Prayer as Divine Negotiation

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June 11, 2018

Genesis 18:22-26

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a word for the kind of praying we see in today’s text:

I’m just not sure what it is. To call it bold seems tepid. If you’ve never read the rest of this text, please take the time to do so. Bottom line, Abraham turns prayer on its side and moves it into the realm of a negotiation. It strikes us as all at once audacious and borderline insanity.

Something tells me this pleased the Lord. Why? Abraham lays hold of Sodom in a very God-like way. This is what prayer designs to do—to cause us to risk over-stepping our bounds that we might find the boundary and run right up to it. God can handle our bravery in his presence far better than our passive tendency to play it safe.

And there’s a word to be said here about the nature and interplay of prayer and faith. As I look back on so much of my former “prayer life” I think my praying was more an expression of my hope that this whole God thing was real. Faith is not hopefulness in the reality of something you can’t see. Faith is a determined movement on a decided reality. Prayer navigates the movement. Prayer is not a “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone as the game-clock expires.” Prayer is not a, “when all else fails try prayer,” last resort remedy.

Prayer is the normative zone of interactivity between God and human beings founded in covenantal relationship and forged from a dogged and insistent clinging to the character of God‚—even to the point of reminding God of who he is.

Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Note what Abraham is not praying. He does not say, “If there are fifty righteous people in the city, AND if it is your will, would you spare the city from destruction?” Abraham asserts the will of God, based on the revealed character of God— that God will not treat the righteous and the wicked alike. This is not prayer as presumption but prayer as participation.

Is it God’s will to save and deliver and heal people? Yes. Does God always save and deliver and heal? No. Why? We can’t know. Sometimes it takes four hundred years of hindsight to even begin to understand a larger plan with ten thousand contingencies and a thousand seeming contradictions.

The bigger truth of redemption is the way God can save without apparent deliverance or healing. In the process of winning a war stretching across all of time and space, millions of battles are seemingly lost. God searches for people who will concede none of them; those who will never give up, never give in, never back down, and never let go. Why? Because love never gives up, never gives in, never backs down and never lets go. It’s why the school of prayer is the school of Divine Love. Even in the face of abject failure, the love of God never fails. BEHOLD THE CROSS.

At the end of the day, God would have saved Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people, but they could not be found. Still, God saved Lot.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. I grasp this at a certain level and still it doesn’t show forth in every day life enough. Awaken me to real faith, bold audacity and holy love. Nudge me out of my comfort zone today, o.k. shove me, for the sake of your great name.  Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What stands out to you about today’s text and Abraham’s negotiation with God?
  2. Have you ever reminded God of his character and nature as a part of your praying? Reflect on that.
  3. What would it look like for you to push past the normal safe boundaries of your way of praying and relating to God and others?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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