“7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group,the group that is left may escape.’9 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
In many ways Jacob utters a model prayer (9-12):
- It is a prayer which acknowledges and appeals to God’s Word (9,12);
- It is a humble prayer, full of gratitude for God’s goodness to him (10). He knew he was undeserving. He was not a ‘self-made’ man;
- It is specific and definite (11). Jacob had a prayer ‘bull’s-eye’ in view.
Yet…this prayer is set in the context of a man wavering between faith and fear and doubt. But I find I cannot point the finger, for this is often true of me. How about you?
We note that fervent prayer is not opposed to strategic planning (7,8). ‘Pray to the Lord and keep your powder dry,’ counselled the general. It’s not bad advice to say, ‘Pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.’ If there are certain thing crying out for action and attention we must not make prayer a substitute for doing them.
I wrote yesterday about how we can ‘jump at shadows.’ Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘I knew a man once who told me that in his life he had known many problems – most of which never happened!’ But while it is true that we can imagine many a scenario that is far from the truth of the situation, I guess it is possible that Esau was coming to attack Jacob and all those with him. Possibly Jacob’s prayer did change things. Prayer certainly does change many a situation; and it changes people.
We do well, however, to consider Warren Wiersbe’s comment that while Jacob prayed to be delivered from Esau, his real need was to be delivered from himself. Although he didn’t yet know it, Jacob had an up-coming appointment with the Divine Surgeon (22-31). He was going to have a painful operation which would leave him limping. But he would never think of suing the Doctor.