But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
After Abram defeated the kings of the east and rescued Lot (Gen. 14), the Word of the Lord came to him in a vision. And the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceeding great reward” (v. 1).
In Abram’s prayer (vv. 2-3, above) Abram suggested to God that since He had not given him a child, he be permitted to adopt his servant Eliezer and make him his heir. But God said, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir” (v. 4).
Then God took Abram outside and told him to look up in the sky and count the stars. He said, “If you can count them that is how many descendents you will have.” Then verse six states that Abram believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. This to me, that he believed God, seems so incredible. After all, Abram was close to one hundred years old and Sarah close to ninety, and they had no children. Yet God asked him to believe that he would have descendents as many as the stars. How could Abram possibly believe that?
Well, this is how. Through his constant obedience and through the practice of prayer he had developed a trusting relationship with God. Yes, he had experienced God and knew that He would not lie to him. Though Abram didn’t always understand God’s ways and often questioned Him (this is evident by his prayers), in the end he trusted Him completely because He was his friend and his God. What a marvelous example Abram gives us. May it always be our aim to believe as he did.
Genesis 17: 3
Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying…
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”
In these verses of prayer you will notice that in both cases Abram fell on his face. In the first prayer (v. 3) the reason why he fell on his face was because God had appeared to him and he was awe-struck by His presence. This prayer was a prayer of listening—a silent prayer, where God did all the talking. Not a word is recorded from Abram, and rightly so, for the words of God were important confirmations and instructions to him. Here God explained in detail the covenant He had made with him, and told him what his part was in it. Here also was the point at which God changed his name to Abraham, which means father of a multitude.
In verse seventeen, when God confirmed to Abraham that Sarah would bare him a son, he again fell on his face. But this time he laughed and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You.”
So Abraham had his doubts, as did Sarah; but at the same time I think he believed, or at least he wanted to believe. He laughed at the impossibility of the promise, but he also knew God could do the impossible. It could be that his laughter was not so much a laugh of doubt but more a laugh of praise and jubilation mixed with amazement and wonder at the prospect of the fulfillment of such a glorious promise.
And just because Abraham wanted Ishmael to have a part in the promise does not mean that he disbelieved that God would give him his own flesh born son. It may just mean that Abraham loved Ishmael and wanted the best for him as any father would.
This post is an excerpt from my book Service of Prayer.