Life Prayers - Abraham's Prayer for the City

Sermon from CCM Ladybarn


This sermon was preached by Andy Brownlee at the Ladybarn site of Christ Church Manchester on Sunday 6th January 2019.

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This message was part of the ‘SERIES NAME’ series, preached at Christ Church Manchester’s church in Withington in EARLY/MID/LATE YEAR. The full series included the following sermons:


This sermon was based on Genesis 18:16-33.

16Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lordby doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,  21I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom

22So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose 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? 25Far 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?” 26And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose 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.” 29Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30Then 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.” 31He 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.” 32Then 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.” 33And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.


How Abraham Prayed

  • Abraham’s prayer is incredibly bold. Asking God for something and then asking for more and more and more. One Commentator says about this prayer: ‘Abraham is a man who just wouldn’t take yes for an answer.’ Every time God says: yes I’ll give you that, Abraham is like, ‘No, I’ve changed my mind, I want more.’

  • But Abraham’s not just bold in the way he talks to God but he’s also very humble in how he talks to God. In verse 27 when addressing God he says: I am nothing but dust and ashes. Very Humble. In verse 30 before talking to God he says: do not be angry at me. You see we see in the way Abraham talks to God that he is fully aware of his unworthiness before God but at the same time he is totally confident that God loves him. He knows God is holy and loving at the same time. 

  • Abraham is praying not for himself but for the good of others. What’s more this prayer is not even for good people, deserving people, he’s praying for people who have done terrible things, this is a wicked city.

How was He Able to Pray Like That?

  • What was the secret to Abraham’s prayer life? Well the secret was understanding who God is. In Verse 25 Abraham says: ‘Will not the judge of all the earth do right?’ This is a rhetorical question so basically, it’s a statement. He’s saying God is a God of Justice. He is a righteous God.

  • Abraham knows that not only is God a God of Justice but he’s also a God of Grace. God chose to make Abraham into a great nation through which all nations would be blessed. God didn’t choose Abraham because he was a great guy. No by this stage Abraham had already let God down lots of times. God chose Abraham simply because he wanted to, another way of saying that is: God chose him by Grace. Abraham knew God is a God of Justice but also a God of Grace.

  • If there is no God of Justice there is no hope for the world. But if there is a God of Justice what hope is there for you and me? Abraham got so close to solving this problem. If he could just find one absolutely truly righteous person, wouldn’t God, who loves righteousness, save the many because of the righteousness of the one? The only flaw in the plan was he couldn’t find that one righteous person. Abraham prayed for Sodom, he acted a bit like a priest, he stood before God and prayed on behalf of the people, he made intercession for them. But he couldn’t quite pull it off. But many centuries later someone came who did pull it off.

How Can We Get What Abraham had and Even More?

  • Abraham points to Jesus the true high priest. Abraham knew there must be a way for God to uphold Justice and save people at the same time. Just knowing that enabled Abraham to have this incredibly deep relationship with God. We have a big advantage over Abraham, we know the gospel, we know that the way God upholds Justice and saves people is through Jesus at the cross. Knowing that allows us to have an even greater, passion and intimacy in prayer than even Abraham did.

  • Understanding that Jesus died on the cross for you creates incredible humility and boldness at the same time. Jesus dying on the cross tells us: We are so sinful that God had to die for us and that is incredibly humbling

  • My conclusion for this sermon was going to be: ‘Pray bold prayers and see big answers.’ Only one problem: Abraham prayed a bold prayer and didn’t get what he asked for. We read in the next chapter that Lot was saved as a result of Abraham’s prayer but he didn’t ask for Lot to be saved he asked for the city to be saved and it wasn’t. Sometimes we don’t get what we ask for | Some of you have been asking for the same thing for years and you still haven’t got it.  That’s hard But you know prayer is not primarily about getting stuff, its about a relationship. A relationship between the father and his son or daughter.


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