The Audacity of Intercession
by Jacob Hudgins
“Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’”(Gen 18:23).
God has visited Abraham in the form of three men to announce to him that Sarah will soon have a child in her old age. Yet as he leaves, he wonders aloud: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…?”(Gen 18:17). So he mentions that he has come to check on the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah.
This concerns Abraham. He knows that Sodom and Gomorrah are full of evil people. He also knows that his nephew Lot has taken up residence there. So Abraham begins to intercede for the cities, asking God to spare the city from destruction if he finds 50—or 45—or 40—all the way down to 10—righteous people there. Abraham highlights the audacity of interceding for others before God.
Intercession involves boldness (and humility). Abraham has the boldness to say things like this to God: “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?”(Gen 18:24-25). This is remarkably bold. Abraham is working to convince God not to do his will. He challenges God because he is asking him to change to spare Lot and his family. Yet Abraham also peppers his speech with humility: “I who am but dust and ashes…Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak…Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord”(Gen 18:27, 30, 31). Abraham shows us that intercession requires a balance of boldness and reverence.
Intercession involves familiarity (and risk). God shares his plans with Abraham because of their relationship (Gen 18:17-21). Abraham knows God’s attributes—that he is Judge of all the earth, that he is righteous, and that he loves righteous people. Yet he is also deeply familiar with God. They are on speaking terms. Abraham can speak freely and ask for what he needs. This is not the first time they have spoken. Yet along with that familiarity comes the risk that he might push too far. “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak”(Gen 18:30, 32). Thus intercession is not to be taken lightly; it both capitalizes on a relationship and holds the risk of jeopardizing that relationship.
Intercession involves love (and leverage). It is not difficult to discern Abraham’s motives. He loves his nephew and their family and wants to spare them. When we intercede for other people, we express our love by asking God to help them. But this also involves leverage, where we use whatever relationship we have with God to bless the person we love. Just as we might ask for a favor on behalf of someone we care about, so we ask God to use whatever goodwill he has for us to benefit others.
Christians intercede for others regularly. We ask God to heal others, to spare them, to give them what they are seeking, to help them grow, and to support them in their efforts. This is intercession. We are audaciously asking God to change his will for the world to grant our requests. We are leveraging our relationship to help others. Abraham helps us in this task. He teaches us our need for balance. He shows us that God still hears us and often responds positively to our requests.
God invites us to audaciously intercede for others. He opens the throne room of heaven to us. Let’s ask with confidence—and humility!