All of us have tried praying or happily listened to others praying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me (Genesis 32:26).” Easily said than done. Why?
Not one of us is willing to struggle with God and prevail. Jesus asked us not to go for vain repetition in prayer. At the same time he said, “Ask, Seek, Knock.” Each of those verbs shows an increasing intensity in prayer.
At another time Jesus told about importunity (shameless boldness, persistence) in prayer. That word means a boldness which violates normal behaviour. A man goes to his friend’s home at midnight seeking bread to serve for his guest. He was desperate and he got an answer.
Jesus was quick to point out that the request was granted not because of the fact that the man was his friend but because of the boldness of the request (Luke 11:8).
Jacob was both desperate and bold. He was desperate because he was in great fear and distress at the thought of meeting his brother Esau. He was at the end of his wisdom for scheming and deceiving. He had no more ideas left. He desperately needed help. And he knew only God can, and not his scheming (see Genesis 31:9).
Jacob again was bold. He knew that unless he had God’s blessing he amounted to nothing significant. He had seen trouble and been in difficulties. Yet he did not ask for anything to meet his earthly needs. That goes against our daily prayers, and against common sense. He sought God with great desperation and boldness: “He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favour (Hosea 12:4a).”
And Jacob ended with a limp. Blessings in life are not given without the limp. That is the sign God has touched you. That is the sign that you were made weak in your natural self that in God you might be strong. Paul had this limp, the famous “thorn in the flesh.” But God’s grace was abundant to him. It was sufficient. God’s power was made perfect in his weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
Therefore pray with persistence. You ought to pray always and not give up (Luke 18:1). The beauty of prayer is that God rarely changes circumstances. He did not cause the fire to be drenched with rain for the three friends of Daniel nor did God kill the lions for Daniel himself. Instead God made them victors over their very negative circumstances.
This is what the Psalmist found true about prayer: “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted (Psalm 138:4). Prayer changes you first and you alone. Often our prayers are focused on changing our husband or wife or parents or children or boss or friend or teacher or neighbour or enemy. God has nothing to do with them.
We should not forget but remember that in answer to Jacob’s prayer, Jacob was changed to a man with a limp whom God had touched. Jacob’s name was changed from what meant as a deceiver to Israel meaning one who struggles with God. Absolutely nothing happened to Esau! God did not deal with him at all.
Therefore when you pray, “unless you bless me,” be ready to get that limp. Then you are safe because God has touched you. His Almighty hand is upon you. Jacob will still meet Esau. But that is a kind of anticlimax because he had already met God.
Remember, to meet God, Jacob had to be left alone (Genesis 32:24)!
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