"He replied, 'The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father's family."
Today we would like to dedicate this hour to the Lord in prayer. In so doing we would like to think about the power of prayer as Abraham learned to offer. In the book of Genesis we can see many examples of warriors of prayer. Unbeknownst to many, it appears that after the Fall Adam also learned to pray. We are confident that Abel prayed, that Enoch prayed, and that Noah prayed. Did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah pray? No. Did Lot pray? I think he did, but his prayer life was not that strong. And Abraham pray, Isaac prayed, Jacob prayed, and Joseph prayed. But of all the warriors of prayer, Abraham’s prayer stands out the most. Surely, a number of volumes of books could be written about Abraham’s prayer. But for our own purposes tonight we would like to think about three things on Abraham’s prayer: first, Abraham prayed for his enemy (Abimelech); second, Abraham prayed for his sheep Lot; and third, Abraham prayed for building a house church.
First, Abraham prayed for his enemy Abimelech.
The first time the word "pray" appears in the Bible is in Genesis 20:7. Let us read this verse. “Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.” The word “pray” in Hebrew (palal) means, “to intervene or mediate.” In this case, God was not going to let Abimelech off the hook without Abraham first praying for him. What God had in mind was that he was not going to let him and all those who belonged to him live unless Abraham prayed. What did Abraham do? He prayed for Abimelech. Then, God let him off the hook. This tells us a lot about the prayer offered by a righteous man on behalf of his enemy.
Like Abraham we are in a covenant relationship with the Lord. The Lord died for our sins, and he forgives us of our sins if we sincerely repent and turn to him by faith. Then he bestows upon us the standing of a righteous man. Like Abraham we often make mistakes. It was due to Abraham's mistake that Abimelech came to sin. But since he did it due to Abraham sinning, the Lord appeared to him in a dream, and prevented him from sleeping with Sarah by giving him a strict warning. In this way, although Abraham sinned, because Abraham was in a covenant relationship with the Lord, the Lord used him to intervene and pray for Abimelech.
So Abraham prayed, and God healed Abimelech. Of course, God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we prayed. But at least the following points can be made:
- Prayer is for a righteous man to intervene on behalf of a third party, and to ask the Lord to do what the Lord is otherwise not obligated to do.
- We need to pray to the Lord to intervene on behalf of a third party (such as our sheep, children, people of this nation, etc.), asking the Lord to do or not to do what the Lord otherwise is not obligated to do.
Is anyone in sin, and therefore in trouble? Are we even a part of that someone sinning? Then, by all means we need to consider praying to the Lord.
Second, Abraham prayed for his sheep Lot. The story of Abraham praying for his sheep Lot is so famous that instead of serving a message just one reading of the Scripture itself will be enough to learn a lesson on prayer. Let us read Genesis 18:20-33. In my opinion this passage is surprising in that Abraham shepherded over Lot more through prayer than by any other means of grace. Of course, every once in a while Abraham must have given Lot Bible studies, for I am certain that Abraham shared God’s word with himas much as opportunities presented themselves. Of course, it is not easy for an uncle to invite a nephew to Bible studies. Yet we can confidently say that Abraham did talk about God’s promises to Lot, not so much with words but with his actions. As we know Lot was never a good sheep to Abraham. However, Abraham’s prayer in this passage shows that he deeply loved his sheep Lot. And his love was not so much based on vague feelings but because of the possibility that his sheep Lot might lose salvation. Abraham prayed to the Lord that Lot be saved from the impending judgment. In this way Abraham was interested in the salvation of Lot’s soul. We must pray for our sheep with this same urgency. By and large our Bible students are like Lot. And in the past we used to be like Lot. We all used to be worldly-minded, but because our shepherds or shepherdesses kept praying as Abraham did for us, we are what we are today. Tonight, Missionary David Park has brought the names and prayer topics of our one to one sheep. Let us offer prayers to the Lord for the salvation of their souls with Abraham’s spirit of love and concern!
Third, through prayer Abraham successfully built the first house church in the land of Canaan.
Last Friday evening a landmark event occurred in Korea, that is, Shepherd Moses Kim, one of the senior staff shepherds, passed away. When Dr. Samuel Lee passed away and turned over the leadership to the next generation, we knew that the generation had changed. But now we know that the generation is changing further, for Shepherd Moses Kim was one of the first staff shepherds established by Dr. Samuel Lee. Since his death, all of the so-called senior shepherds or missionaries in Korea and in other countries started thinking in the back of their minds: “Oh, my God. It is now our turn.”
In the U.S. we also see a lot of changes occurring. Many already are concerned about the second gens, especially, for their marriages. And these concerns come with such lingering doubts as, “Would it be possible to teach them what it is to marry by faith?” “Will they understand that marriage is not just for mutual benefits but God’s divine purposes?” “Would it be possible to build house churches which are mission centered?” Well, when we study Genesis 24 we can throw away all of these doubts into the trash. With an absolute attitude we can pray that the Lord would establish spiritual house churches among the second gens!
In Genesis 24 we read of a beautiful example. Prayer makes a difference. In this example, it was thanks to prayer that Abraham was able to establish a house church between Isaac and Rebekah. Of all the ministerial works, building a house church is perhaps the most important one. We pray to go fishing, meet a good Bible student, raise that Bible student as a disciple, and then what? We need to build a house church, unless you want to inspire that person to live like Mother Barry.
Building a house church is the foundational work for God's kingdom purpose. In Genesis chapter 2, God prepared a beautiful garden in Eden. After establishing the Garden what did God do? The first thing he did was build a house church between Adam and Eve.
Abraham knew the importance of a house church. For 25 long years he prayed that the Lord would grant him a son. Finally, he got a son. Then, his son Isaac became of age. The problem was with the girls in the land of Canaan. They were all adulterous. They all worshiped idols. Through his marriage life with his wife Sarah, Abraham learned the significance of a spiritual wife. If a wife does not keep her faith, it is highly unlikely that a husband will keep his faith either. When Eve did not keep her faith, and thereby flirted with the devil, she became unfaithful to the Lord. Then, it did not even take a minute for Adam to fall. Abraham also experienced the same disaster firsthand. By faith Abraham left his father's house. By faith Sarah followed. Then, both of them prayed for more than 10 years for a son. Yet, God did not give them a son. Then Sarah grew impatient. What happened? She began to entertain human thoughts. She calculated and asked Abraham to go and sleep with her housemaid. How long did it take for Abraham to fall for this temptation? It did not take a minute or even a second. As soon as Sarah fell, Abraham fell. Then what happened? Due to Sarah's mistake, even to this very day, the whole world is going through turmoil after turmoil, for speaking of the future of the descendants of Ishmael, Genesis 16:12 says, "He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
Knowing that the house church built between a believing husband and a believing woman is critical to building God’s kingdom, Abraham trained his servant to build a house church with a believing woman through prayer. Thanks to Abraham's training, his servant indeed brought back a wife. His efforts began with prayer and ended with prayer. Let us read Genesis 24:1-5 responsively. In verse 5 the servant asks Abraham, "What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?" What the servant asked Abraham about was whether or not he would allow the woman to have a date with his son. Abraham's answer was, plainly, no. Why? Abraham learned that the way God works is different from the way sinful man works. He realized that the marriage he was about to build was not for his own purpose, but for God's purpose. Knowing that he was about to build a house church for God's kingdom purpose, from first to finish, he resorted to God's means, that is, prayer, not human means, such as online dating services.
Again, thanks to Abraham's training his servant served the prayer topic to build the first house church in the land of Canaan, beginning with prayer and finishing with prayer. Let us read Genesis 24:12, “Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.” God answered his prayer and started working on his prayer in real-time. As the servant moved on step by step, the Lord answered his prayer step by step. Finally, he secured an answer from Rebekah, "Yes, I will go." Then the servant completed the mission with prayer. Let us also read Genesis 25:50-52.
One thing that strikes us in regards to Abraham's life of prayer is in what his servant said of him. Look at v. 40. "He replied, 'The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father's family." For a prayer to be effective we need to walk before the Lord. We cannot ask God to do this or to do that when we neglect our walk before him. For a long period of time Abraham did not walk before the Lord. After receiving the call to go to the land of Canaan he waited for a son for ten years. Then he grew impatient. As a result Ishmael came out. While Ishmael was growing up, Abraham felt as if God was non-existent or at least irrelevant to him. So he did not live before God; rather, he lived before Ishmael. The Bible calls this period of time as the dark times when Abraham lived a life that was full of blame. So the Lord visited him again and rebuked him. The Lord helped him to circumcise his heart. The Lord then renewed his promise regarding a son. Indeed, as the Lord promised, Abraham's wife Sarah became pregnant. This event made Abraham realize that God is for real. Prior to this event God struck him as someone less appealing to him than the visible realities. After securing a son, then, God became real. This made him walk before the Lord. When God becomes real, prayer becomes real. Then we can start praying to God meaning business.
Because Abraham believed in God who is real, and because he taught his servant to pray to the Lord with the same attitude, his servant served the task with prayer; with a reverent attitude, all through prayers, he saw the Lord God delivering the result into his hands: that is, bringing a suitable helper for the son of his master.
We are called to work to build house churches. The one to one ministry is important. The disciple making ministry is important. Building a house church is even more important, for building a house church is like building a kingdom.
"The LORD, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father's family." All of us gathered here have been living the life of faith and prayer, some for 10 years, some for even two decades or more. In the course of your life of faith and prayer, how did the Lord reveal himself? How did the Lord prove to that he is indeed a living God? In Abraham's case, when Abraham prayed, he prayed expecting a result. In fact, through prayer he saw the results down the road, and asked his servant to go and get it. Some doubts arose in the mind of the servant and he made some noise, but Abraham quickly corrected him. Then the servant got the message. Absolute faith in God arose in him. He then prayed moment by moment. So his prayers were to make sure that he surely secure and bring the right person his master had already seen in advance.
Likewise, in praying for the Lord's world mission purpose, let us all encourage one another to train ourselves to walk before God. God is living. If one is a true believer, God should strike him as more real than his right arm or hand. And what we can do with our arms and hands are limited. But it is not so with God. He is the Lord God Almighty. He is the one who calls things into existence out of nothing. With this faith, beginning tonight, let us all pray for the prayer topics the Lord provided us with:
- Let us pray to fully pioneer all American college campuses. I have seen some just maintain the title of missionary or campus director, yet do not mean business. We can understand their practical situations, such as both husband and wife working full time, or children being added to the family. But remember: It is all a matter of faith; it is a matter of prayer. So let us pray to fully pioneer all American colleges. In LA alone there are still forty two pioneer-able colleges within the driving distance of 30 minutes from Downey. Let us pray for the pioneering work of all 10 UC's, 20 CSU's, 126 community colleges of California, and all private colleges with a student population of 3,000 or more.
- Let us pray to master the Bible by doing daily bread faithfully and prayerfully. One missionary has been doing daily bread for more than three decades. And yet each time he studies the Bible during the daily bread hours, God's word strikes him differently. Lately, for some unexplainable reasons, this missionary became very depressed. But one day when he read from Jeremiah 36:3 the first word he read deeply touched him, and that word was "perhaps". When he read this word and medicated on it for a while, the Spirit deeply convicted him of the love God has for him and for all. That day he was filled with God's Spirit and he could encourage many in a way he never had before.
- Let us pray to walk before God so our Bible students and coworkers working with us can see it and learn from it.
- Let us pray that all of our Bible students who are single would grow in faith and build a house church.
- Let us pray to conquer and be in good command of fluent American English.
- Let us pray to invite three hundred people to Purdue.
- Let us pray for missionary Isaac Kim to serve 66 messages on prayer based on the 66 books of the Bible.