When asked to define prayer, 19th-century preacher F. W. Robertson said this: “It is to connect every thought with the thought of God, to look on everything as His work and His appointment, to submit every thought, wish, and resolve to Him to feel His presence so that it shall restrain us even in our wildest joy.”
But a much simpler definition of prayer is simply to ask. In today’s passage, Abraham asks God a series of bold questions when he learns that the Lord is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s concern is reflected in his first question, expressed in verse 23: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham had a specific reason to be concerned. His nephew Lot lived in Sodom with his family. Although the patriarch does not mention Lot by name, it seems likely that Abraham was afraid they would be swept up in the city’s destruction. Abraham asked a second question in verse 25: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Speaking freely, Abraham knew God would do the right thing.
To us, this exchange may sound like bargaining, but they did not haggle. There was no back and forth in Abraham’s negotiations. The Lord yielded at every threshold until the limit reached a number that Abraham believed was a sure thing. God promised not to destroy the city if ten righteous people could be found in it (v. 32). Unfortunately, even this number was not low enough! Here God demonstrated His grace not only in patiently hearing Abraham’s petitions but also by eventually granting the one thing the patriarch did not explicitly request. God spared Lot’s life.
>> What is prayer? As we continue this month’s study, we will see that it has many dimensions. But at its most basic level, prayer is asking God something with confidence that He will do what is right. What do you need from God today? Boldly ask and then trust His answer.
Lord, right and wrong are simple concepts. But our ability to discern them is complicated by human limitations, mixed motives, and sinful inclinations. Teach us to trust You to do right, even when Your ways defy our comprehension.