If God is sovereign and directing every affair in His vast universe, are we just passive robots? Incidental machines programmed to perform like lifeless marionettes? Since puppets have no sway over their handlers, maybe we should just forget prayer–or at least not be too hopeful about it. Maybe just casually and passively say in our best French, C’est la vie? Abraham might have responded with something like this: “You can’t be serious!”
Listening to what was ahead, horror twisted Abraham’s stomach into knots. It was his nephew’s home–and home to the nephew’s married daughters. Sodom was an evil place and Abraham knew it. But dear God, his nephew!
Speaking of “Dear God”, Abraham was face to face with Him. Appearing as a man that day, God was traveling with 2 angels and the three had dropped in unexpectedly for a visit. Following a fine lunch Sarah that had hurriedly prepared for them, God confided that Sodom and Gomorrah were in His cross-hairs. Fighting nervous cramps, Abraham asked if the city could get a second chance if God discovered 50 people there who worshiped Him. “Yes.” What about 45, would 45 righteous people be enough to avert your justice? “Yes.” Ok, what about 40? “Yes.” Uhm…, what about 30? “Yes.” 20? “Yes.” Even 10? “Yes, even 10 would change things.”
In Genesis 18, the difference between Abraham and the customer negotiating with the used car dealer, was that Abraham knew exactly who he was dealing with: he was asking a just God to be just (“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”). As his suggested numbers got lower and lower, Abraham began pleading with a merciful God to be merciful.
God listened to Abraham–not a robot, but a man of faith whom God had chosen to bless the entire world. James says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (4:2). Isn’t that true? At times we don’t think to ask for something because of a bad memory: last time God didn’t answer. We gave up then and don’t want to be disappointed again. Yet this is the very spirit Jesus says to run from (Lk.18:1). If we don’t bother to pray, Satan wins the day. We ask God to be good, because He is. We ask Him to be merciful, because He is. We ask Him to be generous, because He is.
Ask God. Pray big, bold prayers. No, not the prosperity gospel kind (You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3), but the kind that only He can do, that are perfectly suited to His nature, and are the kind of things daddies love to do (Matt.7:11) for their children.