09 May 2021
What we think about prayer may be very different from what the Bible teaches about prayer. For example, we think that prayer is the means to get what we want. Or that effective prayer is based on how needy, sad, or deserving we are. Or that the most important thing about prayer is that we will get what we ask for. But the prayer of Abraham teaches us 1. The Concern of prayer- Glory of God. 2. The Confidence of prayer- Righteousness of God. 3. The Consequence of prayer- Knowledge of God. How do we see that in Abraham's prayer, and what does this mean for you and your prayer?
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Well, this morning, let's come to the sermon itself. We are looking at the book of Genesis. And some weeks ago I talked about that ... that 'Geh Kiang' sermon, I hope you remember that 'Geh Kiang' is a Singaporean way of saying - smart aleck, don't be smarty pants.
Well, today, it's another Hokkien word for you, it's 'buay paiseh'. What is 'buay paiseh'?. 'Buay paiseh' means someone who has no shame; someone who is fearless; someone who is thick- skinned. And today, we're going to look at how Abraham used to be 'geh kiang', and now he's going to be 'buay paiseh'.
Now, truth be told, when I think about 'buay paiseh', I think about my son, the younger one - Matthias. He really is very different from my wife and I, we are very afraid, we are very shy in general. We are introverts, Matthias is the total opposite! He's really 'buay paiseh'.
He is not afraid of asking anybody anything. He goes to the departmental store and if he wants something, he asks the person who is at that store. When he goes to the library, he can't find a book, or if he's lazy to find a book, he immediately goes to the librarian. When he's in a restaurant, in a restaurant, if he wants soya sauce, he raises his hand, catches the attention of everyone there. At home, he's not afraid to tell us what he wants to eat for lunch and for dinner. He practically likes to dictate his menu. That's my son - buay paiseh; thick-skinned.
Well, in the Bible, 'buay paiseh' is not really such a bad thing. Being thick-skinned and daring to ask is not such a bad thing. You will recall Jesus did give two stories about, in a sense, thick-skinned or 'buay paiseh' prayers.
You remember the story about the friend at midnight? He's hungry, his family needs food, and he's not afraid to go to his friend's house at midnight to ask for bread. He keeps knocking at the door until the friend would open that door. Or how about the story about the persistent widow? She needed justice to be done? Even though the judge is a wicked; evil judge, she 'buay paiseh' and badgers the wicked judge, until he would execute justice.
So Jesus speaks about these two stories, to encourage us to be persistent: to be fearless; to be bold; to be thick-skinned; to be 'buay paiseh' in prayer.
Well, this morning, we're going to look at Abraham prayed a thick-skinned prayer.[Gen 18:22-33] This is his 'buay paiseh' prayer. He's going to pray to God to spare the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he's going to boldly ask that God would spare them, as he whittles down the criteria of 50 righteous people, way down to 10.
So, we're going to learn some lessons about true prayer today. I've been chewing about this this week. It seems like a very simple message actually, but maybe some of the points may be requiring you to chew on this, even after you go home. So it's thick-skinned prayer, but it might be thick meat in a sense for you to digest. Let's take a look at what we have.
 The Concern in Prayer - The Glory of God
First of all, I'd like us to notice the concern Abraham had in this prayer. What was the primary concern or motivation for Abraham to pray that God would spare Sodom and Gomorrah?
Now, immediately some of us would say, "Oh, I know why, because Abraham has a relative! Abraham's nephew Lot is living in Sodom and Gomorrah, so Abraham is praying that God would spare Sodom and Gomorrah, because He cares for Lot." That might be true! Or maybe some of you would say, "Oh, because Abraham is a compassionate man and he has love for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, even though they are wicked, but he's a compassionate man." Maybe that's the case!
That is however, not stated in the Bible. What is given to us is this key verse in verse 25, that says, "Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
In other words, Abraham is saying, "O, let it not be said that God, You will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, destroy the righteous with Sodom with the evil people in Sodom and Gomorrah!" Because his concern is that people will then say, "What kind of God is this, that He won't be so unrighteously, so unjustly destroying righteous people, together with the evil and wicked people?"
I see that the number one concern that Abraham is bringing to God, is that he is concerned about God's Name; God's honor; and God's glory. So if I may humbly suggest to you, the first thing we need to learn about prayer, from a man of faith today, is not that he's concerned about himself, or concerned about people, as much as he is first and foremost concerned about the glory of God.
And I think that is the number one lesson in prayer, we all need to learn. Because so often, we think prayer is about asking for my wants and my desires, but actually, if you read through the Scriptures, it is very consistent. True prayer is rooted, is predicated on a concern and a desire for God's glory, first and foremost.
And I think, we all can learn a little bit more about this and apply this in our lives. I think in the mindset of most people, whether you're in the church or outside of the church, actually not very different! Most people think of prayer, maybe like Aladdin's lamp. We want someone to do what we want. So in this story of Aladdin and the magical lamp, all he needs to do is to rub that lamp, and there will come a genie, who will do his bidding.
And actually, a lot of people go to places of worship, to rub Aladdin's lamp. They think that if you put some incense, offer some sacrifices, put in some money into the box, then the deity is activated to do your bidding. And you can ask anything you want - 4D, good health, great exam results for my children. And your deity will do what you want him to do, because you have rubbed the lamp the right way.
And even in the church, even among Christians, we think that if we say the right things, oh, then God will do what we want! Well, that's the concept many people have. Worse still, we think that prayer is kind of like going to a vending machine, press the right buttons, and C5 that pack of drinks would drop out or B4 that pack of nuts will drop out.
Well, prayer is not really coming to God as if it's a vending machine, or that He's a genie in the bottle. It's not primarily about getting what I want; or what I desire. It is about God's glory! It's about what brings greatest glory to His Name! I think that's what prayer is about.
It's a very important thing to understand - what does it mean to pray in Jesus' Name? What does it mean to pray in Jesus' Name? Have you asked yourself that question? To many people, we close our prayer saying, "O, we thank you, we pray all this in Jesus' Name." They think that in Jesus' Name is a way so that all of us can know when to come in and say, "Amen." It's like, "Okay, that's the end of my prayer, in Jesus' Name." So you all say, "Amen."
Some people think that in Jesus' Name is a magical chant, that if you just say at the end of the prayer, God is obliged to do what you asked Him to, because I prayed in Jesus' Name. It's a magical twisting of the arm of God, He has to do my bidding. But really, what does it mean to pray in Jesus' Name? I think amongst many things, it means at least two things.
To pray in Jesus Name means - number one, I pray in the authority that God has given to me through Jesus Christ. It means that I recognize that in and of myself, I have no right to pray to God. I mean, I'm a sinner! I've done nothing that deserves His attention, except His judgment.
But when I pray in Jesus' Name, I'm saying, "The reason why I can stand before God is because of grace, because of what Jesus has done, because He died on the cross, and He bore my judgment and wrath on the cross. And therefore because of grace, I can now pray to the Holy God. So when I pray in Jesus' Name, I'm recognizing, I'm coming to God out of pure grace, based on the finished work of Jesus Christ." That's number one!
In Jesus Name, number two, means - I'm praying in the stead of Jesus. I'm praying on behalf of Jesus. I'm praying what Jesus Himself would have wanted to pray for. So I'm not praying for myself, and for my glory and for my purposes, I'm praying for the purposes of my Savior. So when I pray in Jesus' Name, I must be always thinking - what would Jesus want to pray for in this circumstance?
And I think a very good summary of what Jesus would want is in John, chapter 17:1, and this is a prayer that He makes before He will go to the cross. He said, "Father, the hour has come, glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You." This is always the desire of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that the Father be glorified.
And I think if we are praying in Jesus' Name, in Jesus' stead, on behalf of Jesus, then we must always understand prayer, first and foremost must be concerned about the Name of God; the honor of God; the glory of God.
Now again, I said, "This is throughout the Scripture, and I want to show you that it indeed is so." When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray." He said, after this pattern, you pray. And He says, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name." [Matt 6:9]
There was a kid, he went home after church one day and said, "Mom, why did God call Himself Harold?" The mum says, "Who told you that God's Name is Harold?" "The pastor! The pastor said, "Our Father in heaven, Harold be your name?"' Well, of course, God's name is not Harold. He's wondering, what is the meaning of the word, 'hallowed'? What is the meaning of the word, 'hallowed'?
It's an old word, we don't really use it much. The word, 'hallowed' means 'to be set apart'. So Jesus is saying, "The number one thing, you ask in prayer is this, "God, let Your Name be set apart, let it be distinguished, let it be honored. And given that number one place in all of humanity."'
I think this prayer then shapes the rest of the prayers. The reason why we pray, "Your kingdom come ..." is because it is only then that Your Name will be set apart. We pray that, "Your will be done ..." so that Your Name is set apart. We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread", so that we have strength and grace to glorify Your Name. "Lord, pardon our sins so that we can glorify Your Name." "Lord, protect us from temptation, so that we may glorify You."
If we get this right, then all prayer must aim towards the glory of God. After all, this is what Jesus also says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God." [Matt 6:33] That's Kingdom living principle number one! We are not saved, so that we may enjoy our lives here on earth. We are not saved so that we can be rich and famous. We are saved so that we may live a life that seeks the Kingdom of God.
So many Christians, so many church-goers, think that Christian living is living in the world, and then reserving Sunday for God. No! Seek first the Kingdom of God - First in priority! First in effort! First in everything! You don't give God your leftovers. Proper way of looking at our Christian living is God demands our heart, soul, mind, strength. It's always about His Kingdom, even our prayers.
Or how about this? "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God." [1 Cor 10:31] And certainly that should include our prayers.
So I seek to share with you, that our father of faith, Abraham demonstrated that early on. In his prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah, he's not praying for, "O, please save my nephew Lot because I love him!" "O, please save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah because I'm naturally compassionate!" He's saying, "Lord, save or spare the city, if there were at least 50 righteous people, because I'm concerned about Your glory." "What will people say otherwise, if you should judge this city unrighteously?"
The number one concern in prayer is the glory of God. And so the number one question you have in your life in prayer, is this - How can my prayer bring glory to God? You can pray for virtually anything in this world, do you know that?
I've been in enough prayer meetings to hear people ask for prayer requests for virtually anything. Whether it's COVID situation, or Myanmar, or US election, Donald Trump, my dog just died. You can pray for anything! But the question I want to ask you is - Why? How will your prayer for this situation bring glory to God? You need to connect that dot. For me, if I cannot connect my situation to the glory of God, I wouldn't pray because I understand prayer is primarily concerned with the glory of God.
Let me share this, I think you guys may think that I'm a very extreme person, very bizarre. But this is ... this is what I truly experienced, I find it very difficult to pray for my sons' exams. I find it very difficult to pray for my sons' exam results. I've heard so many times throughout my ... my life growing up and from amongst parents, "Please pray for my sons' exams! Please, please pray for my daughter's PSLE results." I found it very difficult to pray for that at least for my own kids, because I know my own heart! You know, why I want to pray for my son's results?
You know why? Because I want to look good. I want people to know that my sons are scholars. They are not, but I wish that they were scholars, so that they will reflect well upon their daddy and mommy. So actually, what am I praying for? My glory. And I found it, and I've always found it very hard. In fact, I would say this, "I don't pray for my sons' exam results at all." Maybe you say, "That's why their results like that!"
But no, no, no! I don't pray for my sons' results at all, but I have converted into this - I pray ... Well ... if you, if you hear the prayers I make for my kids every day, it is always the same thing, always the same thing. I'm almost monotonous! They are so bored with what I'm praying for them.
But I don't pray for a lot of things except number one, first and foremost and indeed at this point, most of the time, "They would truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ." Because apart from that, it really is meaningless. How will an unsaved kid, doing well in exam give glory to God? Oh, you can reason, "Oh, maybe one day, next time he gets saved then he ... he will be someone special, he can serve God." I say, "Let that be next time!" "Right now, God, all I want for Shawn and Matthias, really all I'm praying for them right now is that, they may come to know You."
And then, the number two thing I pray for us is, "Lord, help Winnie and I to be better parents." That's all! I don't pray for his Math or Chinese, "Wah, God, tomorrow his PSLE or his English, help him score A star." How is that connecting to the glory of God? I can in my deceitful heart, try that lah! But I know deep within, if I pray for his English or Math, it's because I want my glory.
Now, you may be very different from me, and like I said, "You can pray for almost anything, as long as you can genuinely, sincerely connect your situation to the glory of God." That's ... that's all I'm saying.
The number one concern of prayer is God's glory. Alright?
2. The Confidence in Prayer - Righteousness of God
Number two, I like to share with you the confidence in prayer. How come Abraham can be so 'buay paiseh'; so daring; so thick- skinned, asked and asked? And he really asked and asked and asked and asked. Right? Even if you read, you feel, "Wah, wah, this guy's really pushing it, man!" What gives him this confidence?
Well, it's quite closely related to the first point, because it's taken from the same verse in verse 25 and it is this, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" [Gen 18:25] The basis, the reason of Abraham's pleading is not, "O God, look at how 'cham' [Hokkien dialect] they are, how pitiful they are!" "O God, look at how good I have been following You!" He does not reason in anything else apart from who God is.
His reasoning, his confidence is a God-centered confidence. It's based on God! "God, the reason why I would ask You to do this, is because you are a just God. My reasoning is not predicated on man, on circumstance, but it's on Your character."
"Suppose there are 50 righteous people within the city, Lord, it will be so unrighteous, it would not be fitting for a just God like You to destroy the righteous with the wicked." [Gen 18:24]
So in Abraham's mentality, it is unjust if God should wipe out the entire city, if there should be at least 50.
And so he says, "You, the ... You the absolutely unimpeachable, righteous, just and Holy God, I plead with you, based on Your righteousness don't do this." And after he said this, he thought to himself, "Maybe 50 is overly optimistic. Huh, there may be some righteous people in Sodom I ... I know, at least my nephew Lot, he's a believer, and maybe some of his family members! But maybe 50 too many to ask, or too many to expect!"
"So God, would you spare Sodom and Gomorrah if they were at least just 45?" [Gen 18:24] Then he thought to himself, "Maybe 45, still too many lah! So let's try 40!" Now, some people think that Abraham is bargaining with God. I would suggest that bargaining is not such a good word as if they are equals. It's quite clear from the verses that he says, "I am but dust," and so on. "I'm ... I ... let not Your wrath be or anger be on me." He's ... he's really pleading, Alright? I say, "He's thick-skinned, but he's not bargaining. He's pleading."
So he pleads that the number drops from 50 to 45, to 40 to 30 to 20 and until it is 10. And when he says, "Suppose 10 are found there, would you spare? God said, "For the sake of 10, I will not destroy?"' [Gen 18:32] So Abraham whittled the number from 50 to 10. And he stopped at 10 because he reached a point where it is obvious to him that God won't destroy those cities, if they didn't richly deserve such judgment.
So Abraham prayed until he knew that it was absolutely; thoroughly deserved of the city to be destroyed. Because he was confident that God is absolutely righteous to do so. So the confidence Abraham had in prayer, is this - "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
So, "I'm going to pray till I know that you're absolutely going to do what is right." Nothing wrong to ask of that! In other words, the confidence in prayer is the righteousness of God. It's a God-centered reasoning.
Now, I'm going to share with you some examples of how this works. You read of prayers in the Bible about Christians praying that God will judge sin and enemies of God. We see prayers about the judgment of God. And I want to show you, that when people pray that God will judge sinners and judge enemies of God, it's because they plead the righteousness of God.
"Break the arm of the wicked and evil doers; call his wickedness to account till you find none," [Ps 10:15] The Psalms, plenty of such prayers! We call them the imprecatory prayers, praying judgment upon God's enemies. Mind you, it's praying judgment upon God's enemies, not on your enemies! Alright? The Bible teaches us to pray for our enemies, not pray against our enemies.
But there are prayers against God's enemies. Why? Because sin must be judged and God is righteous. So we pray that, "The righteous God would deal with all unrighteousness." We read, for example, "The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance, he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked." [Ps 58:10] It is a right thing to pray for judgment!
And the reason is, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth." [Ps 58:11]
God will and must judge evil because He is righteous. You know, if you see a court case, where it is so blatantly obvious that the criminal has sinned, or has committed a crime, and the unjust judge somehow let him go off scot free, you don't feel good about it, isn't it? We call this 'gao wei' [Hokkien dialect]. You feel awkward, you feel very unsettled because we are made in the image of God.
And I believe we are made with an instinct of having right and wrong. Now, it may not be very accurate after the fall, after the image of God is somewhat marred or ... or disfigured. But it is still true that in us, we cry out for justice, we long for justice. And isn't it a must that the Judge of all the earth must do right?
So the prayer for judgment upon God's enemies is predicated on the righteousness of God. "O God, do not keep silent; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God! For behold, your enemies make an uproar ..." [Ps 83:1-2] So, we pray for judgment because God is righteous, not because we are hurt, not because we are bullied, not because we're persecuted. "But God, You are righteous and You must deal with sin!" That's why we pray and we have confidence in prayer.
Similarly, I think because God must do that which is right, we as His people can boldly ask for protection and provision, and his loving care. For example, "For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints." [Ps 37:28] He's a just God, He will not forsake His people.
"But the Lord is faithful, He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." [2 Thess 3:3] This is our confidence! This is why when we go through hardships or even when we are persecuted or abused, we can pray to God, being confident that our Father knows us. And He's not an unjust Father, who will forsake us.
"God is faithful will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability ..." [1 Cor 10:13] and so on and so forth.
I'm going to wrap this up later, and you'll see how it all links up. I also want to make this application that because God is just, we can pray for forgiveness. Many of you struggle. "Jason, I can't even forgive myself, how can I expect God to forgive me?" Have you struggled with that before?
Let me tell you a powerful verse it says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [1 John 1:9] Now, I think it will be quite proper for John to say, "If we confess our sins, He is merciful to forgive our sins." That will be quite alright! That will be quite true because any forgiveness is predicated on God's mercy and grace, but John didn't write mercy and grace.
John wrote something that is even more robust, something that is even more absolute. He is saying that, "God is faithful and just." Why? He says, "Because Jesus Christ has already died and paid for your sins, if you confess your sins, God cannot not forgive you, because Jesus has already paid for it." So he's appealing to an even higher basis, but it's found in God - His righteousness, His holiness, His justice, His faithfulness.
You don't have to wonder, "Will God forgive me?" Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall not the just and faithful God do what Jesus has paid for?" He certainly will!
So, I want to kind of anchor all this in two stories about persistent prayer, we read of in the Bible. I quickly take you to Luke 11:2-4. Luke 11 is a prayer that you might be quite familiar with, very similar to Matthew, chapter 6, about asking for daily bread, pardon and protection.
Immediately after these words, where Jesus was teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus added a story about the friend at midnight, who boldly woke his friend up who is asleep, to say, "Please give me bread." And Jesus said, "I tell you, though this friend who is asleep will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend ..." [Luke 11:8]
In other words, just because his friend, he wouldn't get up! Even for a friend he won't get up! But because of his impudence, because of his 'buay paiseh', because of his thick-skinned persistence, ".... he will rise and give him whatever he needs." [Luke 11:8]
So Jesus is saying, "Look at the power of persistent; bold; thick-skinned prayer." So I tell you, "This is how you need to come to God in prayer - be bold, be persistent, be 'buay paiseh'. Ask for bread, ask for pardon, ask for protection, because if you ask, and in the Greek, it is if, "You keep on asking, it will be given to you, if you keep on seeking, you will find, if you keep on knocking, it will be opened to you." [Luke 11:9]
Why? Look at the logic, same text, alright? And I'm not taking anywhere, I'm not taking text from all over the place, it's all in Luke 11. Why? Why will this be answered? Because look at this reasoning, "What father, which father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a serpent to bite him or to hurt him' or if he asks for an egg, he will give him a scorpion?" [Luke 11:11-13]
It is said in those days in the Middle East, there's a kind of scorpion that can curl up and look like an egg, and somewhat deceive you. Would ... would a father do that? "If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" [Luke 11:13]
The logic is simple! Your God is a good and faithful and righteous God. He is your Father. That's the basis of prayer! That's my confidence in prayer! So, I 'buay paiseh', I'll come to my Father and ask for bread, for pardon, for protection. I'll keep on asking, seeking and knocking because I know the power of persistent prayer. My Father will definitely do it!
So you see how Jesus in this passage, ties up all that we've been talking about - God's character, persistent prayer and God giving us what we need to serve Him.
Now, if this does not quite click, let me give you another story Jesus gave, about the persistent widow. She kept asking and asking, even though the judge is so evil and wouldn't actually by choice want to do anything for her. Yet because she was so persistent, the Bible says, "For a while he refused, [he didn't want to do what the judge or the widow wanted him to do,] but afterwards he said to himself, "Though I neither fear God nor respect men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming." [Luke 18:4-5]
Now, this story is not saying that, "God is like the wicked judge." This story is saying, "If a wicked judge is like that ah, and can be persuaded, how much more your good God? How much more will he not listen to your prayers, if you keep coming to Him?" And Jesus applies this to the prayer for justice to His elect.
In other words, when we see evil in this world and we see the evil triumph, and we see God's Name shamed, God's people keeps praying to God because we are confident that our God will give justice to the elect, and He would do that which is right. So, I tell you, "He will give justice to them speedily." [Luke 18:8]
The confidence in prayer is found in God's character Himself. Like I said, "I know these are not easy things to tie up in your head. I hope you will bring it back and chew on it further."
So the confidence in prayer, not because I'm good, not because I'm pitiful, not because we deserve it, but all because, "God, you're righteous, and you must always do that which is right. Whether it's judging enemies or providing for your children, or forgiving us of our sins, we look to you. We are confident that as we keep on asking seeking and knocking, You will provide."
3. The Consequence in Prayer - Knowledge of God
Finally, I want to share with you the consequence in prayer. You say, "Abraham's prayer is wonderful, so short, but absolutely God-centered, isn't it?" He's centered on God's glory, and he's praying for God's character. And surely you would say, "This kind of prayer will be answered by God."
So what's the consequence? If you're curious, so was Abraham.
After he prayed, we are told in chapter 19 that, "He went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord." [Gen 19:27] He's ... he's trying to figure out if ... he's checking CNN, he's checking Channel News Asia, what's the update for today? Is Sodom and Gomorrah spared or was it destroyed?
What do you think? Well, stupid question because most of you had already known the answer. But in verse 28, it is obvious, "And he looked down towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and behold the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace." It's burning!
Now, this is hard to take! He prayed a God-centered prayer. He prayed for the glory of God. He prayed based on the righteousness of God and yet the next day, he saw everything destroyed. Let me ask you, do you think Abraham was disappointed in God? Do you think he was?
I think that if God did not have this time with Abraham, and He just destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham might be disappointed. Because he didn't know, he might have assumed that there were really 50 righteous people there, and God wiped them all out together with the wicked.
But because of that dialogue, because of the time he had communing with God, I think he was convinced that God will not do that which is unrighteous. And that He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, only when they richly deserved it, that he would realize, maybe there weren't even 10 righteous people in Sodom at that time.
You see, I come back to this context, I come back to this little snippet of why Jesus, and the angels visited Abraham. I think Abraham needed to be taught something. Abraham needed to know something. So God said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I've chosen him, that he may command his children ...", [Gen 18:17-19] so on and so forth.
But the key thing is - Shall I hide from Abraham? No! Because God wanted to teach Abraham something about himself that day. This prayer, in a sense, shows us that the ultimate goal in prayer, is not just about the things we ask for, but that perhaps it is that we might know God.
I give you another example. Apostle Paul, he plead, he pleaded with God three times that, "The thorn in the flesh should be removed." You know what God said? "I don't want the thorn to be removed, instead I want this for you - I want you to know Me, I want you to know My power. I want you to know that My grace is sufficient for you." [2 Cor 12:8-9]
So if I may summarize today's sermon, the great concern in prayer is not my wants, it's not my desires. The great concern in prayer is the glory of God. You should always ask yourself this question - How can my situation, my prayer for this situation connect to the glory of God? If you can't connect, don't pray! I would do that, because true prayer is asking in Jesus' Name, in Jesus' stead, on behalf of Jesus, for the glory of God. He is not a genie in my bottle that would do my bidding.
Number two, the great confidence in prayer is not how sad and pitiful I am, but the great confidence is pleading the righteousness of God. "Shall not the God of all the earth do that which is right?" And we ask God to do that which is right, and this is why I can persist in prayer.
And then the great consequence in prayer, really is that I may know Him, the knowledge of God.
Now, in case you say, "Pastor, then prayer very wasted! 'Bo eng ah!' [useless in Hokkien dialect] ah!" Well, I just want to say, "There's nothing more important than to know God." And I think there's still something that you need to take note of in Genesis 19:29, "So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out." [Gen 19:29]
You know what saved Lot? Abraham and his prayer. God did answer Abraham's prayer, not in the exact way Abraham expected, but in a way that God wanted all along. But I think Abraham would walk away from the time, satisfied in his heart that God has done that which is righteous. He did say He will.
I could share with you examples in my life how prayer draws one closer to God, but I think it's something you would probably need to experience in your own life. There's a lot to chew upon, simple prayer, but I think very surprising lessons. And I hope you'll take that into your own prayer life.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Father, we thank You this morning. Thank You for the Word of God, that is meant to change our minds. So often we come to prayer, with our own worldly secular presuppositions. We think that prayer is twisting Your arm to do our will. We think that prayer is effective only when we show how deserving we are. We think that prayer is only about getting what we want.
But today, through this episode in Abraham's life, You've shown us prayer is really about Your glory. It's really predicated on Your righteousness; Your character and it's really about knowing You. These are things that are easy to say, but hard to grasp. So we pray again, You'll help us to apply them diligently in our lives.
Lord, thank You for hearing the prayer of Your Son, some 2000 years ago, when You glorified Him, when You sent Him to the cross and raised Him up from the dead. And I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is what brings You glory. O, I pray many more here, would repent and believe in this Good News of Jesus dying and rising to save men from their sins. And I asked this morning, that You will glorify Yourself by calling men and women out of sin, to believe in Jesus. Thank You, we pray all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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