Summary: Prayer is the most undervalued resource in our lives and our families and our church. The Bible teaches us that all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us, he does so through prayer.
Prayer is the most undervalued resource in our lives and our families and our church. The Bible teaches us that all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us, he does so through prayer. Prayer is the conduit by which his power comes into your family; it’s the way you lay hold of the promises and blessings of God.
Most people, whether they are religious or not, pray at crucial points in their lives. You may not really believe in God at all but you get scared and start praying. Where does that impulse come from? And how can you pray effectively?
Over the next two weeks we’re going to look at two Old Testament characters who had profoundly shaping encounters with God and got their prayers answered, to see what we can learn about how we should pray.
Theme: PRESS THROUGH The first one is Jacob. Jacob: Genesis 32:9–30
If you have your Bible. Genesis 32 is the story of Jacob wrestling all night with a strange, heavenly man of some kind. It’s supposed to be, among other things, a picture of prayer. But before we get into that, let me set the background of this story.
Jacob had cheated his older twin brother, Esau, out of his inheritance. In those days, the oldest son got “the birthright,” which meant up to 2/3 of his father’s wealth, and in the case of this family, it also meant he received the promises made to his grandfather Abraham that their family would bear the Messiah.
Esau and Jacob, though twins, were very different. Esau was tough; macho. We know he was hairy and he liked to hunt. He probably watched Sports--‐Center and drove an F--‐150 with a big Semper Fi decal in the back--‐window and had season tickets to the local UFC fighting arena. Like a character off of Duck Dynasty. Jacob, however, was more of an indoors guy. We know he had smooth skin and liked to cook. He probably watched the Bachelor and drove a Mini--‐Cooper and had a Pinterest account.
Well, one day when Jacob and Esau were teenagers Esau had been out hunting and he came in and he was really, really hungry, and Jacob had just finished cooking a pot of stew, and Esau asked him for some. Well, Jacob, being the younger brother and always looking for a way to get the upperhand with his older, hairier twin, told him, “I’ll trade you something for it.” Esau said, “Like what?” And Jacob, thinking he needed to start somewhere high to get a good place to negotiate from, said, “how about your birthright (?),” probably thinking he’d never get that but he’d end up with something—a pair of Air Jordan’s or an Ipod or something. (Start high)
Well, Esau, being a teenager and thinking impulsively, like they do, concerned only with short--‐term gratification and not the long--‐term effects of their decisions, said, “Well, what good is my birthright if I die of hunger this afternoon? Yes. Just give me the soup.” So he traded.
Well, a few years pass by and their dad, Isaac, is about to die. So Isaac, who probably doesn’t know anything about the deal, and prefers Esau to Jacob anyway, wants to formally confer the blessing onto Esau, so he asks Esau to go out and hunt him up some venison and prepare it for him and then he’ll confer the blessing.
So Esau leaves and Jacob and his mom think, “Here’s our chance” and so they pull some venison out of the freezer and microwave it and they dress Jacob up like Esau. (You see, Isaac is old—his eyes are dull—and he can’t hear that well. So they put Jacob in Esau’s clothes; strap goat hair on the back of his arms and neck and rub venison all over him—not sure what that says about Esau, that to look and smell like him you tie pieces of a dead goat to you—) but they send Jacob back in to feed his dad and receive the blessing.
Well, somehow they pull it off and when Esau gets home he finds out the blessing has already been bestowed and there is no reneging after a formal bestowal, because the last thing you do in a Hebrew bestowal is raise your pinky and say “no take backs” (just kidding about that, but for whatever reason it could not be changed) so the blessing and inheritance now belong to Jacob.
Well, as you can imagine, Esau is pretty chapped and he says, “I’ll let my dad die and give the family a few days to mourn and then I’m going to kill my brother.” Jacob hears about it and leaves.
He’s gone for upwards of 30 years, but because he is pretty ingenious and crafty he gets ahead and becomes really wealthy. His name, Jacob, means “grasper,” because when the twins were coming out of the womb Esau came out first but Jacob’s little hand came out right after Esau and grabbed ahold of his heel, like, “Come on back in here; I want to be first”). But the name “Jacob” can also mean, “deceiver,” and those two meanings pretty well sum up Jacob’s life. (BTW, I never have understood why you would give that name to a baby. “Oh, he’s cute! What’s his name?” Liar.)