Many things could be said about Jacob — some good, some bad. But
one thing must be said about him, and that is this: Jacob was a man
who was able to prevail in prayer. Of that there can be no question.
Like you, I want to see my prayer life develop and deepen. I want to
see my prayers be more effective and more impacting. I want to be a
man of prayer. To that end, I join with the disciples who came to our
Master, saying, ‘Lord, teach us to pray. They didn’t say, ‘Lord teach
us to preach.’ Or, ‘Lord, teach us to heal the sick.’ Or, ‘Lord, teach
us to cast out demons.’ They said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ — because
they rightly understood that the key to His ministry, indeed the key
to His entire life was His communion with His Father. That’s why they
said, ’Lord, teach us to pray,’ (Luke 11:1).
I’m glad the Lord doesn’t
simply give us theories about prayer or theological treatises on
prayer — but that He gives us stories which depict prayer, for I can
understand stories much more easily than I can theory or theology.
here in our text is just such a story — one which I have found
exceedingly helpful to see what it means to prevail in prayer. Here’s
the situation: After being gone for 20 years, Jacob is headed back
home. With two wives, eleven sons, one daughter, numerous servants,
and abundant cattle in tow, his should have been a triumphant return.
But there was a difficulty ahead, for Jacob’s brother Esau — the one
he had cheated, the one who had vowed to kill him — was on his way to
meet Jacob, accompanied by 400 men.
Once again, fearing for his life,
Jacob does a wise thing: He prays. Notice two qualities which are
essential to anyone who wants to prevail in prayer . . .
Jacob was insistent in prayer.
And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father
Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to
thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: Genesis 32:9
And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as
the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. Genesis
Both at the beginning and at the conclusion of his prayer, Jacob is
insistent in that he says, ‘Lord, You are the One Who told me to go
back home. You are the One Who promised You would save my life.’ In so
doing, Jacob takes the promises given to him and lifts them back to
the Lord in prayer.
Gang, this is a great, great key to praying
effectively. ‘Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me,’ the
Lord declares (Isaiah 45:11). ‘Command Him?’ you say. ‘That sounds an
awful lot like the Name It and Claim It mentality.’ No, for contextually
you will see God is talking about the promises and prophecies He had
already made to the people.
Listen to what Jesus would say along the
same line: ‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you,’ (John 15:7). In other
words, ‘If you’re abiding in Me, hanging around Me, clinging to Me,
you can ask anything of Me because within you will be My Word.’ What
word? ‘Exceeding great and precious promises!’ (2 Peter 1:4).
been said that there are between 3 and 5 thousand promises given to us
in the Word. And God says, ‘I want you to take these exceedingly great
and precious promises — and I want you to command Me.’
the great prayer warrior of the last century, who founded scores of
orphanages and funded them solely through prayer said this: ‘I take
the promises of the Word and I argue with the Lord — not in order to
convince God, but to convince myself.’
You see, as we repeat the
promises God has so graciously given to us regarding provision,
health, peace, salvation, understanding, guidance, direction, we are
reminded of them ourselves. That’s why we come to Bible Study. That’s
why we take in the Scriptures. The Word is our bank account — and
we’re far, far richer than we think.
Too often, we live like spiritual
paupers. We don’t see blessings in our family, for our friends, or
throughout our country. Why? We have not because we ask not (James
4:2). Why don’t we ask? I’m convinced it’s because we don’t know
what’s in the Word. We have time to study the Wall Street Journal to
figure out how we should invest; we have time to study Good
Housekeeping to learn how to create a warm home; we have time to study
Parents Magazine to enhance our parenting skills — but we fail to
study the one Book which contains promises concerning all of these
It is only as we pray the promises of God that we are able to
withdraw from the inexhaustible resources the Lord has provided. Jacob
understood this. That is why he was insistent in prayer.
Jacob was persistent in prayer.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until
the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against
him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s
thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me
go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except
thou bless me. (Genesis 32:24-26)
From Hosea’s commentary on this wrestling match, we gain further
insight . . .
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he
had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed:
he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and
there he spake with us. (Hosea 12:3-4)
When did Jacob have power and prevail? When he ‘wept and made
supplication’. In other words, although Jacob was the one who said, ‘I
will not let thee go except thou bless me,’ Jacob was the one who was
weeping; Jacob was the one who was pinned. Even though he was weeping,
even though he was ‘losing’ the match, even though he was pinned to
the ground in pain, nonetheless Jacob didn’t give up. He prayed with
In prayer Jacob found intimacy.
Why did God wrestle Jacob? Why does He want to wrestle with you and
me? For the same reason I like to wrestle with Benny. It’s something
called intimacy. God likes to wrestle things through with me and you
because He enjoys us. ‘Let’s wrestle this thing through hour after
hour, day after day, even month after month,’ He says to us ‘because
not only will you find that I’ll come through eventually — but in the
process, we will develop a wonderful intimacy.’
That’s why the original Greek text makes it clear that we are to
‘keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking’ (Matthew 7:7), for that is
how intimacy is developed; that is how prayer is answered.
Through prayer Jacob made discovery.
Wrestling provides unique opportunities for discovery. As you
measure your strength against that of your opponent, as you assume
various positions and are held in numerous holds, you discover things
about yourself and your opponent you couldn’t have known otherwise.
too, God invites us to wrestle with Him in order that we might
discover things about Him and ourselves we could learn in no other
way. As you wrestle in prayer, you might find that what God gives to
you and does for you is entirely different than what you expected.
Jacob asked to be blessed, instead he was broken — but the answer was
better, because our Father knows best. This classic prayer was found
in the breast pocket of a Civil War soldier shot at Gettysburg:
I asked for strength that I might achieve. He made me weak that I
I asked for health that I might do great things. He gave me grace
that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy. He gave me poverty that I
might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. He gave me
weakness that I might feel a need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. He gave me life
that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing I asked for. He gave me everything I hoped for.
Keep on wrestling, gang. You’ll have intimacy with the Lord. You’ll
make discoveries about the Lord. And you’ll be changed radically by
the Lord in the very process of praying.