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Gen.18:1-33 - Intercessory Prayer - Part 2
Now, what we are about to read for the rest of the chapter is really an enlargement upon this idea that God is now going to condescend, and allow a sort of bargaining to take place. But what’s underneath all of what we are about to read is to recognize that God just wants to talk to us, to relate to us, to enter into a real exchange with us. Communing with us!
Vs. 20-33 - “Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 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.’
The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him (Came near to Him) and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? A 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? Far be it from you to do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’
The Lord said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’
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, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of fifty people?’ ‘If I find forty-five there,’ he said, ‘I will not destroy it.’
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.’ 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. 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.’
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.’
When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.”
What I want you to see here are really 2 things. First, the Lord knows all things. He’s outside time and space, and even though He knows what’s going to happen, what we discover here, is that God deeply desires this relational exchange with His child. He’s come down to Abraham’s level here in order to have this exchange, this conversation, this relational dynamic, play out!
God is laying off to the side His omniscience in a way that will allow a relational conversation to happen. He doesn’t just tell Abraham that His mind is made up and ‘Here’s what’s going to happen.’ He well could have! And in this I think God is showing us His heart, His desire - He just wants to talk with the man!
And God wants so badly to talk with each of us, to have us reach out to Him and to have us cry out to Him with our prayers and concerns, and enter into these very real and meaningful exchanges with Him.
Interestingly, as well, what else do we discover? God is drawing out of Abraham, in this exchange, His love and concern for people! Abraham is contending! I think the Lord is schooling us here in just what it is that makes effective intercession!
Before we go into this great example of intercessory prayer, let me just quickly say a few things for those who don’t know what intercessory prayer is. Simply, intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament, in the cases of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is offered to God through and by Christ.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5).
“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died: more than that, who was raised to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34).
So, let’s mark these things about effective prayer, intercessory prayer!
Vs. 23 - Abraham ‘Drew near’ to the Lord! Before any of us can become effective in intercessory prayer, we gotta be near to God! That’s why James tells us: James 4:8 - “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
To pray for others effectively, we need to pray with God’s heart and God’s desire for people, and to do that we gotta get near to God!
Secondly, intercessory prayer demands that we have a genuine and sincere interest in people. Abraham could have asked to get Lot and his family out and go ahead and destroy that city full of foul sinners and evil people. How many of us have that kind of mindset!!?? But that’s not what Abraham does, he’s concerned with the laws and the people.
In reality, isn’t it true we don’t give ourselves over to intercession for others all that often, especially to those we don’t have a relationship with, because most of the time we just don’t care! This is one of the reasons, in most Churches, the prayer ministry is one of the least attended ministries in the Church! We don’t care if it doesn’t directly affect us, and when it doesn’t we have a tendency to lose interest.
To be an effective intercessor requires a real love for people. And just get honest with God, and if you don’t have that - ask! “You have not because you ask not,” James tells us. I don’t like people Lord and I need your help with that!
I am here writing this today because I was the recipient of years of intercessory prayer by my mother, so I personally know the value of it!
Notice the boldness on Abraham’s part. We also need a boldness, The writer of Hebrews tells us: “Let us boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.” No doubt that’s what’s going on here.
But there’s also a great humility. “Im just dust and ashes: Lord be not angry with my persistence here: Lord, be not angry but let me speak...” His boldness is tempered with a real sense of God’s majesty and God’s holiness, there’s humility there.
Lastly, here’s something all of us can grab onto and use immediately. Effective intercession, effective prayer - IT IS SPECIFIC! Name the people you are praying for if you know their names. Ask for a specific ailment or for them to deal with something specific.
Even when Jesus was in the presence of people with obvious ailments, He still asked them ‘what do you want me to do?’ The Lord is interested in hearing His children ask Him for what it is they are seeking. Why do you think God is so interested in hearing His children ask Him for things? Because God wants you to talk to Him! He just wants to be with us so bad! He wants to relate with us, wants us to reach out to Him. He wants a living, breathing relationship with us!
I hesitate to say that, because I don’t want you to be inoculated to that because it’s some kind of ‘Churchy’ sentiment that you’ve heard so many times that you're inoculated to it. I want you to really think about this this week. Here’s this Almighty, All- powerful, All-knowing God who flicked the universe into existence by simply speaking it. Here’s this God whose power in love and capacity and brilliance are absolutely beyond our comprehension, and yet He allows His will to be directed and guided and activated by the likes of puny little, deeply flawed people like us.
Do you understand that!? Do you understand the profound magnitude of that!? This should blow our minds! Why do you suppose that is? God already knows our needs before we ask for them. Why does God want to know what is obvious to Him? Why?
Because He wants you and loves you and cares so deeply for you that He sent His only Son to die for you. And now, having done that, and this is the answer to all our ‘why’s,’ now He just wants to be known by you. He just wants to talk to you and be with you.