Last week in our look at the life of Jacob (through the book "Escaping with Jacob" by David Ramos), we looked at how Jacob and his uncle Laban separate peaceably from one another so that Jacob can return to his homeland. We are still left with the question of how he will be received by his father and his brother. Will there be violence or will their relationships be restored?
Week 13: Read Genesis 32:1-21 (How to Pray Like Jacob)
"Jacob is terrified. The last time he was this close to home he had tricked his father and stolen from his brother. Would 20 years be enough time for Esau to forgive him? The scene begins with a brief encouragement. The angels of God are near Jacob and his camp. Perhaps they will protect him in case his brother still holds ill-will towards him.
Jacob wastes no time and immediately sends servants ahead of him to tell Esau of his return. They return with no reply, only that Esau and hundreds of men set out towards Jacob. In Jacob's mind, this is the worse case scenario. Jacob moves in a panic and divides his people and belongings into two groups. That way the latter group could escape. The second thing Jacob does is pray. Overcome by fear, he cries out to God, repeating the promises he has been given and seeking any sign of hope. To further appease his brother he sends 550 animals ahead of him as a present. Now he has done all he can and must wait to see Esau's reaction.
Anyone who has felt life-threatening stress can identify with this passage. Jacob is crushed by anxiety. His actions are frantic, his thoughts fractured. He moves around in such a rush the reader can hardly keep up. And yet, in the midst of all the chaos, Jacob does something life-changing. Up until this point, God has been the one reaching out to Jacob. Over and over again, it has been God's voice booming into the painful situations and giving Jacob guidance on what he should do and how he should trust God. But here we see a shift. This time it is Jacob who reaches out to God.
Right in the middle of this scene we see Jacob pray. I believe this example is exactly the way we should pray in our times of need. Jacob's prayer consists of two very distinct ideas. First, Jacob repeats the promises God has given to him. This strengthens Jacob's faith and even challenges God to hold true to what he said he would do. Second, Jacob voices precisely what his concerns are. He does not pray generalities, but instead speaks about what is truly bothering him.
Jacob's prayer is a model for how we should pray. How well do we know the promises God has made to us? And how often do we pray what is really on our hearts instead of the same old normalcies? Today, take the challenge to pray like Jacob and invite the promises of God to be fulfilled in your life."
Takeaway from today's lesson: It is a powerful act to pray the promises of God, an act that requires practice and sharpening.
Prayer: God, teach me your promises and help me to know that my prayers are heard. Amen.