Prayer Note #24 — Haggling With God–Genesis 18:16-33

In its simplest sense, prayer is conversing with God.  The Bible contains lots and lots of conversations between God and human beings.  Each one has its own character and tone.  Some are quiet and gentle.  Some are angry.  Some are frightened and frightening.  Some are simply fascinating and surprising.  This conversation between God and Abraham is certainly, in my estimation, the prime example of surprising and fascinating.  It is worthwhile reading the entire eighteenth chapter of Genesis to get a sense of the larger conversation Abraham has been having with God.  Then you might also want to read on through chapter nineteen to see the outcome.

Genesis 18:16-33

A Carving on a Chair in the Commons Room at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning; photo by GAC

Who are the characters in this story?

How have they come to be together?

In verses 17-19, God is debating within himself whether to tell Abraham about his intentions toward Sodom and Gomorrah.  What are the issues involved in God’s decision?  Why does he decide to share his plans with Abraham?  What do you think God wants to come out of this conversation with Abraham?

What are God’s reasons for going down to Sodom?  Does he actually need to send angels down there to find out the situation?  Why does God proceed with this judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in this way?

Why does God judge and punish sin and evil?  Why does he sometimes refrain from or delay his punishment?  Does God punish his own people?  Does he still do it?  If so, how?

Since this whole conversation that Abraham has is with God, it is in that sense a prayer (Definition: Prayer is conversation with God.)  What do you think is Abraham’s purpose in this string of questions that he asks God here?  What is he trying to accomplish by these questions?

How would you describe Abraham’s attitude toward God in this conversation?  In what ways is he bold?  In what ways is he deferential?

Would it be correct to call Abraham an “intercessor” in this passage?  How would you define the term “intercessor”?

What is the outcome of this prayer?  for Sodom and Gomorrah?  for Abraham?

What can we learn about prayer from this passage?

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