Luke 11:5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? 7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. 9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Though the man would not rise because his friend was at the door, he did rise because the man at the door would not go home. What is importunity? Importunity means ‘shamelessness.’ It refers to being without any sense of shame, honor, bashfulness, or regard for others. Another word we might use would be ‘audacity.’ Audacity refers to an attitude of boldness or daring. And so I have had the audacity to entitle tonight’s lesson: The Audacity to Pray.
This is not to say that God wants us to be rude or disrespectful in our prayers. We must not forget that although He is our Father, He is in heaven and hallowed be His name. May His kingdom come and His will always be done. Yet, God wants His children to be bold, confident and persistent in their prayers. A sixty-second prayer filled with confidence has more power than a sixty-minute prayer filled with doubt.
A great example of a proper boldness is found in Genesis, chapter 18.
Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked , and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground.”
The ‘he’ in this passage is Abraham and the three visitors consist of Jesus Christ and two of His angels.
Genesis 18:16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said , Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said , Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous ; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. 22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said , Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
I. The Situation At Sodom
A. Sodom was a city filled with sexual immorality. Though some try to deny it, there is ample evidence in the Bible that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. The book of Jude, vs 7 and 2 Peter 2:6-10 both teach us that their destruction came about because of their sexual sins.
B. The Lord had heard a cry concerning the sin of Sodom. Peter says in 2 Peter 2:7-8, that ‘righteous Lot was tormented every day in his soul over their sin.’ Lot was Abraham’s nephew who had moved to Sodom years earlier in search of wealth. During his time in Sodom, Lot had married a girl from that region and raised a family. Apparently as Lot got a little older and a lot more mature, he began to realize what a terrible mistake he had made, yet after living in Sodom for so long and becoming an important part of the community, he couldn’t bring himself to break away. When the Lord told Abraham His intention to destroy Sodom, Abraham began to pray. In a sense we might say that Abraham showed a lot of importunity or audacity in his prayers. He was bold and persistent in his pleading.
II. The Supplication of Abraham
The Bible sometimes uses the word ‘supplication’ in reference to praying. Paul tells us to be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let our requests be made known unto God. Supplication is specific prayers for specific needs. It is being completely open and honest with God about the situations of our lives.
Genesis 18:22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Did the Lord need Abraham to tell Him what was right? Does God need us to tell Him how to be God? Of course not. But the Lord loves it when His people pray with biblical authority. By that I mean, the Lord loves it when we formulate our prayers according to the truths found in scripture. “Your Word says …”
Some have said that prayer is not so much us telling God what to do as it is God helping us to understand what it is that He is going to do. Adrian Rogers used to say – ‘The prayer that reaches heaven is the prayer that begins in heaven.’ I believe that praying in the Spirit as Paul speaks of it in Ephesians 6:18 is prayer that the Holy Spirit directs as He brings to our mind verses of scripture that pertain to our present need. “Your Word says …” That’s one reason why it’s so important to hide God’s Word in our hearts. How else can we pray with biblical authority unless the Bible has authority over us?
Concerning the role of scripture in prayer, look with me at Hebrews 4 –
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
There we would understand the Word of God to be a reference to this leather-bound book we hold in our hands. Yet, consider what else the writer says –
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Without any explanation the writer makes a transformation from a book to a being.
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
What is he saying? Simply this – God already knows all there is to know about you. Your deepest thoughts and secrets are naked and open before His eyes. Yet, He is not ready to pounce on you and judge you. Because He understand what it is to live here on this earth, He wants you to come boldly unto His throne of grace to obtain mercy and grace in time of need. Prayer is God’s way for you to transfer the weight upon your shoulders to His shoulders.
There are four principles found in Abraham’s praying. The first we have already considered – Boldness. Let me add a bit to this point. Fill in the blank – “Without __________ it is impossible to please God.” Without faith, it is impossible to please God. What is faith? If you study the word faith as it is found in scripture, you will discover that the root meaning of the word faith means to be confident or to be persuaded. Look with me at 2 Timothy 1:12 “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” There are two important words in that passage: ‘believed’ and ‘persuaded.’ The word translated believed in this verse comes from the word – persuaded. Faith is not – “I hope so, I wish, I want, I think…” Faith is – “I am persuaded.” “I am confident.” Without faith or such confidence, it is impossible to please God. Therefore, how can we gain such confidence in our prayers? “Your Word says …” That doesn’t mean that we have to say those words in our prayers, but we have to know that we are standing on solid ground.
The second principle found in Abraham’s prayer is – Humility. That might sound a bit like a contradiction, yet we need to understand the careful balance between the two if we are going to become a powerful prayer warrior.
Genesis 18:26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. 27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
The first reason for humility in our prayers is obvious – God is omnipotent. Omnipotent means ‘all powerful.’ In other words, God is God. The second reason might not be quite as obvious, yet just as important. God is omniscent. Omniscience means ‘all knowing.’ Abraham did not talk God into sparing Sodom for fifty righteous. God would have done that without Abraham’s prayer. Nor did Abraham bargain with God down to the point of ten. The truth is, there was only one righteous man there and some might question that. Even more so, God was not going to destroy Lot. The two angels sent to Sodom went there for the purpose of bringing Lot and his family out before the destruction. God had a plan and He wanted Abraham to understand His plan. Go back to where we started.
Genesis 18: 17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
What was God saying?
1. I want Abraham to know that I have been hearing a cry from Sodom. That cry was coming from Abraham’s own nephew.
2. I want Abraham to know that I am a God of justice and judgment. In other words, I don’t act rashly or contrary to My nature. I am not mean and vindictive. My judgment and My justice always go hand in hand.
3. I want Abraham to teach his children to know Me. How did God do this? Through Abraham’s prayer life. As Abraham searched his soul and pleaded with God concerning Lot and him living in Sodom, God revealed much about Himself and His nature.
The third principle found in Abraham’s prayer is – God’s Character. God is not going to act contrary to His nature. It’s impossible. Therefore, if we are going to witness God answering our prayers, we need to learn how to pray according to God’s character and nature. Let me try to explain.
Suppose something tragic happened to someone you loved. The natural thought would be – ‘God, what are You doing? I thought that You were loving, but I guess You’re not!’ Not only is that kind of praying incorrect, that kind of praying will not bring us peace. Suddenly we’re serving a God that can’t be trusted. What will we do now?
But what if we prayed in this kind of way – “Lord, this hurts me very deeply. I don’t understand what You’re doing, but I believe that You are always good and what You do is always right and that somehow You are going to use this for Your glory and my good. I believe that You are doing things that I can’t see right now, but one day I will.” What would that kind of praying do for a troubled soul?
The last principle found in Abraham’s prayer is – Persistence.
Genesis 18:28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
People often ask me, “How long should I keep praying about a particular matter?” My suggestion is – “Until you have peace in your heart that you can trust God to do what is best.”
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
‘Casting’ is a participle in the active voice which means that we are the ones doing the casting and that we keep doing so throughout life. We cast and we keep casting all our care upon Him. As I said earlier, prayer is God’s way of taking the weight off of your shoulders and placing it on His. How long do we keep casting our care upon Him? As long as there is care there to cast.
III. The Satisfaction of Abraham
There’s something real interesting at the end of the story about Abraham’s prayer.
Genesis 18:33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
Abraham started pleading for fifty, then down to forty-five, then to thirty, then to twenty and finally down to ten. Some have suggested that he should have kept going until he reached one. But he didn’t. Why? I believe that throughout all of this, Abraham learned that God can be trusted to do what is right. I believe that Abraham reached a point in his prayer where he realized that he didn’t have to convince God to be gracious, but that God was doing what He was doing because it was the only thing that could be done. And so Abraham went home, trusting God to do what was right.
At this point a song comes to my mind that always been a blessing. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Joseph M. Scriven