I have two working titles this morning. The first one is the prayer for the city.
We're going to kind of hit that a little bit. But the second title, which is how we're going to end, are a title called just bold prayers. Just bold prayers. And my hope and desire today is that you and I will approach God's throne with confidence.
Not ego, not pride, but to actually come before Him and in confidence, just seek the Lord and seek what He has for us and what He has not just for you, but for your family, for this wonderful church, for our community, and literally for the world around us. The book of Genesis, the first 11 chapters, covers 2,000 years of history in just 11 chapters. It's the creations, the fall of man, it's the flood, it's the creating of the nations.
And then from chapters 12 to 50, it's only 300 years of history. And in chapter 12, it focuses in on this person named Abram. And Abram's name is turned to Abraham and he is the patriarchal figure in the Old Testament.
He is the person in the family that God says, I will build a great nation through you. And so for the rest of the chapters from 12 to 50, it really hones in on one particular family, beginning all of the nations. And the prayer of the city comes as Abraham is speaking to the Lord about the condition of Sodom and the sin that's happening there. So let me set some groundwork between Abraham and Lot because both of these are main figures today.
In Genesis 13, you don't need to turn there, stay in 18, you can look at the screen. I'm going to share about five or six verses with you just to set the groundwork, but here's the beginning of the relationship of why Lot ends up in Sodom. It says, Abram said to Lot, let there be no strife between you and me, between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right.
Or if you take the right hand, I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt in the direction of Zor. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself the Jordan Valley and Lot journeyed east, thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. So real quickly, Abraham, patriarchal figure of the Old Testament, he is the father of Isaac and Ishmael, he's the uncle of Lot. Lot's father, Haran, is Abraham's brother. So Lot comes in the picture and Lot basically follows Abraham. He follows him to Egypt, he follows him back into Canaan, he follows him to avoid massive famine in the land, and so he keeps kind of following him. And you have to understand the reason why that verse is important is because it wasn't just Lot following Abraham. All of their family, all of their animals, all of their people that they've gathered are also following with them.
So there's a lot of people all in one central area. And what's happening is Lot's people are beginning to fight with Abraham's people over a place for their sheep to eat and drink, for their herds to be taken care of, and it's not enough room for everybody. And so Abraham says, hey Lot, you go ahead and pick and choose, pick whatever you want, and wherever you want to go, I'll take the opposite direction. And so Lot, he decides to move towards Sodom and Abraham moves into the opposite direction.
Let's talk about Sodom real quickly because we have to understand the condition of Sodom in order to understand the weight of this prayer of a righteous Abraham and then the effect that it had on Lot. Sodom was a great city at the time, however, very, very sinful in many ways. So sinful, in fact, that God destroys the city. You think about that for a moment and think about how evil some of our cities are or how evil some of our communities are. Imagine it being to a level where God decides to destroy an entire city and everybody inside of it. That's how evil this city is. So it's not that there was just a few bad people in there. We'll find out there was very few really just Lot and some of his family that were actually righteous.
Everybody else in the city are living in sin. Genesis 13 13, it says the men of Sodom were wicked. They were great sinners against the Lord. Genesis 18 20, it says because of the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great. Their sins were very, very grave. Real quickly, I want to take you to Ezekiel. Again, I'm just laying the groundwork.
You can just follow along on the screen. Oftentimes when you hear of Sodom and Gomorrah, the biggest sins that you typically will hear of are sexual sins or sensual sins that it was just rampant in the city. What I like about Ezekiel's definition of sin is that it actually brings it to more of a core issue of sin. Instead of just the external sins that they're seeing, there's actually something deeper sinful that's happening. Ezekiel 16 49 says it this way. It says, behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom.
She and her daughters, now watch this, had pride, excess of food, prosperous ease, and did not aid the poor and the needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me, so I removed them when I saw it. See the core there, the core of sinfulness and pride. That sinfulness of pride goes all the way back to the devil himself, doesn't it? It goes all the way back that before there was even sin rampant on the earth, there was pride in heaven when Lucifer says, I can do this better than God. And this core nature of pride is something that we still wrestle with, isn't it? We still wrestle with pride in our day and our time. It's an old, old, possibly in my opinion, maybe even the very first definition and heart of sin is pride.
And so this city, this big city that was doing horrible things before the Lord based out of pride, based out of they had everything they wanted and they didn't help the poor and the needy. I love that that puts that in there because it kind of brings it down to our level a little bit. Cause you might be here going, well, I don't, I'm not in like the quote unquote big sins.
Now we do that. Sometimes we categorize the big sins and the little sins. To me, this is another reminder that God just looks at sin as sin.
You hear me? He just looks at sin as sin. It's just sin, whether it's big sin or little sin, however we want to talk about it. He looks at sin as sin. Now there's consequences behind different sins. We understand that, but God is looking at this city and it's not just the big sins that we would say. It's also these other sins. In fact, so much so in Jude chapter one, verse seven and eight, it says just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire served as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
So this, this city isn't just physically destroyed. In fact, all through scripture in the Old and in the New Testament, it references Sodom sin as an example for us with the righteous versus the unrighteous. One of the main themes of scripture is righteousness, isn't it? It's not just redemption, which is the overarching theme of scripture from Genesis to Revelation that we have this God that wants to redeem us. There's also a woven theme of righteous and unrighteous. And the only way that you and I can experience righteousness, which just means to be made right, is because Jesus took our place. And because of Jesus's righteousness taking my place on the cross, we are now made right, which is why today we're able to worship God. It's why at the end of the service, we're going to gather with bold prayers and come to the throne with confidence.
That's why we're able to do that. But is there not this battle constantly between righteousness and unrighteousness? Even in our own life, there's this battle and this terror between sin and good, between evil and good.
All these things are pulling at us from all these different directions. In fact, in 2 Peter 2, verse six to nine, it really does show the example that we have to watch out for. It says, if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. So in other words, this is an example of the ungodly in the end.
It's a picture of the end. In the end, those who are without Christ, there is this destruction that happens, just like in Sodom and Gomorrah. But here's the hope. Aren't you grateful for hope, by the way? Aren't you grateful that not everything is gloom, despair, hellfire, brimstone? Even though it's sounding that way right now, we're going to get to hope, don't worry.
The hope is found even right here. He says, if he rescued righteous lots, greatly distressed by the sensual contact of the wicked, for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds and what he saw and heard. Then the Lord knows how to rescue, and here's some more hope, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from the trials and keep the unrighteous under punishment. So in the same time that in Sodom and Gomorrah there's literally physical hellfire and brimstone that hits and destroys, this is speaking spiritually in our nature that there's that same punishment for the unrighteous, but there is hope for the righteous. Here's something I want to mention though, and this is a transition turn to the message today in Genesis 18.
In 2 Peter there's a powerful verse or two. It begins to talk about Lot's soul being tormented over the sinfulness that he was surrounded by. You could probably beg and ask the question, well then why didn't he move? Why didn't Lot just move? Why did Lot keep moving closer and closer and closer until he was right in the city?
And Lot, we know in scripture, is righteous, so there's no question on his righteousness, but did you catch what it was saying? He was tormenting his soul because he was surrounded by unrighteousness. And I guess I want to ask a question to us this morning, and really it's something that only you can answer, and this is something that only you and God and in you can really answer, but I wonder if we are tormented likewise over the sinful desires and the sinful state of our city. In other words, does it bother you when you go to work and you know that your co-workers aren't following Christ, does it torment you? Does it torment you college students when you go to school and you're around all these other college students and you're seeing their lifestyle, and you're not there to be the judge, you're not there to be a ruler over them, but does it torment your soul to see the condition of sinfulness?
When you talk to your neighbors and as you talk to your neighbors you realize, man, they are just lost, they don't know truth. Are you tormented in your soul? Or have you been around it so long that it doesn't even bother you anymore? And I think this is a warning for all of us, myself included in our church and those of you here, does it bother us, let's just be frank, does it bother us that every day people are dying and going to hell, does it torment our souls over it? Or are we just tolerating sin and we've been around it so long that it's kind of just like it always has been? We know we look at the world around us and the world around us celebrates sin, it acknowledges it, it actually puts it like front and center on social media and on TV, it's around us all the time.
Have we become so numb to the unrighteousness around us that it's not even tormenting us anymore? See, my hope and really prayer for all of us, as a church as well, is that we will be bothered by this. We should be bothered by the sinfulness around us, including the sin in your own life, by the way. If you look at yourself in the mirror knowing that you're sinning and it doesn't bother you, there's something inside that has to get made right with Jesus.
This is. And so there's a calling that we all have, right? There's a calling that we have to say it's not just about me, it's not just about how I'm doing, there's also what am I doing about my surroundings? What am I doing in school and in work, in my neighborhood? What am I doing in the triangle and around the world?
What am I doing? Is sin troubling me that much that I'm actually moved to action over it or the warning is are we like Lot and we just end up sitting in it? I don't know why Lot just stayed there, I really don't. He's married, he has kids, the kids have boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, they're building their life there, but they're amid just horrific sin.
And he just sits there. Let's go to Genesis 18. Genesis 18 is the other side of this. This is now Abraham now knowing, so Abraham now knows the plan that God is going to destroy the city.
He's now been made aware of that plan. Abraham is literally talking to two angels and the angel of the Lord, which in Old Testament that's Jesus that he's talking to. So he's talking to two angels, he's talking to Jesus.
In the conversation, they let him in on what's happening. The two angels leave to go to Sodom to get Lot out and then to destroy the city. Abraham then has a conversation with the Lord. And in this conversation this morning, I want to pull away three thoughts for us on the power of prayer.
This power of prayer for our city, this power of bold and specific prayer. So here we go, Genesis chapter 18, starting in verse 22. It says, So the men turned from there and went towards Sodom.
These are the angels. But Abraham stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? I want you to sense Abraham's heart behind his questions. Suppose there are 50 righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the 50 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. You kind of see what Abraham's doing. So he's praying for the city.
He's like, okay, let's make a deal. There's 50 righteous. You're a good God.
You're good. He's appealing to God's nature. You're a righteous God, but you're not a mean God. So if there's 50 people, will you spare and save the multitudes of thousands around you?
And the Lord said, If I find Sodom 50 righteous in the city, I'll spare the place for their sake. You almost wonder at that moment if Abraham thought I started too high. I should have started.
What if I started at 10 and worked my way down from there? Because this is what he does. I love this conversation. Because Abraham responds and he says, Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Who am I but dust?
You see what he's doing again. I'm a nobody. I'm dust.
I'm ashes. You're the Lord. So suppose five of the 50 are lacking. We destroy the whole city for lack of five. And the Lord said, I will not destroy if I find 45 there. You think that would be enough, but no. Abraham speaks again.
All right. Do I got 40? How about 40? If 40 are found for the sake of 40, I will not do it. Abraham's like, we're on a roll. We're going to keep going. Then he said, Oh Lord, don't be angry with me. Those 30 are found there. He said, I will not do it if I find 30. He keeps going.
All right. I've under undertaken to speak to the Lord. How about 20? Do I hear 20? He said, for the sake of 20, I will not destroy it. Abraham's like, I'm on a roll.
Let's do this again. How, but I think he's realizing by the tone, I think you almost wonder if you could just be there and see the Lord's face while he's doing this. At some point, I think Abraham knew, okay, I've pushed it too far because his next words are, don't be angry with me. Don't get angry with me. I'm going to speak again.
How about 10? He said, for the sake of 10, I will not destroy it. Verse 33 is interesting.
We're going to hit this at the end. It says the Lord went his way and when he finished speaking to Abraham, Abraham returned to his place. Three things we can take away from this passage on prayer. The first one is simply prayer of the righteous. That there's something about the righteous prayer that has power behind it. And you in this room have been made right.
You're righteous. My question to you, really serious question is, do you believe that there's actually power in your prayer? Do you believe that there's power when you go before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, that there's actually power behind the prayers that are coming out of your mouth? In James chapter 5 verse 16, it says that the prayer of a righteous person has power as it is working. That there's something powerful that when you and I who have been made right before the Lord, that it would go before him, that there's power. And I love that it's power that is what?
It's working. That this prayer is moving forward, that there's power behind this prayer. Abraham is a righteous person.
He's a righteous man. He is believing that there's power that when he meets with the Lord and the Lord says he's going to do what he's going to do, that Abraham is believing that there's now power in motion. I love that scripture says that every prayer we say that the Lord hears, that he moves. You heard on that little video that when we ask and seek and knock at the Lord, he will answer us and move on our behalf, that there's power. And I just wonder, I know in our head we're supposed to say yes to the question, but is our prayer life reflected? Does our prayer life reflect that we actually believe the prayers that we're praying for? Do we actually believe that when we pray for our city that God can move and save this beautiful city?
Do you believe when you pray for your marriage that God can restore your marriage? That when you're praying for your child that God will bring your child back home and away from the difficult lifestyle that they're living in, when you pray for that healing because the doctors report you actually believe that God will heal when you ask God to heal you. And I know the immediate answer is yes, but I just wonder, just wonder how often our prayers lack power because we don't really believe what we're praying. And in a sense when that happens, we really don't believe in the one that we're praying to. Listen, I'm convinced that if you and I actually believed in the God that we are praying to is who He says He is, our prayers would be filled with power.
They will be filled with boldness and power and passion. Not just these Hail Mary prayers that we throw up when we get in trouble or we need something or we need an answer or we're in traffic and we want the cars to move immediately. That prayer never works by the way for me. I try that every day coming from Wake Forest here. I try every day.
It doesn't work. The other one is this righteous prayer, a distinction of a righteous prayer and a righteous person is the righteous have a disdain for sin. Now I want you to hear me in this one because as Abraham's praying for the city, we get the sense that Abraham is not just praying for Lot, he's praying for the city. There's something about praying for the lost or praying for our city or communities, yet at the same time maintaining our distance from sin. In fact, our prayers according to Jude verse 22 to 23, you'll see this here, some of my favorite verses because it gives you a picture of what it looks like to at the same time have a dislike, a distaste for sin, yet at the same time understanding mercy and grace. It says, and have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire. To others show mercy mixed with fear, yet hating even the garment stained by flesh. The antage that we hear often is to love the sinner and hate the sin.
That is actually biblical, is it not? That you and I are called to love people. In fact, in that verse, it's called to actually show mercy to those who are doubting. Give some grace to people who don't know Christ the way you know them. Give some mercy, but it's mixed with a little bit of fear and at the end of the day, it's actually mixed with you and I hating the sin, having such a distaste for sin that we don't even like the clothing that's associated with that sin. Yet again, so often perhaps we are so immune to it and around it so much that we lump it all together. We think that in order to love the sinner, we have to also tolerate the sin.
It's not biblical. Just because we love sinners or we love people or unrighteous, whatever words you want to use, does not mean we have to just go along and tolerate a sinful lifestyle. You and I can actually speak against the sin, yet at the same time love the sinner. Isn't that what Christ did to us? Did not Christ say the same thing that they went to the cross for our sins because of the dislike for sin, yet he loves us uncomparable.
He's called us to do the same thing. Love your neighbor, also love your enemy, to love people, yet don't get pulled into Sodom. I think oftentimes what happens for whatever reason is we see, you know, whatever you want to say Sodom is, we try to get as close to the line as possible without getting burned.
For some reason, I don't know why we do this, but it's like we want to get as close to sin as we can and yet have this little line right here in hopes that we don't get burned by it. Listen, we got to be as far away from sin as possible, yet at the same time show mercy, show love, show grace at the same time. See, the other thing about righteous prayer is that it mixed with, it's mixed with both hope and love. I get the sense of Abraham's prayer for the city that there's hope. I would hope, Lord, if there's 50, if there's 45, if there's 40, if there's 30, if there's 20, if there's 10, you get a notion that Abraham is just hoping and praying that there will be 10 people that are found righteous in an entire city. See, I believe that the righteous prayers that we have have to be filled with hope.
Then when we pray for the ungodly, when we pray for the Sodom's of today, we pray for our family members, I pray that there is hope lining inside of that prayer, hope that we can share and love what is right, which is the truth at the end of the day. There's also love mixed with it. I think in order to have all the above, it's all based on love. After all, when all that remains faith, hope, and love, love is still the strongest thing of all of them. It's stronger than hope.
It's even stronger than faith. Love at the core is what we're called to do. And I think the greatest picture parallels this is Luke 19 when Jesus is overlooking the city. And as he's overlooking the city, he says that it begins to weep. He's sobbing.
It's a context of almost sobbing uncontrollably as he's looking over the city because he realizes that they're going to miss the opportunity that he's bringing them that very day. And again, part of this is us as a church, as people, as people of God, as the church. When we look at our city, our communities, our schools, our workplaces, our families, are we broken over that? Is there so much love that we have for people that we are broken that is bothering us at a soul level to see people who are lost every single day, that we rub shoulders with every single day that we know. Listen, I'm not saying we're judging them. Only God knows their heart. But listen, we know people in our life that don't know Jesus. And the example of Sodom is what's going to happen to people who don't know Jesus. Does that rip our heart out?
Does that break us? Does that cause us to go before the throne with confidence, praying for those people, praying for our city, praying for God to move on behalf of us? And if not, at a soul level, at a soul level, there's a desire and a hunger we have to get to. The second thing we learn from this passage is bold and specific prayers. There is a sense of boldness that Abraham is having with the Lord.
It's respect, right? So bold prayers doesn't mean cocky prayers. It doesn't mean arrogant prayers. It's not ego prayers like, God, you owe me something.
Abraham kept kind of prefacing it going, okay, Lord, I'm humbly coming before you. You're God. I'm not. I'm dust. I'm ash. You're the Lord of the universe.
You're God. But here's my request. There's a boldness mixed in there. He's also specific, isn't he? He didn't say, okay, Lord, if there's just a handful of people, there's a bunch of people. He actually gives a number.
There's 50, there's 45, there's 40. There's something about when we mix confident, bold prayers and specific prayers. Praying for people by name, praying for situations by name, praying for our city, our communities by name, believing that God's going to move in our friend's life, but coming boldly before him. And here's why I think the Lord loves bold prayers. Hebrews chapter four, verse 14 to 16. Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Verse 16, it says, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace and help in the time of need. There's something powerful to know and understand who our Father is. There's something amazingly freeing about our prayer life and our confidence when we realize who Jesus is and who we are.
When we realize how loved you really are, how much of an invitation that the Lord has actually given us to say, hey, I want you to, I actually want you to come to me. Jesus has invited us to draw near to him on a regular basis to come, to give him all of our burdens, all of our cares, and to approach him confidently to this throne. And here's why, because Jesus knows everything you're going through. He knows everything about you. He knows your weaknesses, your temptations, your struggles. He knows what you're struggling with when nobody else knows those struggles. He knows that and yet at the same time has invited us to come to his throne, to come before him, to trust and believe that there's power in our prayer.
There's confidence. There's boldness in our prayers. If God answered your prayer this morning, would it change just you or would it change the city? If God this morning answered every one of your prayers, would you be the only one affected by it? Or have you been praying and pleading before the Lord for your marriage, for your family? Have you been praying for your community, for your town, for your apartment complex, for your university? Have you been praying for them that if God answered prayer, we would see a sweeping revival come across the triangle?
Have you been praying bold prayers before the Lord? And the final point is this. This is what Abraham does. I love that last verse we read. It said that when Abraham was done, it said that the Lord left and Abraham went back to where he went, where he came from. The third reminder is that we have to pray and leave it to God.
There's a point to where we come confidently, we present our requests before him, and then we leave confidently. We leave knowing that it's in God's hands. We leave knowing that whatever God wants to do, listen, the Lord ended up destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. This is not a good, happy ending necessarily.
He destroys the entire city except for one family. Abraham did not get his request, and he presented it, and he trusted the Lord, and the Lord chose to answer it differently. There's a verse in Matthew chapter 7 verse 7. There's a progression in this verse that I was praying on, looking through it, and I just kind of saw this progression. It says, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find.
Knock and it will be opened. Then it goes on and says, for everyone who asks receives for him, and it kind of goes on to the rest that says that when you ask, when you seek, when you knock, but there's a progression to this. There's prayer sometimes that oftentimes people just stop at asking. Oftentimes we come and all we do is we just ask, or we just throw a request before the Lord and we hope he hears us, and then we kind of move on, and so we just ask. But what if we went to that next level, church? What if we went from just asking a quick prayer to actually seeking him? What if we actually drew near and actually sought the Lord?
Not just used him like this universal cosmic prayer answer, and we just throw a prayer and hope he answers and it moves on, but what if we went from asking to actually seeking him? Actually getting on our face before him, actually coming before him boldly, and then it turns from seeking out love the way it's worded, it's knocking. Knocking has this persistence to it. Knocking has this constant thing of going, hey, I'm not leaving here, Lord, until you answer me. I'm not leaving your presence until you open up that door and I get that answer that I'm seeking for. There's something about that knocking, that urgency that's happening, and the Bible says that if you ask, you're going to receive. So yes, you can ask and you can receive, but if you seek him, you're actually going to find the Lord. And if you knock and are persistent, that door is going to open. And I'm just here to encourage you in your prayer life, whether it's for the city or for your own life, don't just stop at asking. Don't even just stop at seeking him.
What would happen if we approached him with boldness and confidence, with fervent prayers of righteous people saying, God, I believe in the power of this prayer and I'm going to stay in your presence until you tell me otherwise. I'm going to stay right here until I hear from you and I'm going to knock and I'm going to knock and I'm going to knock. And sometimes that's real quick. And how many know sometimes you've been knocking for a long time. Listen, there's things I've been praying for. I can't even, I don't even remember when I started praying for them.
I've been knocking for years and years and years and years. It's not that God hasn't heard. Sometimes I don't understand how God responds and answers, but my job and your job is to pray. That is our job.
Period. I'm not here to answer prayers. I can't heal anybody.
I can't be the answer. All I can do is pray. And then I have to trust that the God of the universe, when he says he's got it, guess what? He's got it. When God says he's got you, guess what? He's got you. When he says that he has your needs in his hand, guess what? He has your needs. When he says that he has your answer and your healing and your deliverance, guess what?
He has those things. But so often we just stop at asking or we get frustrated or we don't have time or we don't put the time in. Listen church, I am calling us to a bold prayer life, to a life that is filled with power of prayer and confidence that God, you're going to do something amazing. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-11 00:07:23 / 2023-01-11 00:20:42 / 13