Our text for this morning follows our text from last week. You might remember that last week the Lord appeared to Abraham and specifically promised that within the year his wife Sarah would have a son. As we move into our text for this morning we see that the Lord had more business to attend to as His face was set toward Sodom and Gomorrah. We begin at verse seventeen,“(17The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him’)” (v. 17-19).
So, why is the Lord telling these things to Abraham? Because Abraham would be the father of those living in this land. As the father of those who would be living in the land, as the patriarch as we call him, the Lord tells Abraham what is happening and in so telling him, He is encouraging him to pray for those in the land, including his own family. Remember, his nephew Lot was living in Sodom.
In speaking with Abraham, concerning what was happening in the land, concerning the sin of those in Sodom and Gomorrah, God is setting an example of judgment and justice for the children of Abraham, for those who would be the children of Israel. God cannot and will not tolerate sin. Sin must be dealt with and it must be dealt with with the full measure of God’s justice and judgement. For God to tolerate sin would go against the very nature of God Himself, that He is perfect and holy.
Although God is not accountable to Abraham, but lest he might think that God is unreasonable, God tells Abraham His reason for judgement, picking up at verse twenty, “20Then the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know’” (v. 20-21). The Lord tells Abraham that He has heard the outcry of the sin in Sodom and Gomorrah. We might be reminded of another of God’s hearing of an outcry of sin was that of Abel’s blood crying out after he was killed by Cain. Here, the Lord hears the outcry of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Perhaps these are words of warning in our own lives as we sin and the Lord hears the outcry of our own sin, pleading out against us and even convicting and condemning us.
The Lord tells Abraham that He will, as our text says, see and know if their outcry is as bad as it sounds. In other words, the Lord will go down and rightly and justly judge the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. And we can rest assured, God’s judgement will be just and right.
After the Lord reveals to Abraham what He is about to do, Abraham prays for Sodom. Picking up at verse twenty-two, “22So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (v. 22-33).
Notice that Abraham prays because he is encouraged by God to do so. God told him what He was going to do and Abraham’s response, in concern for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and his own family, is that he is moved to pray to the Lord. Again, remember, Abraham’s nephew Lot is living in Sodom and so Abraham is praying for Lot, his family, and the rest of the people of the city as well.
In his prayer, not in any deceptive way, but in humble adoration, Abraham puts forward the Lord’s nature. Picking up at verse twenty-five, “25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? 26And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake’” (v.25- 26). Certainly in our own prayer life we might be mindful of and remind the Lord of His own Word and especially His own Words of promise, not that God needs the reminder, but in our speaking such words, they are indeed a reminder to us.
Notice that as Abraham prays, he knows his station and is humble in his petition, picking up at verse twenty-seven, “27Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (v. 27). Certainly Abraham’s example in praying is a good example for us to follow. We pray in response to our Lord’s Word to us. We pray in concern for other people as well as our own family. And we pray knowing our station so that our prayer is a prayer of humility from one who is “but dust and ashes.”
And finally, Abraham is encouraged and continues his prayer, his requests and pleading to the point that he believes Sodom will receive a reprieve, because he personally believes that certainly there has to be at least ten faithful people in the city. Of course, as we know the story, unfortunately at this point in time the city has become so corrupted that there are not even ten faithful believers in the entire city. So, although God justly destroys the city, by His grace He saved Abraham’s family.
So, what does this mean? Our Gospel lesson serves as a wonderful tie in this morning because in the Gospel lesson we hear Jesus teach His disciples and us to pray. Just as many religious teachers of Jesus’ day taught their disciples to pray, so our Lord teaches His own disciples how to pray. Yet, not only does Jesus teach His disciples how to pray, He follows with words of encouragement in prayer, namely that God does listen and that we should be persistent in our prayers.
In our text for this morning we have the encouragement of Abraham praying to encourage our faithful prayers. Abraham did not know the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, only what was God’s intention. Abraham did not think more highly of himself, but came before the Lord in humbleness of heart and mind. Abraham did not now how God would answer his prayer, only that he believed the Lord would hear and answer according to what He knew was best, according to His good and gracious will. Abraham prayed out of his concern for his family and others.
We also find encouragement in our own prayer life because we have God’s promise to hear our prayer. Just as the Lord listened to and responded to Abraham’s prayer, to each and every petition and just as Jesus spoke concerning the fact that God hears our prayers and gives us good gifts and the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, so we are encouraged because we can be confident that the Lord hears our prayers and answers our prayers and gives us His Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God that we can rest confident that as we pray to the Lord, that as He hears and answers our prayer, we can be confident and we have God’s promise to answer our prayer, according to what He knows we need according to what He knows is best for us. Too often we pray for what we think we need, when the reality is that we do not always know what we need, nor do we always know for what to pray nor how to pray. Thanks be to God that even before we know what we need, even before we pray, He knows what we need, thus we pray, Lord help me to pray and Lord answer my prayer according to Your good and gracious will.
As for our own prayer life, we too, even today, have the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s prayer is the perfect prayer, because it is His prayer. Personally, I will admit that I cannot make up a better prayer. For those who would suggest that the only real prayers are extemporaneous prayers, that is prayers that are made up at the time and rise out of one’s heart and mind, I would remind them that the Lord’s prayer is a prayer that was given to us by God and certainly He rejoices in hearing us speak the very words He has given us to speak back to Him.
The Lord’s prayer is the perfect prayer because it was given to us by God, but even more, because it incorporates everything for which we truly need to pray. The Lord’s prayer faithfully speaks words concerning our own as well as our neighbor’s spiritual well-being. Especially including our greatest need, forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s prayer faithfully speaks words of our own as well as our neighbor’s physical well-being. Certainly our own extemporaneous prayers are important, because they speak of what is on our heart and mind, but never think the Lord’s prayer as anything but the perfect prayer.
Finally, we find encouragement in our prayer life as our prayer life flows out of our faith life. As we have been reading and hearing over the past number of weeks, God is the prime mover. It all starts, flows from and ends with the Lord. God gives first, God loves first, God stirs in us. We pray, not because God needs us to pray, but because of our need to pray. We pray as we are loved by God and He has shown His love in the giving of His life for ours in the person of Jesus on the cross. We prayer because, we hear His Word encouraging us to pray and we have confidence that He will hear our prayer and that He will answer our prayer according to what He knows is best for us according to His good and gracious will.
This morning, then, I too, encourage you in your own prayer life. As we learned in the explanation to the introduction of the Lord’s prayer in confirmation class, “Our Father who art in heaven,” “What Does This Mean?” “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.” And I would also encourage you to know and believe that God is your true and dear Father and that He will hear and answer you prayer, in His time, which is when He knows is best to answer our prayer, and according to His good and gracious will, that is according to what He knows is best for us. And we rejoice in God’s promise to hear and answer our prayer. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.