Summary: God’s gracious dealings with Abraham lead us to pray boldly, like him.
Genesis 18:20-32 PRAY, CHRISTIAN, PRAY
There once was a couple who went to visit a marriage counselor. The husband said, “We’ve been fighting a lot lately, and we can both see that our marriage is heading in the wrong direction.” And the wife chimed in, “We don’t understand why this is happening – our marriage should be fine. We both have very good jobs that keep us busy.” “Both of our kids are happy,” the husband added. “They keep us busy too.” “And we live in a nice neighborhood – we have lots and lots of friends that keep us busy.” “And we’re both healthy,” the husband added. “It’s probably because we both spend a lot of time working out.”
The marriage counselor listened and said, “Do you ever make time to talk with each other?” “Oh yes,” the husband said. “We have to talk. That’s how we figure out who’s picking up dinner on the way home from work, or who’s picking up the kids, or who’s going where and doing what. We talk all the time.”
The marriage counselor said, “That’s not what I mean. I think I see your problem. When was the last time you had a real conversation with your spouse, when you really took time to ask each other questions, real questions. When was the last time you actually spent time talking, and having real quality time together, like you did before you got married. That’s your problem,” the marriage counselor said. “You don’t take time to talk, to have real conversations with each other. That’s why your relationship is struggling.”
I think this happens to Christians in their relationships with God. If someone were to ask you, “How is your relationship with God?” Maybe you’d say, Fine, fine. “Do you ever talk to God? Do you ever pray?” Oh sure. In church. Before I eat, sometimes. And when I’m in trouble. That’s about it. That’s enough praying, right?
But God wants us to take time our of our lives to really talk to him, to have a conversation with him, to really and truly pray. How is your prayer-life with God? What is a prayer-life supposed to look like? Today we meet a man who had an interesting prayer life, and that man was Abraham. In Genesis chapter 18, we are told that God and two angels paid a surprise visit to Abraham. After spending some time with Abraham, God told him the situation. Verse 20: “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.’” God told Abraham that he was getting ready to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, those two cities famous for their immorality. God told Abraham this because he was giving Abraham a chance to pray, to talk with him.
Abraham knew about those cities and the reputation they had. Abraham also knew that his nephew lived there. His nephew was a believer, and maybe there were other believers. Abraham didn’t want his nephew and those other believers to be swept away in God’s judgment, and so Abraham prayed to God. Do you see how gutsy his prayer is to God? He says to God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? You’re not going to treat them the same, are you? What if there are 50 believers in those cities?” Quite a bold prayer on Abraham’s part, isn’t it? Abraham could have said to himself, “It won’t matter if I pray. It won’t matter what I say. Who am I to pray anyway? It won’t matter. God will do whatever he wants to do.” But Abraham is the opposite of that – he prays very very boldly.
And what’s even more amazing is that God listens to Abraham. God says to Abraham, “I’ll spare the whole place if I find 50 righteous people.” That’s the grace of God right there, that he’s listening to Abraham. God could have said, “Abraham, it doesn’t matter what you say – I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m God, and you have no idea what’s going on in the world, but I do, because I’m God. So just be quiet. Let me do my thing.” But that’s not what God does here. God wanted Abraham to pray to him. God wanted to listen. God wanted to change his plans, for the sake of Abraham’s prayer.
If the story ended there, that would be amazing enough. But the story goes on. In verse 27, Abraham admits that he knows he’s “pushing his luck.” “I’ve been bold to speak to the Lord, even though I am dust and ashes.” Abraham is bold, but he’s also very humble. Then he asks God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only 45 believers are found there. Once again, God listens. Abraham talks God all the way down to 30, then to 20, and finally, after apologizing and asking God not to get angry, he talks God down to 10. I am always amazed when I read this story, amazed at how bold Abraham was as he prayed to God.