How to Pray… or… not…

I’ve been reading through Genesis in the King James Bible. (Yes, I’m celebrating the 400th anniversary of that amazing translation by reading it. It’s not so hard. It slows you down and makes you think more. I like that. I love the word “peradventure”.)

Anyway, yesterday I came across, again, the story of Jacob praying and then wrestling with God in Genesis 32. I bet I’ve read Genesis dozens of times (maybe more than 50) but never noticed some stuff before.

In the beginning of Genesis 32, angels appear to him. This should encourage him, I think, but it doesn’t seem to enough. And even though this is a historical record and not intended as a “model of prayer”, I think we get some good insights here. You can go read this passage if you want here.

After preparing for meeting his brother, and splitting up his people and possessions so that at least some might get through, he prays. In v. 9-10 he reminds God of how He’s provided for Jacob and his family, and in a way he celebrates that. Then in v.11 he prays for rescue, reminding God (and maybe himself) that He has made a promise to Jacob. Then he sends off gifts to make Esau happy and settles in for the night… alone…

Something in the story in v. 22 to the end of the chapter really got to me this time. Just because Jacob wrestles with God, doesn’t mean he was supposed to… Again, this is historical record… a story, not an instruction. And what price he pays. Jacob limps for the rest of his life. He gets a new name out of it, a name that “sticks” for his people (that name, “Israel”, becomes the name of the nation of Hebrews), but unlike Abram being renamed Abraham, Jacob doesn’t seem to use this name himself. It doesn’t stick for him. Probably because it reminds him of the pain in his hip whenever he sees it.

Often we struggle with God, sometimes instead of surrendering to him. And what happens? Our whole identity, our name, may change. But we might also limp for the rest of our lives. We might never be the same… in not such a great way…

In any case, that’s been my experience. You?

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One thought on “How to Pray… or… not…

  1. Matt Hook says:

    Powerful stuff Peter. I often choose to struggle with God, trying to manage my sin, rather than surrendering it, being done with it, and moving into God’s preferred future. The result? I end up limping through life with sins as friends, rather than risk the surrender, avoiding the wrestling match, and moving deeper in my walk with Christ… Thanks for the thought! In Him, Matt

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