Covenant Prayer (part 2)

10 Aug

Today’s guest post continues a series on “Covenant Prayer” from Steve Witherup, one of the other pastors here at Center City Church. He holds a MTh from the University of Wales and is way smarter than me.

As promised, the purpose of this brief series of blogs is to supplement the focus on prayer not through examining theories or ideas about prayer, but by becoming an eavesdropper to some who dared to actually engage in the transformative conversation with the Divine. As we listen, what we will hear is perhaps quite different from the safe ‘proper’ prayers we hear ourselves uttering.

​In Genesis 18, we read the story in which the Lord is on His way to investigate the outcries of evil He has heard coming from Sodom. Abraham sees three ‘men’ traveling and invites them to stop and rest. During this visit, it is confirmed to Abraham that he and Sarah would indeed have a son within a year…and then we are given the privilege of being able to listen in as Abraham and the Lord engage in somewhat of a strange conversation.

​It is easy to read stories like the one found in Genesis 18:16-33 with some preconceived thoughts. We ask the question, ‘how is it that Abraham seems to have so much influence in the interaction?’… and respond with the safe answer of–‘well, God is just testing Abraham’. However, there is no indication of God simply testing Abraham in this interaction. In other places (Gen 22) when it is a test, the reader is made privy to that fact.

What we do read is that Abraham stood before the Lord and had the audacity to speak and listen in hopes of ‘changing God’s mind’ for the sake of the righteous living in Sodom. We are left to speculate the thoughts of God behind His words. We do not know whether or not God would have destroyed the righteous with the unrighteous without Abraham’s influence. However, Abraham (right or wrong) seemed to believe with humility simply that his prayer had a chance to make a difference…his prayer mattered.

So…how could Abraham, who referred to himself in 18:27 as ‘but dust and ashes’ come to believe that his side of the conversation could make a difference? And how is it that God even entertained Abraham’s requests? I think the introduction to this story is key to establishing the mindset with which we read the prayer. God and Abraham’s interaction follows 18:17-19 where we are reminded of two very important things:
1. Not only does God have a plan, He desires to reveal it to his people. Creation was never in a static state, nor was it abandoned. God is at work and His plan will be brought to completion.
2. For whatever the crazy reason may be, God desires His people to play a part in His plan. He invites us to learn His desires and participate in them.

This happens through interaction…through transformative conversation in which we learn to listen and speak and respond. Abraham knows that he is not entitled to the privilege of conversing with God. He knows he is ‘dust and ashes’. However, Abraham dares to speak out of the confidence he has in the covenant relationship that he did not establish, but was invited into by God himself. ​

Finally, lets read this story with honesty…this is not a neat and clean story with a clear moral. If we wrote it, we would want it to read like this: Abraham intercedes and the people are saved! We would then easily apply it to our lives and we would be inspired to intercede so the ‘people would be saved’. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed…Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt. Certainly, Abraham is aware of the destruction. Prayer is not a series of isolated events. It’s not a series isolated wins and loses. It is an ongoing transformative conversation that we are invited into. Despite the city being brought to ashes, Abraham continues on–learning who God is, what His intentions are, and what it means to be in covenant relationship with God as he works out His plan for creation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: