As we look at Abraham from our text, it appears he has something: chutzpah, intestinal fortitude – guts. We’re inclined to say that Abraham had a lot of these in our Old Testament reading today. He stands before the Judge of all the earth and bargains. It’s almost like watching “Let’s Make a Deal.” Here, Abraham is the one running the show. He’s pushing God to continue to make a deal after a deal after a deal and for good reason – He did not want to see Sodom and Gomorrah utterly destroyed. He was pleading to God on their behalf and they didn’t even know it. But that isn’t the true picture of who Abraham is, for he tells God, “I who am but dust and ashes.” If that is who Abraham truly is, then how does he get off talking to God the way he does? It is because he understood and believed that the Lord indeed hears the prayers of His people.
It really isn’t about in intestinal fortitude that Abraham had. It was all about the Lord and His mercy and the gift He has given us in prayer. We are encouraged by our heavenly Father to pray. But what is our prayer life focused on? Maybe at times we approach God in selfish ways, asking only for ourselves and what makes up happy, turning God into a divine vending machine. We expect to put in our prayer and God to spit out the request we made. But God is not a divine vending machine. God answers prayer in His way and His time, as He knows to be best for us.
As we see with Abraham, he knows he has no claim on God. He is not dictating that God answers his prayers. Rather, he is begging and pleading God to spare the people. He is not afraid to pray and to ask God for more and more. But he is not asking more for himself; rather, he is asking for more grace to be shown to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was based on mercy not merit – Abraham knew that the same sinful heart that beat in each inhabitant of Sodom and Gomorrah beat within his own breast and that it was only the grace of God that kept him safe from God’s righteous anger. It was a very unselfish prayer, for Abraham wanted others to experience the same mercy he had. It was a bold prayer, a holy shamelessness to his prayer. Six times he dared to plead the cause of God’s love against God’s righteousness.
In Genesis 19, we see that God did indeed answer Abraham’s prayer. In fact, God did more than what He had promised. Although there were not ten believers in Sodom, God did rescue Lot and his family.
We as the beloved children of God have the wonderful gift of prayer, to go before our heavenly Father and to make our requests known to Him. Because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice upon the cross, we now have direct access to our God.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord not only teachers a prayer God loves to hear, but He also encourages a persistent and expectant prayer life in His disciples and in fellow believers. It is not because of who we are or what we bring to the table, but because He gives us the perfect prayer and because God loves to give good gifts.
So why should we pray? If God knows all, He surely knows what our wants and needs are, so there really is no need to pray, right? Wrong! The first reason is simple: Christians are people of prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray by His example and by His words.
To remind ourselves as to what we should pray for, we turn to the words of the disciples. “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’” Jesus’ disciples had plenty of opportunity to watch Jesus pray. They all knew that John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray. But now, they wanted Jesus to teach them to pray.
Why would they need Jesus to teach them to pray? You just close your eyes, fold your hands and start praying, right? That is why the disciples asked to be taught. They knew that their praying was weak and they needed more. Their request reminds us that good praying is something which we learn. We need God’s help to learn to pray properly.
When one learns to pray the Lord’s Prayer, one learns how God has established His hospitality with us in His name and His kingdom and how we respond to this welcoming God by petitioning Him for those things that we need to keep us faithful and from falling into unbelief. When one prays, one enters into a relationship of hospitality where God is the giver of all things and the petitioner is the recipient of the gift of His Holy Spirit. By that Spirit’s power God’s kingdom comes among us as we “believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” That Holy Spirit keeps the whole Christian church on earth “with Jesus Christ in the one true faith,” and in that church “He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” The grand promise – that the good Father gives the Holy Spirit through Jesus – assures a gracious answer to every prayer.
We are privileged to go to the Father through Jesus. That’s because Jesus’ death on the cross takes away all sin that has separated us from God, that would have kept God from answering our prayers. It is as Paul says in our reading from Colossians today: “God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
For Abraham, he truly believed that God would answer his prayers. Six straight times Abraham asked God if He would spare Sodom and six straight times God answered with a yes. That is also our promise as well; the Lord says yes in showering His mercy upon us. Every prayer a Christian prays always gets an answer. It isn’t always the answer we are looking for, and it doesn’t always come when we expect it. It may come at the most unusual time, but the answer comes. The answer God gives is always the answer of a wise and loving Father. He gives His answer, not when we see fit, but when He knows best. His answer is how it should be, not how we want it to be. God will not play tricks on us, His children, when we come with a simple request. When we ask for something good and necessary, He will not give us something harmful. God’s promise to answer prayer encourages confidence as well as persistence. We continue to pray with all earnestness because God is the heavenly Father who loves to give us much more than we ask or expect, and we pray because we are now His precious children by faith in Christ Jesus. With a loud voice, we can all say “Amen,” and amen. Now the peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.