When do you pray? What do u pray about? Is it not true that we often pray the most when we are worried, anxious, and afraid? It’s alright… Jacob did the same – he prayed when he was afraid, facing the unknown. Let’s see what we can learn from his prayer:
Gen 32:9-12 Jacob’s prayer:
Gen 32:9 Then Jacob said, “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Go back to your land and to your family, and I will cause you to prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness You have shown Your servant. Indeed, I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please rescue me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him; otherwise, he may come and attack me, the mothers, and their children. 12 You have said, ‘I will cause you to prosper, and I will make your offspring like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
Background/setting: Jacob was on his way back to his own land and family after serving Laban for 20 years. He was going to meet Esau, his brother whom he cheated of his birthright. Esau was angry and planned to kill him because of this. Jacob had to flee from Esau’s wrath. Now he’s determined to make peace with Esau.
Jacob prayed this prayer after he planned for the trip. In spite of all his plans, he knew he has to call on God. Some pointers to learn from his prayer:
1) v.9a Who is he praying to? It’s the God of his father Abraham and God of his father Isaac. He knew who the God of his ancestors is – the faithful God who kept His promises to his fathers.
2) v.9b What did God say? God said to Jacob: Go back to your land and to your family. This is a command for Jacob to do and he’s obeying this command. God also told Jacob that He will cause Jacob to prosper. To prosper means to be fortunate or successful. This is what God promised to do for him. God’s command comes with a promise.
3) v.10 How did Jacob think of himself? Jacob said ‘I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness You have shown Your servant.’ Jacob acknowledged that God is kind and faithful to him, that he is an unworthy servant. He also summarized in 1 short sentence what happened to him the last 20 years. He crossed over Jordan with just a staff in his hand and now he has multiplied in human and material wealth – two wives, 11 children, many servants, livestocks – all the blessings that God poured on him.
4) v.11 What did he pray for God to do? To rescue him from his brother Esau. He told God honestly that he was afraid of Esau – and he might do to him and his family. Even with all his scheming and plans, he was afraid. He knew his plans are not enough to keep him safe. He needed God to rescue him.
5) v.12 Jacob claimed God’s promise: He remembered that God said He will cause him to prosper – how so? God promised He will make Jacob’s children like the sand of the sea – which cannot be counted. This means that God will protect him and his family from being killed by Esau.
After this prayer, Jacob continued with his plans how he will meet Esau – what to give as gifts and what to say to appease his anger. He was not passive – he prayed but he also did what he had to do.
When I encounter challenges and difficulties, what is my response? Do i worry or do i pray? Who do i pray to? What do i pray about? After praying, do i take back my worry and continue to fret? Let me learn from Jacob as he prayed, he acknowledged who God is, what He did in the past, let me admit that I am worried, that I am unworthy and let me tell God what I need Him to do for me.
Last but not the least, let me claim God’s promise and go in peace and do my part to show my faith that God listens to my prayer.