Summary: This sermon will give a better understanding of how God desires to relate with us through prayer
Limitations of Prayers
Genesis 18: 16-33
God told 2 men He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The 2 tried to change God’s plan, for very different reasons.
Abraham: The example of an intercessor. He prayed on behalf of the cities, though he was not personally involved in their sin. Yet he stood in the gap.
Lot: The example of an obstinate, self-willed man who tried to prevent God from destroying the land because of his selfish interests.
What is prayer? Anything we do that seeks to gain the attention of God for a particular purpose is prayer. That purpose may be to ask Him for something, or may be to thank Him for giving you something, or may be to give Him glory and praise for His Being!
There are certain things prayer cannot do.
1. Prayer cannot change the Word of God.
Psalm 33: 11, "The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations"
Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
2. Prayer cannot change the nature of God.
Malachi 3:6, "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed"
What can prayer do?
1. Prayer can invoke the mercies of God. Exodus 32: The Golden Calf saga
Exodus 32: 14 (NIV), "Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened."
God did not change His mind in the same manner a parent decides not to discipline his child.
Rather, God changed His behavior to remain consistent with His nature.
i. When God first wanted to destroy His people, he was acting consist with His justice
ii. When Moses interceded for the people, God relented in order to act consistently with His mercy.
READ: Ezekiel 18: 2-4, 20-24 - Justice and mercy
2. Prayer can change the situation of a man.
Isaiah 38: 1-8 Hezekiah.
God told him the direction he was headed. He prayed and God changed the direction of his life.
3. Prayer can conform your will to the will of God.
Matthew 26: 39 - 44, Jesus prayed 3 times and ended up by saying, "not my will but your will be done"
There may be a desire you have, that you have prayed for, and yet have not received. If you pray hard enough, you may be hearing God saying, "It is not for you" or "It is not for now, wait!"
Many people are spending fruitless time in the place of prayer, making demands on God, when instead they should be saying, "Let your will be done in my life"
When in the place of prayer, and you do not have peace, even about what you are praying for, most likely, it is not God’s will for you. The will of God brings PEACE.
But there are times when things have gone too far and prayer does not bring about a change. Two examples.
1. Genesis 18
In the process of interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah, it got to a stage that Abraham realized that Sodom and Gomorrah had gone too far. God was not going to change His mind. But compare, S&G to Nineveh. God sent Jonah. God is a sovereign God!
2. Numbers 14:11-35. Spies evil report and rebellion.
Moses interceded and God forgave. He did not wipe out the nation, but the people that despised God did not enter into His rest. How can you as a person despise God? Faithlessness, murmuring, persistently living a godless life, consistently living in sin, without any plans or intent on changing. The list is endless!
The Word says that God is long-suffering. Yes He is, but look at it this way.
God has consistently been warning a man to keep away from sexual immorality. That man involves self. He turns to God and prays for forgiveness. God forgives him. He see-saws, mocking God. The day when the devils takes advantage of his weakness and strikes him with an incurable STD, he still turns to God for forgivesness. God forgives, but the man goes ahead to die!
Run away from sin. It is a mocker.
In the intercession of Abraham for Sodom & Gomorrah, the cities were still destroyed because they had gone just too far. But Abraham here was a good example of a man standing before God, interceding on behalf of other people. Because of Abraham’s intercession, God was willing to spare Sodom if God could find 10 righteous people there.
From this passage, there are seven characteristics of an intercessor we should seek to emulate.
1. INTERCESSORS ARE THE FIRST TO GET THE NEWS
Gen 18:17 "And God said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?"
God did not want to destroy Sodom without letting Abraham know about it first. We find this to be a Biblical pattern. God often informs the people seeking Him what he intends to do.