In my Bible reading yesterday, I read through Genesis 18. This chapter includes Sarah’s laughter in her tent (and the following rebuke) upon hearing she was to have a child; God’s promises to Abraham further developed; and Abraham’s intercession for Sodom, primarily due to the fact his nephew, Lot (and family), were living there.
When you read through Abraham’s persistent praying you’re left thinking either how weak your own praying is or how bold (borderline dumb) Abraham’s praying is. He is relentless. The greater view for me this time was God’s gracious, sovereign dealing with this man of God’s promise, Abraham.
What a grace to be heard by God and for God to respond with positive answers…not once, but SIX times! His intercession, of course, was for God to deliver the city if there are (finally) at least 10 people counted as righteous in their midst. However, v.33 really struck me this time around…
“And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.”
The emphasis in this prayer – dialogue is on God, not Abraham and not the people of Sodom. The conversation was over when God walked away. You even get the sense that Abraham’s push for Sodom to be saved would have rested if just “one” had been found righteous. But God allowed Abraham to speak, to interact with Him, and when God had finished patiently saying what He had to say, He walked. Abraham, instead of beating his chest, returned to his place.
This goes to the heart of prayer and sovereignty of God, doesn’t it? The fact is, God’s destruction of Sodom was imminent. He didn’t use Abraham has a robot or pawn. He graciously allowed Abraham to participate in His work if, for any other reason, to glory in God at the gracious deliverance of Lot and some of his family.
Chapter 19 goes on to tell the story of God’s rescuing of Lot (including many shocking details that would have to be included in the list, “Daddy said what?”). And this is the point. God was just to destroy Sodom for the wickedness in the land. God was gracious to save any at all – amazingly gracious. While God’s plan went unchanged, God’s glorious grace was put on display because of the prayerful interchange between Himself and Abraham.
Essentially, prayer and the Sovereignty of God find their blessed union in the glory of God’s grace. In our adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication we understand God’s character more deeply, making requests before Him and see His hand move. In this, if we’ve prayed biblically, we get God’s perspective on things. This means that prayer is certainly no divine arm-twisting experience. Nor is it a gripe, or whining exercise with a “Dear God” and “Amen” as bookends. No. Prayer is getting God’s perspective on the work of His glorious grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some may say, “But what difference does it make? Sodom was going to be wiped out no matter what!” Yes, but it makes all the difference to Lot and especially to Abraham, through who God made promises of a Savior for His people through whom He would make for Himself a spiritual nation. Abraham saw God’s righteousness, justice, and mercy on display all because he dared to pray fervently before the Lord.