Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

July 30, 2017 Sermon

Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.

Genesis 18:23-32

Dear Friends in Christ,

What is your attitude when you stand before the Lord, when you come before him in prayer? Some would say that you need an attitude of humility and respect; consider who you are and to whom you are speaking. And they have a point. Others would say that you need to come before the Lord with boldness and confidence because, after all, God has invited us to pray and promised to hear us. And they too have a point. Abraham is an excellent example for us of the fact that when we come before the Lord in prayer we are to come in humble boldness.

Let’s review the situation from last week. Abraham showed hospitality to three strangers and found out that they were really two angels and the Lord. The Lord repeated his promise that Abraham and Sarah would have the long-promised child within the year. He would not allow his promise of a Savior to fail, even if it took a miracle birth to preserve it. As the three were leaving, the Lord indicated to Abraham that they would be going to Sodom and Gomorrah because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 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. He says that he shared His plans with Abraham because he knew that Abraham would pass on the truth about the Lord, and about what would happen to Sodom and Gomorrah, to future generations. And, he was giving Abraham an opportunity to put his newly strengthened faith into action.

The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah came from the unsuspecting people who wandered into the city square, as the two angels did, and became victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the people of those cities. Just as Abel’s blood pleaded for vengeance against Cain, their abuse pleaded for vengeance. The outcry came from the few righteous people who were left and were still offended at the perversion which the majority practiced. The angels of God witnessed that the outcry against these cities, the call for God’s judgment on them, was indeed justified. But, no matter how much it might be said that Sodom and Gomorrah deserved their fate, Abraham still approached the Lord in intercessory prayer. He prayed not on behalf of the wicked in the cities, but on behalf of the righteous, the believers who might still remain there.

He stood before the Lord, he interceded with God, in humility. His humble attitude was displayed earlier, when he first met the three strangers, bowed before them, served them and showed them hospitality. He was a rich and powerful man, but he was not too proud to serve others. In his prayer he expressed his humble attitude with these words: Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes. . . and, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. Abraham knew his place. He knew that he was a mere mortal, dust and ashes, daring to speak with the Almighty, the eternal God, the judge over all the earth. He knew that the Lord had ample reason to be angry, not just with Sodom and Gomorrah, but with him, because he too was sinful. He acknowledged that God was his Lord and master and that he didn’t have to hear or answer him, or even give him the opportunity to speak. Abraham had a humble attitude in prayer.

We need that same humble attitude. And we will have a humble attitude in prayer when we have a clear picture from the Word of who we are, and of who God is. God’s word tells us very clearly who we are. DUST. Dust of the ground formed into a body by God and into which he breathed life. We inhabit the earth, he is the ruler of all the earth, in fact, the whole universe. We are the creature, he is the creator. And we are sinful creatures who have rebelled against him. Paul clearly points that out in Romans 3 as he hammers home the point, repeating the words “all” and “not even one”, as he declares that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God; that there is no one righteous, not even one.

 

We will have a humble attitude in prayer when God’s law works in our hearts daily and convicts us of our sin. Seeing our sinfulness will keep us from thinking that we deserve anything from God, or that we can demand that he do anything for us. And we will have a humble attitude in prayer when we recognize who God is. He is perfect, holy, eternal, almighty, the one with whom nothing is impossible. He is greater by far than the greatest men on earth. He deserves our utmost honor and respect as we stand before him in prayer.

Having a humble attitude in prayer is important, but so is boldness, confidence. James writes: When a Christian prays, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.

Abraham demonstrated boldness in his prayer. He said: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 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? 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? That’s a pretty bold way to speak with the Lord, wouldn’t you say? But notice that Abraham’s boldness in prayer was not based on his own power or goodness. The boldness that Abraham expressed was based on what he knew to be true about God, that God is righteous and will always do only what is truly right and just.

When we come to the Lord in prayer we don’t come with boldness or confidence that rests in ourselves. We cannot come to God thinking, “God you have to answer this prayer because I’ve been your faithful servant all my life.” We dare not have our confidence rest in anything that we have done, or in the fact that we may not have committed as many sins as others. We dare not have our confidence rest in any thought that we deserve to have God do something for us. We deserve only punishment from God. But, when we have a word of God, a promise that he has given us in the Bible, then we can and should be bold and confident as we come to the Lord in prayer.

For example; we can be absolutely confident that God will do what we ask when we come to him seeking forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, because that request is based on a promise of God. If we come seeking forgiveness because we promise not to do it again, or because it was an accident, we didn’t really mean it, or even because God is love, we ought to have no confidence at all. His promise is that he forgives all our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. We can be absolutely sure that God has forgiven us when we pray on the basis of that promise and say “Lord, forgive me for Jesus’s sake; because of what he has done for me, and what you have promised.”

Or, as we gather to read and study the Scripture, either here at church or at home, and we pray that God will increase and strengthen our faith, we can have absolute confidence that he will do it, because he has promised.

In areas where God has not made a promise, for example in the area of healing– contrary to what the faith healers say, God has not promised to heal every illness and disease. He has told us that one day, something will catch up with us and we will return to the dust from which we came. In areas where God has not made a promise, we can still be confident that he will hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake, but we leave the answer up to him.

Abraham prayed boldly on the basis of the fact that God is righteous and just. But Abraham knew that God had not made a promise that he would spare the wicked. Abraham’s plea was for the righteous, and God answered his prayer, not only by saying he would spare the city for as few as 10 believers, but by sending his angels to warn Lot and his family to escape. Abraham stopped at 10 and left the details of the answer up to God. He trusted from his discussion with the Lord that the Lord would indeed do what was just and right.

 

How often don’t we fail to pray in humble boldness! Too often we forget what a gracious privilege is it to be able to talk with God; we forget how great and holy he is, and how lowly and sinful we are. Too often we are bold for the wrong reasons. Too often we want to instruct God and tell him how he should do things. Thankfully Jesus served as our substitute. He always prayed with the proper attitude of humble confidence. He went to the cross and paid for all the times we have failed to be humble or have been bold for the wrong reasons. He has risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for us so that our prayers in his name are always heard, and answered in the best possible way.

What a wonderful and gracious God we have that he would not only allow, but even invite and encourage us, miserable sinners that we are, to come to him, anytime, anywhere, and stand before him in prayer. What a wonderful and gracious God we have that he would give us so many wonderful promises, so that on the basis of those promises we can come to him with boldness and confidence, knowing that he will do what we asked, or something even better.

The hymn writer puts it well– “You are coming to a King” Implied, give him the proper honor and respect, humble yourself before him, he is the king of the universe. “You are coming to a King,” a king with whom nothing is impossible, “large petitions with you bring.” Learn from Abraham’s example to pray with humble boldness.