It takes the Bible a while to bring up the subject of prayer. Altars, sin, covenants, and sacrifices all get early mentions, but not prayer. The first time the Bible uses the word “pray” is Genesis 20:7. Before that, Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, and Hagar simply talked with God and heard what He had to say to them. No technical prayer words were necessary. It was easy—people engaged in conversation with God. We tend to make it more complex, but two-way communication remains the essence of prayer.
One day, Abraham had a long prayer conversation with God. The Lord, with two angels, had visited Abraham. They took the form of three men. They were headed for Sodom and Gomorrah in response to an outcry about sin in the cities. As the two angels went ahead, Abraham began to appeal to the Lord.
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” (Gen. 18:22-26)
The pleading continued until the Lord agreed to spare Sodom if He found just ten righteous people there.
Some lessons for us:
- At a glance, Biblical prayers might seem inappropriately bold. However, prayer is always an appeal to God’s character and will, so it never demands of Him something He is not willing and able to give. Abraham appealed to the just dealings of the Judge of all the earth. “Do what You do best.”
- The position we take to pray is irrelevant. Abraham stood before the Lord. Sitting, kneeling, lying down, lifting our hands, opening or closing our eyes, are all fine. What matters is to focus on the Lord.
- The subject of prayer can be our needs, those we love, strangers, even enemies.1 Abraham prayed for justice for a city but was probably more interested in the fate of his nephew Lot and his family who lived there.
As with any conversation, the Lord had things that He wanted to communicate to Abraham too. In our intercessory prayer, let’s listen and learn.
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- Matt. 5:44 [↩]