Sweetening Our Praying
After adding the cream and sugar to my coffee, my wife, who usually prepares it for me, gives it a vigorous stir with a spoon. That way the sweetness attaches itself to the coffee's bitterness, making it palatable and pleasant to my taste buds inherited from my English forefathers.
I find prayer to be like that. Often my heart, bitter with life's sins, anxieties, and failures, needs to have some sweetness stirred in so that I can lift its cup up and pour out prayer unto the Lord. Thankfully, I have a friend who does that for me.
Jesus' friendship stirs me to pray. Likewise, it stirred our forefather Abraham to pray.
An event in the life of Abraham teaches us this. When the Lord, accompanied by two angels, came to see Abraham as recorded in Genesis 18, we know the most obvious reason for this visitation. This was the seventh time as recorded in Scripture that the Lord appeared to Abraham. Each time before, the Lord came to Abraham to promise him the blessing of descendants and the impact they would have on the nations. This time was no different. He came to tell Abraham that, within a year, he and Sarah, far too old for such things, would have a baby.
Yet another reason, intertwined with the first, existed for this visitation. The Lord was about to make another visit, as He was headed down to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. He wanted Abraham to know. Why God involves Abraham in this matter is revealed in His inner thoughts found in Genesis 18:17-19.
Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.
Note that the Lord reasons that since He is in covenant with Abraham, He should reveal to him what is about to take place in Sodom and Gomorrah. "After all," the Lord is thinking, "if Abraham is going to be the father of a mighty nation, which he will instruct in 'doing righteousness and justice' on the earth, should I not reveal to him what my plans for such are at the present?"
Abraham was in covenant with the Lord, and thus God considered Abraham His friend. Incredibly, because the Lord loved this man, He entrusted His counsel and plans to him. In this relationship with him, the Lord knew Abraham would be concerned for the people of the valley. The Lord also knew that this man recognized that along with the great privileges of the covenant come tremendous responsibilities. The salvation and blessing He had promised to the earth through Abraham would necessarily mean the removal of wickedness as well. In entrusting this knowledge to him, the Lord knew Abraham would be moved to pray boldly for these things.
Pray boldly Abraham did. Like a reverse auctioneer, Abraham wrestled in prayer to bring down to ten the number of the righteous living in them for the Lord to spare these cities. Yet we know that the Lord destroyed these cities with a fire and brimstone storm the next day. This could give the appearance that Abraham's prayers were not answered. However, the Scriptures comment on this in Genesis 19:27-29:
Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the LORD; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace. Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.
The Lord remembered his friend's prayers, and lives were spared.
This friendship is confirmed in Scripture. In Isaiah 41:8, the Lord says, "You, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, (are) the offspring of Abraham, My friend.” What is intimated here is that we, through faith in the God of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:7-9), become Abraham's children and also God's friends like him. As Jesus, the true seed of Abraham, said, "I have called you friends, for all things I have known from the Father, I have made known unto you" (John 15:16). That this friendship, and the intimate knowledge of the ways of the Lord it brings, is to stir us to pray is seen in the next verse. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you."
When I look with spiritual eyes at the evil of our day, the compromise so many believers like Lot make with it, and the powerlessness I feel to change it, my heavy-laden heart struggles to pray. But knowing that the Lord, the true friend that He is, has shared these burdens with me so that I will join Him in praying gladdens my heart. Prayer is sweetened, as is captured in the words of the old hymn:
What a friend we have in Jesus,All our sins and griefs to bear!What a privilege to carryEverything to God in prayer!O what peace we often forfeit,O what needless pain we bear,All because we do not carryEverything to God in prayer.