“Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” Gen. 20:7
This verse contains the first mention of the both the word “prophet” and “prayer” in scripture. God appears to be referring to Abraham’s status as a prophet to illustrate the manner of man with whom Abimelech is dealing. Similarly, the intercessory act of prayer would not be unlike the role of a prophet (see Jer. 7:16). Prophets are known for their prayers.
The proposed result of Abraham’s prayer for Abimelech is that “he may live”, as God had threatened death to him in verse 3. Even though Abimelech would likely not be in this situation if he were not mislead by Abraham about the nature of his relationship with Sarah, the guilt would apparently still fall upon Abimelech.
However harsh it may seem, God is making Himself known to this pagan king in quite a memorable way; for when Abimelech has a run-in with Abraham’s son Isaac in Genesis 26, Abimelech warns all the people not to touch Rebekah under penalty of death – for now he has the fear of God in him.
A possible lesson to be gleaned from both this story, and the similar story in Genesis 12 is to consider the repercussions of our words. In each case, Abraham isn’t completely truthful about the nature of his relationship with Sarah, and that compromise leads to plagues and punishments against other men who were tempted to sin with Sarah, albeit unknowingly. Since we do not always know the end of our untruthful words and actions, we should speak as truthfully as possible.