From Abraham’s example (1 Corinthians 10:11) in Genesis 17, we learned that we ought to be careful what we ask the Lord for. That lesson is tempered in Genesis 18 by this piece of instruction:
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK THE LORD FOR SOMETHING (ACCORDING TO HIS WILL)
You know the story. Abraham gets a visit from 3 “men” in Genesis 18 (we believe these to be an incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ and the 2 angels that were sent to escort Lot out of Sodom). Abraham prepares (well, he has Sarah prepare) a meal for his guests. The Lord repeats the promise of a son through Sarah. Sarah laughs. Then the Lord decides He will not hide from Abraham what He had planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah. Knowing that Lot and his family reside in the city that is slated for destruction, Abraham barters with the Lord on this premise:
Genesis 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
He starts with 50. Then goes to 45. Then 40. Then 30. Then 20. And finally 10. All the while, the Lord agrees to spare the city for the sake of the righteous. I believe there are two factors that led Abraham to stop the bargaining at 10.
1. He figured there had to be at least 10 (Lot, his wife, at least 4 daughters and 2 sons-in-law, and if there were no other children then at least 2 converts). He was obviously wrong on this point.
2. But it also seems that he was afraid to go any further in his request to the Lord. Twice during the negotiations (the 30 request and the 10 request; vv. 30, 32), Abraham says, Oh let not the Lord be angry.
I’m not faulting Abraham for any of this. He’s to be commended for many things, including his care, his concern, and his intercession for his nephew. I’m not saying I would have done any different in his situation. I’m not saying it would have been a good thing for God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah. But I am saying that there is a spiritual lesson we can learn from this example.
The Bible says in James 4:2 …ye have not, because ye ask not. It seems that God would have granted Abraham’s request all the way down to 1 righteous person. But he didn’t ask.
Brethren, you and I have a promise from God in Matthew 7:7-8 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
We have an invitation to Hebrews 4:16 …come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We have a Heavenly Father who has instructed us to Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Yes, we should ask in the name of Jesus Christ and for the glory of God (John 14:13). Yes, we should ask in accordance with the will of God (1 John 5:14). No, we shouldn’t ask amiss. No, we shouldn’t ask for God’s help in fulfilling our consuming lusts (James 4:3). But we SHOULD ask. We should take our right desires in prayer and supplication to the Lord, trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work of intercession (Romans 8:27), and for the Lord to work in our lives that which is best.
In some cases, we ought to be careful what we ask for…because the Lord might give it to us. But in others we ought not be afraid to take our requests to the Lord…because He might just give us what we ask for. Glory to His name!