Scripture Focus: And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace (Genesis 19:27-28).
Does intercession involve suffering—even when the intercessor is a humble, dedicated Christian who trusts implicitly in God’s goodness and wisdom? Most who pray faithfully would answer “yes” from their own experience. A better word than suffering is perhaps “disappointment” or “uncertainty,” when we feel God hasn’t answered the way we wish events would unfold. We say it is “unanswered prayer,” but what we mean is that God didn’t do it our way. We are not told what Abraham felt, but we read that he went early in the morning, looked toward Sodom, and saw “the smoke … which went up like the smoke of a furnace.” Sodom had not been spared.
Have you ever seen a prayer request of yours apparently “go up in smoke”? (Hint: the key word is “apparently.”) It can lead disappointed saints to ask, “Why pray, if I face possible failure?” or “If God is sovereign, why should I pray?” We do not know whether Abraham ever learned that Lot was delivered. Sodom was burning, but where was Lot? It appeared his prayer had not been answered. (Remember, he prayed for Sodom to be spared from destruction, believing that was the only way Lot could be saved.) There is a lesson here. What we do know is what Abraham “saw” was not the whole story.
What lesson may we draw from such disappointments? Simply this: in the midst of apparent desolation, God is still at work and utterly in control. Lot was saved, which was the real purpose of Abraham’s prayer. The only possible failure in intercession is not to pray or to stop praying before the issue has been resolved. By faith intercessors overcome the disappointments. They continue to pray, to obey God’s Word, and to follow the path of trust and obedience.
An earlier writer on intercession summarizes this way:
“The city was not spared … But Lot was delivered, and that after all was the deepest burden on Abraham’s heart. Abraham received, not what he asked, but what he wanted. God’s refusals are ever of this kind, sweetly reasonable, granting often what we did not seek, because we did not understand, but what He knew would meet our situation more perfectly.” (From They Teach Us to Pray by Reginald E. O. White, emphasis added.)
Unless otherwise noted, authorship of this devotional series is shared by the IFA staff.
In your time of personal worship and intercession today:
- Have you ever wondered if your prayers make a difference? Have you allowed “disappointments” to hinder your faith? If so, will you repent of that doubt and ask God to strengthen your resolve to intercede? He will graciously forgive.
- Ask God to help you see more clearly where humble, persistent intercession blends with His sovereignty to bring about His purpose for His glory.
- Many Christians confess their need to repent periodically for believing feelings more than believing God. Is that you? He is eager to forgive and to restore the simple child-like faith you once knew. Ask Him.
- If you do not keep a prayer journal, perhaps you will begin to record your prayer requests and the dates when you began. There are numerous helpful prayer apps as well. Be sure to record when God answers.
- Turn the “smoke” of disappointment into an altar of praise and worship, knowing that God, as your loving Father—and “Judge of all the earth”—will “do right.”
Intercessors for America