Abraham creates a problem

Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Today, a simple question: “What is prayer?”

I start with the Bible, a holy book, shared in part by Jews, Protestants, and Catholics.  The Protestant Bible I use is made up of 66 shorter books. The first book is “Genesis”, which means “Beginnings”, and has the famous stories about creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood.

Genesis first uses the word “pray” in the story of a man called Abraham.  The story goes like this: God called Abraham to go to the Promised Land and God made a bunch of big promises to Abraham.  But as Abraham wandered around the new land and got rich herding sheep and goats and camels, it didn’t look like God was going to deliver on the big promises any time soon.

A king saw Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and Abraham could see that the king found his wife attractive. Abraham introduced her as his sister, not as his wife, and the king conscripted her into his harem. A messy and inconvenient situation!   But Abraham didn’t have to sort out the mess, because God stepped in. God appeared to Abimilech, the king, in a dream and said,, “You’re like dead meat, man, because that woman you took? She’s married to one of my favorite people.”

Abimilech says, “Whoa, I didn’t mean it! He told me they were brother and sister, not husband and wife.”  “I know,” says God, “that’s why I kept you from touching her. But now, return this man’s wife for he is a prophet. He will pray for you and you will live.”

Did you hear the word “pray” in there?  It’s God telling Abimilech in a dream: “Return this guy’s wife, and get him to pray for you.”

A summary:  Abraham creates a problem for himself, for his wife, and for Abimelech. God sorts things out, and Abraham gets to pray for the person he caused trouble for.  

There are some helpful lessons in this story, not all of them about prayer.

  1. The first lesson is, Hey! If you’re in a relationship, don’t pretend your partner is your sister.
  2. The second lesson is, Even if you do something stupid like that, God might choose to protect you and her anyway, like he protected Abraham and Sarah.
  3. The next lesson is one of the most important lessons in the Bible about how God works and how to understand the Bible.  The Bible is not all do’s and don’ts. It’s not just a bunch of instructions on how to live the right life. Lots of the Bible is stories–complicated stories–about complex characters who did good and bad, and about people who told the truth, half-truths, and sometimes outright lies that got them into trouble. The Bible doesn’t explain what all the stories mean. Sometimes it just tells the story.  The amazing and encouraging thing is that sooner or later God shows up in most of the stories.
  4. And finally, remember this about prayer:  When you get yourself or someone else into deep trouble, and are clueless about how fix the mess you’ve made, guess what?  God is prepared to show up in the middle of the mess and help.

That’s it for today’s topic, “What is prayer?”  If you’re strong on logic, you are probably thinking, “But he didn’t  answer the question. He didn’t tell us what prayer is. He just told us a weird Bible story that has the word “prayer” in it.

Instead of trying to figure it out, why don’t you pray with me my prayer that comes from the story: “Dear God, I’ve made a mess of my life and I know it’s my fault and I don’t know what to do.  Can you please show up in the middle of my story, like you did in the middle of Abraham’s, and start to set things right?”

I’m Daniel, signing off this episode of the  channel “Pray with Me”.

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