Gen 18:17 The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, Gen 18:20 Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, Gen 18:21 I 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." Gen 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
Gen 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
Here is a well-known passage where Abraham intercedes on the behalf of the righteous in Sodom before the city is destroyed for their sin. In going through the passage this time I was impressed with what spurred Abraham to pray. It was knowledge and specifically the knowledge of what God was going to do. Instead of knowing that God was sovereign and all his will would be accomplished and figuring that it didn’t really matter what he did because God’s will couldn’t be stopped; the very opposite happened.
We aren’t told if the Lord told Abraham that he was going to destroy Sodom or if Abraham just assumed as much but either way what caused Abraham to intercede was knowing that God is a God who judges sin but also that he was a God who loved his people and showed mercy. I was struck at the Lord’s words, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do”. It is as if he was deliberately inviting Abraham to get involved with prayer. The knowledge of God isn’t just so we can be amazed and then use it as an excuse to not get involved in his work. Because we know how he works we should know how to pray and that he expects us to pray.
There are examples of how the knowledge of God directs our lives in the NT. Rom_2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Rom_5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. 1Co_15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. In fact, just looking up the word “knowing” in the Bible shows how often we are told to use the knowledge found in the Bible to direct our thinking and actions. But the one that I was specifically thinking of was 2Co_5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”
I can imagine Abraham’s first thought was of his nephew Lot and his family who resided in Sodom. What drove him to pray was knowing what God will do to unrepentant sinners and he didn’t want his loved ones to be caught up in it. So he prays for their physical safety.
And so this helps us understand how we are to pray and why. We are told to pray for our civic leaders in 1 Tim. 2 not so they can have a good life and blessed by God so they can go on serving sin but that under their leadership God’s people can continue to serve the Lord without harassment and so the gospel can go forth unabated. We pray for our unsaved loved ones because we know that there is a day of reckoning for all people. The Lord invites us to be part of his work in redeeming souls by praying for things that would aid to that end.
We are never told that there is nothing we can do except sit back and just accept whatever God’s secret counsels are. I am thankful that nothing can stop his will and that he is more powerful than my enemies but he didn’t make us to be cold fatalists, instead we are to care about others and about the Lord’s work and pray for needs and pray that God’s providence will bring about the salvation of the lost.
The second great commandment is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. If we have no burden for them that moves us to pray for them and to put feet to our prayers and speak to them when possible then we must ask ourselves how much we really love them. The great doctrines of the sovereignty of God are probably the most fundamental and important in all of Scripture but they are there to spur us to depend and trust on the Lord and to pray fervently for him to be who he is a God who will exercise vengeance on our enemies but also a God who can save both our enemies and our friends. It is because all power rests in him and he is perfectly wise and good and trustworthy that he is the only one we can pray to who can answer our prayers.
The more we know the Word, the better we know our God and the more accurately we can bring our petitions to him and be used in his Work. It is an amazing doctrine that God uses his people’s prayers as a way for his will to be done. He doesn’t depend on them but he uses them.