Hitler. We know more about him than Pharaoh. If you know much about the history of World War II you know that much of the reason for the loss by Germany can be laid at Hitler’s feet. This supposedly brilliant leader made mistake after mistake that even a private in the ranks could see. Consider ordering his army to hold back instead of destroying the English at Dunkirk. Consider ordering the invasion of Russia. Consider the use of the newly developed jet fighter. The list could go on and on. One of the best explanations is the hand of God.
One reason our prayer is so important is because God can manipulate the “heart” (3820). This is one of the reasons we should be praying for our leaders with great fervor. He “turns” (5186) hearts. How does he do that? Is it thought control? Is it robotic orders? Look at the example. If you have ever watched the farmers irrigate you can understand the illustration. Water follows certain physical laws. Farmers use those laws to cause the water to go where they want it to go. I am sure the water feels quite free in its choices.
As an believer in free will I have to admit this is a verse for the Calvinists. God’s “wishes” (2654a) are horses. (So beggars can ride.) I concede that God is God. I concede that there are times when He controls and commands. I see verses like this. I also see verses like John 3:16 (remember that one?) where Jesus says “whosoever” and believe He means what He says there also. It is another one of the paradoxes of scripture. God grants free will. God is omnipotent. They both have their verses. Deal with it, don’t ignore it. Glory in it, don’t fear it.