Much of the time, friends tell me about a situation or a problem and I can’t offer any real help for it. For instance, if a loved one gets diagnosed with dementia, there’s not anything I can do to fix that. My heart wants to, but I realize that there’s nothing I can do directly to treat it or its effects. The only thing I can do is say, “I will pray for you,” and then follow through. But then again, this is the best thing I can do.
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “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? 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?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” – Genesis 18:22-26, ESV
There have been theological debates throughout the ages about whether God is just waiting for us to ask or whether or not we’re actually changing His mind. I don’t know. And really, this isn’t something I’m going to spend a lot of time considering. I know He tells us to bring our problems to Him in prayer. I know He tells us that if we abide in Him, He hears our prayers. I know that if we pray according to His will, He will deliver what we ask for in prayer. Knowing all those promises is good enough for me to just go on and pray. This is especially true when I can do something of tangible help, because I don’t know the full situation. My tendency is to jump in, but this may not be the best way to handle things. I need to wait on the Lord and pray for guidance. But what about when I can’t do anything?
When you or I can’t do anything but pray, we should pray. But we must pray with a mindset that prayer is effective. Tossing words into the wind is all we accomplish if we don’t believe that God hears our prayers or if we doubt that God will actually act on them. We must believe that God takes prayer seriously. After all, the Bible is clear that He does. Why should we believe so? Look at the verses here. Abraham pleads with God for Sodom and Gomorrah. Here I’ve only quoted the 50 righteous within the city. Abraham actually talked God down to 10. God agreed to spare the two cities if 10 righteous people could be found.
If you don’t know the rest of the story, there weren’t 10 righteous people to be found. However, God did act. He saved Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and Lot’s family. I think it’s a stretch (lie) to say Lot was righteous. Just like it’s a stretch (lie) to say we’re righteous. We’re not, at least not on our own. Our righteousness comes from God and He bestows that upon us through our faith in Him. Lot must have been similarly considered. And this fits with what we consider reasonable. We would have likely asked God, “If you can get the righteous out, then destroy the cities, that’ll be fine.” That’s not what Abraham asked. God was willing to honor what Abraham asked for. But since God couldn’t honor it because Abraham’s condition wasn’t met, He did rescue Lot and Lot’s family. Still think prayer is ineffective?
Just as Abraham’s intercession was effective, so can ours be as well. The most effective thing we can do in every situation is pray. When we pray, we’re not limiting our solutions to our efforts and abilities, but rather expanding the options to include all of God’s power. We’re not just limited by what we’re capable of seeing and knowing. We instead open up to God’s knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, we should be prayerfully interceding all the time on behalf of those around us. We must believe in the power that God delivers through simple prayers on behalf of another.