Until recently, I had no idea that Abraham was the first prayer warrior. Unless we count the generic phrase, “call upon the Lord,”1 the first two mentions of prayer in the Bible are of healing prayer for barrenness. The story of Abraham’s prayer time is quite the eye opener.2
After watching Sodom and Gomorrah vanish in a firestorm, Abraham headed west. He settled in Gerar. Abimelech, king of Gerar, took Abraham’s wife, Sarah, thinking that she was Abraham’s sister. However, God intervened and an embarrassed Abimelech returned Sarah untouched. Even so, the women in Abimelech’s household became barren.
Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. (Gen. 20:17-18)
Notice three things about this incident:
- The first recorded prayer did not focus on self. It is not wrong to pray for ourselves, but a healthy prayer life encompasses others.
- Of all types of prayer, healing prayer clearly invokes the power of God in a situation that is humanly impossible. Healing prayer sounds audacious but Abraham’s prayer worked. Although we never know why or when prayer works, when it does, it builds faith in God’s love and might.
- Most significantly, Abraham’s prayer was an early example of passing God’s blessing on to the nations. Abimelech and the people of Gerar were foreigners, perhaps even ancestors of the Philistines who later lived in that territory. They experienced the loving touch of God through Abraham.
Healing prayer continues to be one of the ways in which God builds faith and opens hearts to Him. Jesus’ impact on people’s lives was often described in terms of salvation, but the Greek word is expansive enough to include the idea of wholeness. It is also translated in terms of healing.3 Miracles of healing went hand-in-hand with salvation. So, tuck healing prayer in your outreach tool belt and see how it opens hearts to the Lord.
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- Gen. 4:26; 12:8; 13:4. [↩]
- In Genesis 25:21, Isaac prayed for Rebecca to have a child. [↩]
- For examples see the records of: a hemorrhaging woman (Matt. 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48), blind man (Mark 10:52; Luke18:42), demons (Luke 8:36), dead raised (Luke 8:50), lepers healed (Luke 17:19), and sin forgiven (Luke 7:47–50). [↩]