Passage for the day: Genesis 18:16-33
As Christians we know we should pray for other people. Prayer is one important way that we can love our neighbour as ourselves. To pray for someone is to care for them, to value them, to treat them as made in God’s image.
But how exactly should I pray for my neighbour? Most commonly our prayers begin by focusing on our neighbour’s need. Maybe she is sick, or has lost her job, or a relative has died, and so we pray for her. There is of course nothing wrong with that, and indeed our Heavenly Father longs that we address Him in prayer with all our needs. But there is another way we can and should pray for our neighbour, and it’s one that we find time and time again in the pages of Scripture, which approaches this whole business of prayer from a completely different angle.
Because what we find in the Bible is that so often the great characters we find there start with what they know of the character of God. In today’s passage Abraham’s prayer for Sodom is motivated by his understanding of God’s justice. It is because there seems to be a gap between who God is and what is about happen that he prays. Or to use a technical word, he intercedes.
Intercession simply means acting as a go-between. Imagine for a moment you were visiting a factory of a company which prided itself on its modern, efficient methods and good industrial relations. When you arrive, you find instead that the workers are always grumbling about their employer, take little or no pride in their work, and are only interested in doing as little as possible for as much money. I’d expect you’d want to go back to the management and point out how things on the shop floor were very different from what you were told they were like.
That may not be a perfect picture, but I think it conveys something important about intercession. We know from Scripture who God is and what He expects the world to be like. But reality is, most of the time most people live as if they do not care for Him, grumble when He does not give them what they want and prefer as far as possible to ignore His demands upon their lives. What they fail to realise, of course, is that one day they will stand before God and give an account for their lives. And as believers, if we have any compassion, if we care for such people, then we need to intercede. Not just for the immediate needs of those we love. But for their ultimate need – to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and find His forgiveness and His peace.
That’s the work which we are called to do as followers of Jesus. It’s hard work, it’s costly work. Let’s not forget how Jesus wept as he came into Jerusalem because they did not recognise the time of God’s coming (Luke 19:44). As we prepare for mission, let’s allow our hearts to be moved by the state of the world around us, and let us pray that the God of infinite love and grace would show mercy for His name’s sake.