Genesis 32:9-12: A great prayer.

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 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.’” NIV

As Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esau, he took some pragmatic steps. Whether or not he needed to do all he did is not clear, but he definitely did the right thing when he prayed. At the heart of chapter 32 we find this great prayer. In a few words it teaches us a lot about some of the essentials of prayer. Note a number of features:

  • Humility (10a): Jacob recognised that God had been good to him and he didn’t deserve any of the blessings he’d received. If he had to earn God’s kindness, Jacob could have staked no claim, and he knew it. It is the same for you and me;
  • Gratitude (10b): God had blessed him. It’s true that Jacob had worked hard, and he could have said that, but he gave all the glory to God for the good things which had happened to him;
  • Faith (9, 12): Jacob appealed to what God Himself had said. It is a powerful thing when we take hold of the Bible and turn it into prayer. We are on solid ground when we plead the promises of God. Of course, we must ensure we are not taking them out of context, or twisting them;
  • Definite (11): At the centre of the prayer there is a specific request. Jacob confessed his fear for himself and his family, and asked to be saved from Esau’s hand. There was nothing vague about this; it was not a hazy request. Jacob knew exactly what he was asking and so did God.

Did the Lord answer this great prayer? Well read on. But I think you know the answer already.