September 24, 2012

Why Bother with Prayer?

At one time or another, most of us wish we knew the future. Some people spend money for such things as palm reading and horoscopes, even hoping the piece of paper in a fortune cookie will give them an inkling of what to expect. 
This morning’s devotional verse started me thinking about what I know about the future, and more importantly, what I’m supposed to do about that knowledge. The verse is from the account of three messengers from God who appeared to Abraham, whose nephew, Lot, was living in the wicked city of Sodom. 

The Bible calls these messengers ‘angels’ yet one of them is called the Angel of the Lord. Many have determined that this special angel was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. In this story, the three angels discuss the future and…

The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…” (Genesis 18:17)

Evidently they decided to reveal at least part of their plans to this man because Abraham begins talking to the Lord, asking that He will have mercy on at least some of the people in that wicked city. No doubt he is thinking of Lot and his family. 

As I read this, I thought about my own understanding of the future and how I need to talk to God about that in relation to those in my family who are living in a sinful world. This is what God reveals about His future plans…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

He has life for those who believe in Jesus and judgment for those who do not. The Bible could not be more clear; this is the plan of God. He hides it from some, but reveals it to those who have faith like Abraham.

So what do I do with that knowledge? The above verse also answers this question. People need to hear His Word so they can believe. How can they hear if no one tells them? The Bible is clear on this; those who believe must share what we believe with others. God sends me right into the places where my loved ones live to share His Word with them.

For this, God reveals that I must go to sinners. I cannot consider myself ‘holier than thou’ and dismiss to their fate those who are headed for judgment. Jonah did that and wound up in the belly of a fish! Yet at the same time, sharing Christ without discernment isn’t God’s plan either. He has a strong warning about sharing the gospel with those who have already rejected it: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

In the story of Abraham, this man seemed to know that Lot was or would become a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7) so Abraham also prayed for him, asking God to deliver him. He also seemed to know that the other residents of Sodom were evil and he offered no prayer for them. If God gave an unusual revelation to Abraham, that had to be it. He knew who to pray for and who to leave out.

For me, this is a reason for wanting three angels to come for a visit! I know that some “religious” people are not going to have eternal life. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21) and that many “tax collectors and sinners” will be there. I can intercede as Abraham prayed but God has hidden from me the knowledge of who will be saved and who will experience His wrath.

Lord, there are times when the burden of those headed for future judgment totally overwhelms me and I want to take a vacation from caring about the fate of others. Intercession is hard work. Yet You tell me to pray. You also sent Jesus to live in me. Because He lives forever, I will live forever. Because He also lives forever to intercede for me, how can I not do the same for others?

No comments: