A SHAMEFUL INTERCESSION
After receiving the gifts from Abimelech, Abraham prayed for him (vv. 17-18). Abimelech needed Abraham’s intercession because the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech. Do you think that you would be able to pray in such a shameful situation? Abimelech might have said to Abraham, “Why did you, a prophet of God, lie to me? Look at what has happened! Now that everything has been settled and I have returned your wife, I want you to pray for me.” Many times, after we have failed the Lord, we are unable to pray for days, even though no one knows about our failure. How much more difficult it was for Abraham to pray in the presence of Abimelech! Nevertheless, Abraham prayed, and “God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children” (v. 17).
In order to intercede for Abimelech, Abraham had to overcome two things: his memory of his failure before Abimelech and his consideration of his wife’s barrenness. He had to forget his failure before Abimelech and not consider his wife’s barrenness. If I had been Abraham, I would have said, “I’m sorry, Abimelech, but I have failed the Lord and now I don’t have the faith to pray for you.” We all must learn that interceding for others does not depend upon our success; it depends upon the need. Once a need has been designated by God, we must intercede for it. Abraham might have said to the Lord, “I have failed. I lied to Abimelech and he has rebuked me. How can I intercede for him?” When we intercede for others, we must forget about ourselves, our surroundings, and our circumstances and intercede as if there were no one on earth except us and God. In spite of our failures, we must exercise our spirit and pray with boldness.
Although God was forced to leave Abraham and go to Abimelech, Abraham was higher than Abimelech. Although he had failed, Abimelech was far below him. The Bible says that the greater always blesses the lesser (Heb. 7:7). Because Abraham was higher than Abimelech, he could intercede for him.
Furthermore, we should not think that because God has not answered our prayers for our own needs we cannot pray for others. If I had been Abraham, I might have said, “Abimelech, you ask me to pray for you. I have been praying for my wife for years without receiving an answer. Because of this, I’m not sure that God will answer my prayer for you and I don’t have the boldness to pray.” We need to forget about our unanswered prayers and pray for others. If we would not pray for others, God will probably not answer our prayers for our own needs. Do not say that since your own need has not been met, you cannot pray for others. When Abraham forgot his need and interceded for Abimelech and his house, not only were their needs met but also his. If you forget your need and pray for the needs of others, God will not only answer your prayer for them but also your prayer for yourself. He will take care of your needs.
Abraham’s intercession for Abimelech was a shameful one. In such a shameful situation it is difficult for anyone to intercede. The Bible does not give us a full record of Abraham’s intercession for Abimelech like it does of his intercession for Lot. Perhaps Abraham was not bold or strong in spirit. Nevertheless, he interceded for Abimelech and his prayer was answered. By this we see that although we may not be bold in our spirit, as long as we intercede for others according to God’s designation, our intercession will be answered. I can testify to this from my experience. A number of times I was in difficulty and prayed about it. But I received no answer. Suddenly people came to me who had the same difficulty and asked me to pray for them. After I prayed for them, God not only answered my prayer for their need but also my prayer for my own situation.
We all must learn not to pray according to our victory. It is easy to pray after we have been victorious, but not after we have failed. Although I do not encourage anyone to fail, I do say that we should not be bothered by our failures. God does not count on our failures; He counts on what we are. In the presence of God, we are the new man. This is what we are, and we must pray according to it. Because we are still in this old creation, we may fall back and fail. But we can forget that failure in the old creation and stand upon our position in the new creation. When Abraham stood on his position of being God’s prophet, he could pray for Abimelech.
Genesis 20 is a very dear chapter, and we need to spend time to consider all its main points: the hidden weakness of God’s seeking one; the way he was rebuked by Abimelech and was temporarily set aside by God; his intercession for Abimelech and his family; and the way God answered his prayer. If you dwell on this chapter for a few hours, your spirit will be richly nourished. As I consider this chapter today, I find it more needful than chapter eighteen. Although chapter eighteen is sweet, chapter twenty is precious, teaching us some precious lessons.
It teaches us that interceding for others does not depend upon our condition. It depends upon our standing. It depends upon who we are. We are the prophet of God, the new creation, the members of the Body of Christ. Being in the church life as a member of the Body of Christ gives us the standing to intercede for others. Forget about your environment and your failures. If you hold on to your feelings, your mouth will be shut, Satan will be victorious over you, and you will be deadened for days. This is very serious. We must forget our failures and our needs and take the proper standing to intercede for others according to God’s designation and believe in God for others.
We also must learn to know ourselves. Do not think that if you have attainments as high as those recorded in Genesis 18 and 19, you will have no problems. We cannot afford to take a vacation from our fellowship with God. Do not have any confidence in your old self. Although your old self has been dealt with by God, it is still untrustworthy, even if it has been fully circumcised. Whether we are aware of it or not, deep within us there is a certain reservation in following the Lord. One day this reservation, this reserve of our natural weakness, will be exposed. Do not be surprised when it happens. Be prepared to take grace, forget your failures and your needs, and intercede for others. Stand on your position as a member of the Body of Christ, as a part of the new man, and as a saint in the Lord’s recovery and pray, even if you pray with a sense of shame. Your intercession may be shameful and there may be no glory in it, but God will still answer it. Along with His answer to your shameful intercession, He will also answer your previously unanswered prayers for your own needs. How wonderful this is!
When, as God’s prophet, Abraham lied to others, they became deadened. But when he forgot his failure before them and interceded for them, they received life and he himself was revived. Likewise, if we forget our failures and intercede for the needs of those before whom we have failed, we shall not only minister life to them but also to ourselves. May we all learn the lessons contained in this chapter.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)