“Far be it from You to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)
Occasionally I need to ask a favour from another person. When I approach them, they usually expect me to support my request by offering a few good reasons for why they should help. This is just the way we are; people are usually willing to lend a hand, but they want to know that our requests are legitimate and well-intentioned.
The interesting thing is that while we do this when we are dealing with one another, we forget that God is honored in our prayers when we approach Him in the same way. The Lord wants us to use reasoned persuasion in our prayers. We see this principle at work in a number of places in the Bible where godly men and women build a case for their request by providing one or more reasons as to why God should grant it. Take Abraham, for instance. When he learned that God intended to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he did not merely ask, “Lord, please don’t destroy the cities!” Instead, he started to offer a series of impassioned pleas that were based on the premise that God was righteous, holy and merciful: “Will You really sweep the city away and not spare it for the sake of fifty righteous people in it? … Far be it from You!”
Here we discover that Abraham attempted to build a case with God. He was concerned for God’s glory so he employed reason and moral logic to argue that it would be thoroughly inconsistent for the Judge of all the earth to destroy the righteous with the wicked. And his prayer was heard. His relative, Lot, escaped just in time from the visitation of God’s wrath upon the city.
Again, we see Moses doing the same. In Numbers 14:13-19 he pleaded with God to spare the Israelites even though the people were guilty of unbelief. He supported his petition by arguing that God’s glory and promises were at stake. “If You destroy the Israelites,” he said, “Your enemies are going to say that You weren’t powerful enough to bring Your people into the promised land, so You let them die in the desert” (14:16). Again he said, “Forgive the sin of this people… so that You can display Your strength and show that You are slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin…” (14:17-19)
In each of these prayers, Abraham and Moses did far more than offer simple petitions. They also argued their case, basing it on God’s character and promises. Is that how you pray?