Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18:25 ESV
We begin looking at prayer this week, with one of the most vital purposes of prayer: intercession. If you are interested in a deeper look at intercessory prayer, I highly recommend Andrew Murray’s book, “The Ministry of Intercession” It is interesting to me that until we encounter Abraham (the Father of our Faith) we hear very little about prayer in the Bible. Surely Enoch prayed, along with other good guys, like Noah and Abel, but only Abraham’s prayers are recorded in detail. But if you think that Abraham started out by praying super spiritual requests you will be greatly disappointed. One of his earliest prayers that we have is found in chapter 15 of Genesis where he begins by saying,
O Sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I am childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? Genesis 15:2
Then, even when God promises Abraham that despite his age, that he will not only have a son, but that God will give him the entire land of Canaan; what is his response?
O sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" Genesis 15:8 ESV
Though these questions seem both a bit selfish as well as impertinent, God is not at all bothered by them. He loves Abraham’s prayers, and He is preparing to answer them one day in a spectacular fashion. Abraham’s prayers (and even better God’s response) give me hope as I grow in my own prayer life. After all, we don’t delight in listening to our children, only after they have graduated from college. We enjoy even their most immature conversations while they are toddling around our house, and we are still changing their diapers! Skipping ahead to chapter 17, we listen in again to Abraham praying a few years later, as now he is praying for someone besides himself.
And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" Genesis 17:18 ESV
And then in the same way that friendships deepen as we become more deeply committed to one another, God continues to draw Abraham into a more intimate fellowship. So. just a couple of years later we come to Abraham, the intercessor in chapter 18. Here, he is no longer praying for himself, or even his family. This time, Abraham is asking for God’s mercy for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and God patiently listens to his every word. Then Abraham asks –
"...will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Genesis 18:25b
What a question to ask God! It almost sounds like Abraham is making an accusation and yet God does not leap to His feet in anger. Instead, God gently guides Abraham’s prayers, step by step, towards greater and greater mercy. “Spare the city for fifty righteous.” evolves to thirty, twenty, ten and finally, only five. The biggest surprise for me is that eventually those who were spared were the family of Lot. These were not folks who I would have picked out as a particularly special loving group. No! They were complicated, messed up, far from perfect and a lot like us! So be encouraged today. God has given us a legacy of intercession that stretches all the way back to Abraham. Just as God cared enough to listen to Abraham pray for his own imperfect family, so God longs to hear us cry out for ours. He is eager to teach us, He is eager to listen, and He is waiting to answer us in spectacular fashion far beyond anything we could ever ask or think or even imagine!