Genesis 18 – Abraham’s Prayer

Abraham’s Prayer- Genesis 18

In today’s lesson we see another benefit that occurs when we honor God and delight in His Presence.

Remember- this visit of the Lord and the two angels was a test of Abraham’s heart. To see if Abraham would feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and take a stranger in. In this practical but humble way God says we reveal the conditions of our heart. In showing hospitality to strangers we fill the two greatest commandments – we show by our actions that we ‘ Love the Lord thy God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbor as yourself when we minister to them. The Lord Jesus said when we did it to the least of these – we did it unto Him. ( John13:34- Lord gives us the 11th commandment which expands these two verses-a new commandment I give unto you – to love one another as I HAVE LOVED YOU.)

As a result of Abraham’s acts of hospitality which came from a circumcised heart- Abraham’s actions led to Sarah’s faith being strengthened and judged the Lord who promised faithful. So when we minister to others the love of Christ through us, His body, we see the lives of others changed. This is the outcome of faithful service motivated by our love for the Lord and our love for our neighbor.

But there is also another benefit or outcome- when we delight ourselves in His presence –God reveals His will to us and gives us insight into His character and purpose. He reveals secrets to us-He shows us great and mighty things we know not. What believer would not want to experience this?

What we are about to study is the first example and prototype of intercessory prayer. What Abraham did here as a believer, you and I can also do as believers.  So let us take careful note of this account. George Mueller, a man known for his prayers of faith, said it was this account that taught him the most important secrets of prayer.

Let me say this at the outset:  Prayer is not a way to make God change His mind. When He announces something, He will do it. When He declares He will move in a certain direction, He always moves in that direction and our prayer cannot change it. However, prayer can defer judgment and prayer can speed up blessing. Prayer can affect timing. I will give scriptural examples later.

We will also learn as we observe God that He is not rash, sudden or unfair in His judgment.

In addition we will learn that God is looking for intercessors. His manner of telling Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah is to encourage Abraham to intercede for the people of those cities. God wants us to be concerned about what He is concerned about- the souls of people- for He is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance. But God is also revealing to us what happens if there is no repentance, if there is no change.

Let us learn from this passage how to become intercessors for those  in danger of judgment.

This section of scripture starts in a most unusual way: God shares his thoughts, what He is thinking with us. Let us pay attention to this process.

Genesis 18: 17-19 “ The Lord said , ‘ Shall I  hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen Abraham, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the  Lord by doing what is right and just, so the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.”

God is sharing with us His thought process as to how He decides to share or reveal His will to us.

In these two verses we discover another important fact concerning prayer- it begins with God. True prayer is never a man’s plan which he brings to God to bless. There may be things we want to do or want God to do for us and we can ask Him anything. In these situations prayer is a will alignment. As we will discover- Abraham does not change God’s mind- but Abraham discovers God’s will.

Certainly we ask Him to watch over our families and direct our paths- but these are prayers that find their basis in God’s word. We are told in scripture what concerns us- concerns our Heavenly Father. We are told He delights to order our steps. As far as our requests ,John tells us we can have confidence in Him that if we ask what is according to His will- He hears our requests. And if we know that He hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.  It is important for us to remember the prayer of faith is acting on a previous knowledge of what God wants. It is always founded on a promise of God.

If we ask anything contrary to the will of God we cannot expect His blessing. If we request something from Him that is not specifically promised- God can choose to give us what we ask out of the goodness of His Heart or not give us what we ask because it is harmful for us; there is unconfessed sin in our lives; we have asked amiss- with wrong motives  or  He has something better. By making your request specific- you can receive a specific answer. A word of caution here for we must be careful and remember the heart is deceitful above all things. Continue in prayer for a season- until either a clear answer comes or you no longer desire what you were praying for.

God loves to answer our prayers. He desires more than anything to bless us- His children. God also loves to share His secrets with us. The Lord’s disciples ask the Lord to teach them to pray in Luke 11. Jesus gave them the guidelines for prayer and then added a parable about persistence and boldness in praying. So let us stop and make the same request:  Lord teach us to pray!

God in talking to Himself in these verse gives us an insight into why He will not keep His will from Abraham. And remember what applies to Abraham – applies to us.

First, God has given Abraham by grace a favored position with Him.

Second, God has chosen Abraham in order that Abraham might charge his children and household to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Abraham is being taught  by grace how to walk before God.

For these reasons- God decides to tell Abraham His secrets.

Do you not see the parallel for us today as believers?  Every believer in Jesus Christ stands in the same relationship with God as Abraham did. Abraham was called the ‘ friend of God.’ What did Jesus say to us- ‘ You are my friends, if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15;14,15)

As believers we stand in a favored position. A position given to us by grace not works. And like Abraham we are being taught how to walk in faith- to walk righteously before Him.

It is not enough to have the favored position. I believe many Christians believe because they have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, all that God has is now open to them. But there must be the walk, the daily appropriation of what and who He is, so that  we learn to walk in righteousness. When we do this- God will share His secrets with us as He did with Abraham. The friendship and revelation of God’s will is based on obedience. “ You are my friends if you do what I command.” If you love me- you will keep my commandments.

In verse 20 God reveals to Abraham what He is about  to do. In doing so, God is enlisting Abraham’s help in intercessory prayer. God does not reveal His game plan to us – to have us sit idle on the side. He has charged us in the Great Commission what we are to do.

Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is grievous, I will go down to see whether  they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me.”

As Hagar described God as the God Who Sees Me- God sees all. He visits our homes, our cities, our most private thoughts, actions and deeds. Before He judges, God investigates the charges and probes to see the conditions.

He says to Abraham- ‘then I will know’. When Abraham hears the Lord say this- Abraham knows what is happening in Sodom and Gomorrah and what the Lord will find. He also knows the Lord will destroy those wicked cities.

Verse 22 of Genesis 18 tells us the two men with the Lord who are angels in disguise went toward Sodom.

Notice what Abraham does next—“ he(Abraham) draws near to the Lord.”  We are told when we draw near to the Lord- He will draw near to us. In these 10 verses we read a most remarkable account of intercessory prayer.

I wonder what would have been your response to the Lord?  Perhaps many of us, when we think of some of the sinful, godless cities in America- would have said to the Lord—Well it’s about time you destroyed those filthy homosexuals!  Or we could go in the other direction and say- Now Lord- are you going to destroy the whole city? These people are not all bad- there is some really good people down there. Don’t be too hard on them.

First Abraham recognizes the mercy of God. Abraham says to the Lord- suppose there are 50 righteous men in the city. Wouldn’t you spare the whole city for them? Abraham appeals to God’s position of Judge of the Whole Earth. But Abraham is also appealing to God’s nature, specifically God’s love and mercy that He would not destroy the righteous with the unrighteous. The bottom line is Abraham is interceding for the lost, the wicked that God would spare them for the sake of the righteous.  Do you not realize this is what God has been doing for centuries? God has been sparing the wicked and not destroying the earth and the righteous with them for two reasons. God is not willing that any should perish but all would come to repentance so He is patient giving the  lost plenty of  opportunities; secondly , His concern is for His people- His wheat. . He does not uproot the tares lest He damage His wheat. This is His world –His field, His vineyard and His creation and He will always do what is right. (Matthew 13- Parable of wheat & tares).

This is why God permits human history to go on. Because of His mercy, and love for both the righteous and unrighteous He refuses to destroy the earth while we, the righteous are still on it. But after the rapture- when the dead in Christ shall rise first and we, believers, who are alive are caught up- then the Great Tribulation will begin. And finally God will destroy all the unrighteous as He did in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Remember this about Almighty God- He has the right to do anything and He always does what is right. He always does what is the best for the most people for the longest period of time. His decision in Matthew 13 was based on what was best for His wheat and He chose for the wheat and tares to co-exist until the time of harvest.

Note the words of Abraham as he enters the throne room of grace with boldness combined with humility. “ Behold I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.”  Who does God give His Grace to ? The humble.

Listen to what James writes:  “ You lust and have not; you kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain; you fight and war, yet you have not; because you ask not. You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss that you may consume it yourself.”

Abraham was called a friend of God. Jesus told us we were His friends if we obeyed Him. In fact He said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. For sure we cannot be friends with the world and friends with God. We are admonished to love not the things of the world. Lovers of the world are lovers of self and are boastful, covetous, blasphemers,  without natural affections. God resist these proud- but He gives grace to the humble- those who realize they are but dust and ashes.

In Psalms 37 we are told to : “ Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I read this scripture to mean God will give me the desires of the heart that He, God desires. In this story it is God who is causing Abraham to feel God’s own compassion and to reflect God’s desire for an opportunity to show mercy.

Let’s see if we can understand our position:  Jesus tells us: I(Jesus) am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14;20)

Now as a believer you were placed in Jesus at His crucifixion- you were crucified with Him.

At His resurrection- He, the Resurrected Lord is in us.

And now we hear Jesus explain that we are both in God the Father.

FACTS: First of all – greater is He who is in us- than he who is in the world.

And  also- you and I need to be persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels or principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord – who is in us and we are in Him and we both are in God the Father.

So we believe the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of God is indwelling us and sealing us and filling us when we yield to Him. Not only does the Holy Spirit convict us of sin and righteousness ; He also guides us in truth and comforts us.

But listen to this truth:

Romans 8;26-27:  “ like wise the Spirit also helps our infirmities(weakness); for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  Did you get that last phrase- ‘according to the will of God.” What was it John told us in I John 5; 14&15?  “and this is the confidence we have IN HIM, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know  that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desired of Him.”

How do we know the will of God?. ( see I Cor.2 : 9-16)  These verses tell us it is the Holy Spirit that  reveals to us God’s will, God’s heart, and God’s mind.  It also underscores man’s greatest need- which is a personal relationship with God for the man without the Spirit cannot understand  the things of God.

God wants us to join Him in His work. He wants us to experience the joy of the partnership of working with Our Heavenly Father.

When my boys were little- they couldn’t’ wait for me to come home to play with them. They came to love football and basket ball because I loved those sports. We watched games together upstairs. And one day they asked me as two team were playing—‘ which team are we for, Daddy?’ They wanted to be for whatever or whoever their Daddy was for.

Is this not what God our Father wants –for us to be for what He is for?

I remember a Chicago Bull player talking about a victory and he boasted- Michael Jordan and I combined to score 65 points and beat the Pistons.  In fact- Jordan scored 62 points and the other player scored 3 points.

Like the father who allows his son to help him build a dog house by hammering some nails- the little boy proudly tells his mother- Daddy and I are building a dog house. The daddy doesn’t need his son’s help- he could do it easier and quicker by himself- but the dad loves to have his son help him and the son loves helping his dad. In doing so they enjoy one another and the son learns from his father.

Prayer is what makes that partnership with Almighty God possible. And our Heavenly Father loves to have us work with him. He could do it easier, better and quicker by Himself – but He delights to have us partner with Him in His work. And we learn from Him – how to do what He is doing.

Prayer also enables us to appropriate the character of God.

This partnership prayer also focuses the power of God on an individual place or person.

Prayer also affects the timing of God as  I mentioned earlier. Prayer does not change or alter the sovereign will of God but aligns our will with His- but prayer can defer judgment or speed up blessing. It affects timing.

Remember Jonah at Nineveh:  “ Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”. The whole city went to prayer and repented and God delayed, postponed the destruction of Nineveh. But almost 100 years later- the city was finally destroyed

Hezekiah in Judah had a severe illness and Isaiah came to him and announced he would die. ( Isaiah 38) Hezekiah we are told turned his face to the wall and wept and prayed to God to spare his life. God heard and stopped Isaiah who turned around and went back and told Hezekiah God had heard his prayer and given him fifteen more years.

And Peter tells us In 2 Peter 3- we can ‘hasten the day of God’ referring to His second coming by living lives of holiness and godliness.  We are told not to ‘throw away our confidence for the One coming is coming in a little while.

If we are walking before the Lord as Abraham did, and our hearts are available to God to pray through us, and to reflect through us the very passion and desire that is in the heart of God  what a difference we can make in this world.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes: “That God may grant you to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, and Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:16,17)

This without a doubt the most amazing Christian doctrine- that Jesus Christ dwells ,lives in our hearts. Jesus Christ Himself through the Holy Spirit will actually enter our hearts at salvation and settle down and make our heart His home.

God does not dwell in a temple made with human hands. Through the miracle of the outpoured Spirit, God dwells in the human heart. The body of the believer has become the temple of  the living God and our hearts the home of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why we can live by the faith OF the Son of God because He indwells us; that is why we can experience the peace OF God- because he resides internally.

True prayer is not just man talking to God- it is God in man talking to God in heaven>

By the way- did you notice how Abraham’s prayer was answered and God’s will accomplished at the same time?  The wicked were destroyed – but the righteous were spared. Abraham’s prayer the righteous be spared was answered and God’s will that the wicked be destroyed was accomplished.

May we become men and women of prayer by understanding these truths. For we know the ‘effective fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman releases the power of God.

Teach us to pray , Lord!