Genesis 18:23-35 (ESV)
Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty 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?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
This is a classic example of how we miss the point in what God is doing and even in what we’re doing. Abraham is worried about his nephew Lot, so he nudges God down to just ten righteous people to spare the city. But he’s “praying” about the wrong thing. He’s not interested in saving the city – he calls them the wicked – he just wants to save Lot and his family. So why doesn’t he just ask God to spare them?
He doesn’t think of it. He’s under stress. He realizes what God is planning to do and his mind is screaming, “Nooooo!”
He just wants to stop the nightmare.
We do this all the time, though we’re usually not this obtuse. God’s plans are just way over our heads.
But we do occasionally miss an easy “solution” to a dilemma and pray about the wrong thing. Any time we can look back and see the cluelessness of a prayer, we should. It’s a teaching moment and we should really dwell on it.
By seeing His great creativity – and our lack of it – we learn to trust God more and learn to not trust ourselves so much. That’s spiritual humility.
There’s one case where our weakness is often most profound – when someone we love dies. Because we can’t see the details of God’s plan, we oppose it and pray for God to postpone the inevitable.
Trusting God is easy in easy trials, but great trials make great Christians.
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