This past week, I was preparing for a message that I was giving on Sunday night; and a prayer from Jacob really hit me. The prayer’s context is pretty important. Jacob was a sneaky, sneaky guy. Earlier in his life, he was the kind of person who would sell a dead parakeet to a blind kid. One of his antics got him in a ton of hot water: stealing his father’s blessing from his brother, Esau. When Esau found out that Jacob had stolen his father’s blessing by tricking his dad, he intended to kill his brother. So…Jacob, being the smart kid that he was, bolted from his home to spend many years as a fugitive– in fear of Esau’s wrath.
Maybe he would have stayed away for his whole life. Who knows? There’s was just one wrinkle in this whole story. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham. Since he was, this meant that he was the heir of the promise that was given to his grandfather, namely that he would be the father of a “great nation” and prosper in the Promised Land.
According to God, living like a fugitive was not the plan. God promised Jacob that, if he returned, he wouldn’t die. God’s promise would endure– in spite of Jacob’s bad behavior.
This prayer comes up right before Jacob is about to dip his toe back into the pool of a relationship with Esau. After years of being away, Jacob was ready to go home– and hoping that Esau would literally bury the hatchet.
Here’s the prayer (with some stuff left out for focus):
“O God…you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’…Save me, I pray from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me…But You have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”
Let me pull out stuff from this awesome, real prayer.
1. Jacob goes to God with his problem. Do we model this in our home? Where do we take our problems?
2. Jacob knows what God has promised. Do we know God’s promises? Kind of hard to know if we’re not reading His Word.
3. Jacob is totally real about how he’s feeling. Yes, Jacob knows that God has said he will not die– but he doesn’t feel it; and he’s being honest before God about those raw (very understandable) feelings.
4. Jacob falls back on God’s promise, in the end. Jacob’s prayer doesn’t end with his feelings. Instead, he goes back to God’s promises.
How do we model prayers to teenagers? If we skip step two and four, we’re just praying through our feelings– with no knowledge of God. If we skip step three, though, we’re never really laying our hearts before God. So, how can we model this kind of promise-motivated vulnerability to the next generation?