I’ve been asking a lot of people questions about prayer lately. My BSF leader was kind enough to loan me a CD of a talk given by Dr. Chuck Lawless at a recent conference. Dr. Lawless was speaking on Genesis 18-19 as an illustration of the power of intercessory prayer. It definitely changed the way I view this passage of Scripture and the importance of intercession for others.
In Genesis 18, Abraham petitions the Lord regarding the righteous in the doomed city of Sodom. He starts by asking the Lord, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” (verses 23-24). The Lord answers, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake” (verse 26). Abraham continues to ask the Lord, what if there are 45 righteous found there, will He spare the city? What about if there are 40? 30? 20? 10? The Lord agrees to spare even a few righteous who might be found in the city.
Then in Genesis 19, we see that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family are living in Sodom. Before God destroys the city, He sends three angelic visitors who tell Lot to escape the coming destruction:
As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:15-16)
Lot and his family should have perished. God, in His mercy, sent the angelic rescuers. And even still, Lot lingered. The Scripture doesn’t tell us why he lingered, but obviously he was being drawn in some way by the sin around him. Maybe it was his material possessions, maybe there were friends he was leaving behind. Whatever the reason, his lingering should have cost him his life. But the Lord showed mercy again, and Lot was rescued.
Here’s the part I’ve never noticed before at the end of this passage:
So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29, emphasis added.)
God remembered Abraham. God remembered Abraham’s pleading on behalf of his nephew. And God answered by rescuing Lot, both from the consequences of the sin of the city and the consequences of his own sin when he lingered in Sodom.
In his lecture on this passage, Dr. Lawless posed the question: when do we start praying for others? Usually, it is when they are already in the midst of a trial or entangled in sin. In addition to those circumstances, we should be praying before the trial hits, before sin ensnares. We should especially be praying for our children, that God would seize them and bring them out when they are lingering in sin.
This passage teaches us that intercessory prayer is powerful. Lot didn’t know it, but he needed a prayer warrior petitioning the Lord on his behalf. The image of Lot being seized by the angels has been an encouragement to me as I pray for my loved ones.
Who are you praying for? How well are you fulfilling the weighty responsibility of praying for your spouse, your children, your pastor, your friends? What a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way in the lives of those we love.