Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Jacob
I have always found the history of Jacob to be a fascinating one. Not only was he one of the patriarchs of the Hebrew nation, he was also a man of prayer.
Every one of us, at one time or another has seen a little of themselves in Jacob. He was by no means a perfect man, but he was a man who understood the importance of a relationship with God. We often find Jacob on the mountaintop, or down in the valley. We either find him reveling in victory, or wallowing in defeat.
Although the life of Jacob is often times controversial – since stealing birthrights was not a common occurrence in his day – it is nevertheless a life worthy of study and examination. This being an exploration of prayer however, we will table our discussion on the particulars of Jacob’s life, and focus exclusively on discussing his prayer life, and the intimacy he shared with God.
Genesis 32:9-12, “Then Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
Although the Bible tells us of other prayers Jacob prayed, this is the most telling of all when it comes to just how well Jacob knew God. Jacob had no Bible, and still he knew God. He had no temple, no house of worship, no altar, and still he prayed to God. He has no clear doctrine, no confession of faith as we do today, no Sunday school, no church to attend, no synagogue to worship in, and still he lived a life of prayer.
In his personal life, especially within the context of relationship with his own family, Jacob is a deceiver, and is in turn deceived because what a man sows is what a man reaps. He trusts men, and is summarily disappointed. He sins against his brother Esau, fleeing his home for fear of his brother, is compelled to repent of what he did, and after twenty years of exile finally returns to his homeland.
Twenty years is a long time for anyone, especially so for someone who is homesick and desires to see the place of his birth again. I came to America when I was nine years old. It was six years before myself, or any member of my family could legally return to Romania without running the risk of being imprisoned or worse. For those six years, every once in a while I would listen to my mother and father, or my grandmother and my grandfather reminisce about our homeland, and every time, they did so with pathos and a sense of longing.
No matter how far we stray from our homeland, there is still a part of us that yearns to see it once more, to return and feel the soil between our toes and breathe in the air we remember when we were young and life was carefree.
Jacob had left with only his staff, crossing the Jordan and fleeing from before the wrath of his brother, and now he was returning, a wealthy man in his own right. Still, he remembered what had been, the bitterness and hatred between himself and his brother Esau, and now Jacob stood before God in prayer.
The boy who left, now returned a man, seasoned and matured in the ways of life, and even treachery by none other than his father-in-law Laban.
It was Laban who taught Jacob what would later come to be known as the bait-and-switch. It was Laban who tricked Jacob into serving him twice as long as he first agreed to, and all these things were as worthwhile lessons for Jacob.
The lessons of life mature us and grow us. No matter how hurtful, troubling, uncomfortable, or seemingly unfair, it is the lessons of life that chisel away the unnecessary and mold us into something new.
As is always the case, the hand which holds the chisel is responsible for the finished product, and not the chisel itself. If life’s lessons are the chisel, then we must assume that He who is holding the chisel knows exactly what He desires the end result to be.
The chisels in life are a means to a glorious end. Some of us need more chiseling then others, but however much the Master must cut away, it will all be worth it in the end.
In order to understand the reason for Jacob’s prayer, and the fervency thereof, we must contextualize what it was he was feeling at this particular moment. Jacob knew full well that his brother Esau had sworn that once their father breathed his last, Esau would see him dead. Jacob knew the reason he fled his home and everything he’d ever known, and it wasn’t because he didn’t like the dry climate, or his mother’s desert choice after dinner.
Jacob had tricked his brother Esau into selling him his birthright, and then tricked their father by pretending to be Esau and receiving the blessing.
Jacob knew exactly why Esau hated him, and he knew it was not unwarranted by any means. After twenty years, Jacob still feared his brother, knowing what he had done, yet because God had told him to return to his country, he overcame his fear and obeyed.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.