This week someone in my church asked, “I don’t get prayer. What’s the point?”
I immediately shot back, “Prayer changes God’s mind.”
Puzzled, she asked for clarification.
“Listen,” I said. “Prayer does lots of things.”
I told her that I believed…
- Prayer aligns our will with God’s.
- Prayer brings us closer to him.
- Prayer allows us to spend time with our heavenly Father.
Then I finished by saying, “All of these things are incredibly important, and are tremendous privileges of prayer. But at its core, when you reduce prayer down to its essence, in addition to the things I just listed, the main reason we pray is to change God’s mind.”
Do you agree with that?
Most think that the central part of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality and God’s judgment on human wickedness. I contend that while that is obviously a key part of the story, what precedes it in Genesis 18:17-33 sets up what the story is really all about:
17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing —to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
The overarching point of the entire Sodom and Gomorrah narrative is about prayer, and how God responds to it.
And my point today is simple: I believe this.
God changes his mind in response to our prayers.
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