“Can you pray for this? Will you pray for me?” Have you ever heard those questions? I have. For some reason, being in this profession, people think that I have some direct connection to God. A boss of one of my summer jobs during collage told me, “You have an in because you are studying to be a pastor so you pray for this.” Sure, let me go back to my special God phone that he gives out to every ordained pastor and those in training because. There is a waiting list for all your prayers but I have the express line. What about you? How is your prayer life? When someone asks you, “Can you pray for me?” do you? Are you frustrated with prayer? We can inform our prayer lives with the great pray-ers of the Bible.
Abraham’s conversation with God was known as one of the great prayers of the Bible. Before this, two angels and the Lord appeared as humans and came to inform Abraham that in 1 year, he would have a child. Sarah, who was eavesdropping from the tent, laughed out of disbelief and joy because she was 89 years old and her husband was 99. After the announcement, God said something that revealed a little bit about the relationship between Abraham and God. “Shall I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?” They were so close that God wanted to include Abraham in his plans. Relationship comes before prayer. Abraham was a child of the promise of the Savior.
20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” This doesn’t seem too telling about what the plan is except to investigate. We see that Abraham understood what God would find and what he would do by his succeeding actions.
22 The men (the two angels) turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham blocked God from leaving. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “I know what you are planning and that’s not like you God. You are a God of mercy. 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing (extremely bold to say to God)—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! He says it again! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Abraham understood Sodom and Gomorra. He knew the filth of the city and so did everyone else. Whenever you hear about Sodom and Gomorra, it is in reference to disgust and evil. 15 years prior to this, 4 kings took captive Sodom and Abraham freed them. Some say he did this for his nephew, Lot. As the Bible has described Lot, he’s not an outstanding guy either. He is greedy, self-centered, a drunk, and a pervert. Abraham prayed for to save who?
What Abraham does is not the norm. God’s plan was to destroy the den of evil and corrupt. What would be your reaction if God were to include you in on that plan. “Burn them! They deserve it.” Not Abraham. Abraham was not influenced by this outcry and by the gravity of such great sins; but he loathed it and maked himself the intermediary for these very wicked people. There is no greater love than to intercede with God for bloodthirsty enemies. His prayer clings to the mercy of God.
How could he do that? Abraham knew himself. Prior to this, Abraham lied about his wife to save his own skin. He said Sarah was his sister when they went into Egypt. He thought that since she was beautiful, the nobles would kill him and take Sarah. So he lied. The officials noticed, Pharaoh noticed, everyone noticed Sarah’s beauty. She was then escorted to Pharaoh’s quarters. Abraham did nothing to defend his wife. By God’s protection, Sarah was returned to Abraham unharmed and both were preserved. What should God do with Abraham? What is right? God chose mercy for undeserving Abraham. Abraham is not able to talk to God because he is special or different than any other person. Prayer clings to the mercy of God.
26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” Abraham understands who he is, dust and ashes, yet is amazingly bold.
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” 29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Abraham drew it all the way down to 10. Why did he go that far? Perhaps it was the look on God’s face every time he went down a notch. He understood that it may be tough to find so few believers in Sodom.
Why do you pray? What do you pray for? Some of you are worried that you aren’t doing it right because it doesn’t seem like God is answering. Some of you feel like you don’t know how to do it right because no one taught you (like the disciples who asked for a prayer lesson from Jesus in Luke 11). Some of you feel like you are too dirty to talk to a holy God thinking, “Would God accept my prayer? What gives me the right to talk to God?” Some of you think that others are better and so they should take care of that. Some of you have heard this and it is devastating, “The problem is that you don’t have enough faith. The reason God isn’t answering you is because your faith is too small. If only you would trust more, then God would answer your prayers.” Others pray as a tack on to everything.
Most of our prayers revolve around “me.” Prayer is not about getting God to do stuff. We know that by Abraham’s response at the very end, vs. 33, which you will have to check out on your own. Look it up. Abraham went home. Abraham clung to a merciful God, laid everything at his feet, and walked away in peace because of relationship.
Prayer clings to the mercy of God. Here’s what that mercy means for you. You are just dust and ashes. Your ability to speak with God is through the Savior, Jesus Christ. Not because you sound good, have a lot of needs to run through, or have done something awesome. The most important thing in your life is not if you are good enough to speak to God, not if you are able to say the right words, not if you are doing it right. It is your relationship with your Savior. Abraham was bold because of the relationship with God. Abraham clung with all his might, not to his status, morality, or eloquence, but to God’s mercy. In Jesus, you have that mercy too. God sees you, not as the real you, the corrupt and sinful you, but he sees you in his Son who gave it all for you. Prayer clings to the relationship, the mercy of God.
Here’s what I want you to try this week. Pray every morning when you wake up or before you go to sleep but don’t ask God anything. You may be thinking, “Then what am I going to pray about?” Acknowledge his character. Ponder his blessings. Wonder about his goodness. But stop throwing up your amens like putting quarters in a vending machine hoping you did it right in order to manipulate the Father of Creation. Cling to God’s mercy in prayer. Love him for the amazing love he gives to your freely through his Son and you will see many of those concerns turn to peace. Even when he says “No,” when he says “Yes,” or when he says nothing at all. You will get that when you get relationship. You know the shallow relationships that are “Gimmy, Gimmy, I want, I want.” God wants to give you more than physical wellness, a good job, a win over the other team and an A on your test. He wants to give you himself. That happens when you sit, listen to his word, and cling to his mercy. Pray clinging to his mercy and you will be at peace.