Archive for July, 2010

Toe-to-Toe

How do you pray?  What do your prayers sound like?  Are you polite?  Soft spoken? Reserved?  Our worship study of the life of Abraham forced that question upon us. Why?  God invites to Abraham to talk with him about his plan to go down to Sodom and see if things are as bad as he has heard.

Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” Genesis 18

God speaks these words in such a way that makes it clear he wants Abraham to overhear.  We do the same thing when we speak loud enough to be overheard by someone we want to draw into conversation.  What sort of relationship must God have with Abraham if God will not make a major move without talking it through with him?  Why would God consult Abraham?  God plans to reveal his character to Abraham in a shocking way.  God wants Abraham to challenge him based on His character.  God wants Abraham to argue his side.  Abraham does not disappoint God.

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 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? 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?” Genesis 18

Abraham prays boldly: “Lord, this is not you.  You are the righteous judge. This is not your way.”  Abraham uses stronger words than this.  The Hebrew word is: “profane.”  He says, “Lord, this is wrong.  Do not do this thing.”  Who dares go toe-to-toe with God?  Who dares to challenge God and call him to account?  Who can do this and live?  No sooner has Abraham spoken these words than he realizes this himself.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…” Genesis 18

But, God never corrects him.  God never gives the slightest indication that he is offended in any way by Abraham’s bold challenge.  What follows is the longest recorded prayer in the book of Genesis, the substance of which is Abraham’s pleading for Sodom.  Though Lot, Abraham’s nephew lives there, Abraham takes up a far greater cause than the safety of his family. He pleads for the city.  He asks God to spare the city for the sake of the righteous.

I read this and I am ashamed of my prayers.  How often am I the pleading priest calling upon God to show his mercy?  How often have I pressed God to consider his character or his promises? How often have I taken up the cause of my city or even my children with such bold prayer?  Philip Yancey brings up just this point in his book on prayer.  He cites the boldness of Sojourner Truth who went toe-to-toe with God when she could not pay her bills and when her son was sick and close to death.

Oh, God you know how much I am distressed, for I have told you again and again. Now, God, help me get my son. If you were in trouble as I am, and I could help you as you can help me, think I wouldn’t do it?  Yes, God, you know I would do it.

Why did Sojourner do this?  She knew and walked with God.  When questioned about her bold prayers, she said: “Let others say what they will of he efficacy of prayer, I believe in it and I shall pray.  Thank God! Yes, I shall always pray.” God heard her and answered her prayer

Might it be that God is honored when we come to him with such boldness? Might it be that God wants us to go toe-to-toe with him that we might better learn his ways? Might it be that he has called us to be priests pleading with him for our family and our world?  What do your prayers sound like?