Jacob was in trouble! He was about to face his brother Esau twenty years after he had cheated him out of his birthright by pretending to be him to their father. Jacob was sure that Esau remembered the episode. How could he forget such a thing! Jacob must have reasoned within himself: Not only did I steal his birthright, but I ran away as quickly as possible from the scene of the crime with my tail between my legs without uttering as much as a word of apology!
Jacob was in serious trouble. If the offense was bad enough, Esau was now coming to meet him. Oh yes, it was about to be on like Donkey Kong and Jacob knew that he had no chance. Esau was coming at him with 400 strong men while Jacob’s corner mainly consisted of women and children. Moreover, Esau had the advantage of passion on his side. Jacob knew he deserved the justice that was about to be meted out on him. What was he to do? It seemed his plea for mercy from Esau had fallen on deaf ears! What he did was make the first quality decision he had made in a long time. He went to Papa God in effective and fervent prayer as a righteous man. When he did, God answered him.
What Made Jacob Righteous?
I know what you are thinking. How can I say that Jacob was righteous? If righteousness is measured by what we do, then Jacob was on the opposite of righteous. Jacob was the kind of man with whom you did not want to be affiliated. He was a trickster and a cheater.
If righteousness is measured by what we do, then we are all in trouble, for the best that we can do in the arena of righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). All of us have fallen short of the passing mark (Romans 3:23). The good news is that righteousness is not determined by who we are but is determined by whose we are. It is not determined by performance but is determined by relationship. We know this for we are told that those who have a relationship with God are righteous. Here is how the bible puts it: For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus) – 2 Corinthians 5:17
So what made Jacob righteous? He was righteous because he had a relationship with God through the promise God had made to his fathers. Similarly, we are righteous because of the relationship we have with the Father through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.
What Made Jacob’s Prayer Effective?
Know the Will of God: Jacob started his prayer by reminding God of His own words concerning him. He said to God: You told me to return to my country and family and I will deal well with you (Gen 32:9). I will treat you well and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude (Gen 32:12). See, Jacob knew the will of God for his life and so he prayed the will of God. The bible says that we ask and do not receive because we ask amiss (James 4:2). It is impossible to ask amiss when we ask according to the will of God! Jesus said that He will do whatever we ask in His name (John 14:13). To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask according to His will. If this is not too clear, consider the messengers in olden days who declared that they come in the name of the king. What they are saying is that they have come according to the will of the king and to declare his will. If we want our prayers to be effective, we have to know the will of God for that which we pray and then pray it.
Humble Yourself: Jacob continues with the words, I am not worthy of the least of the mercies and truth which you have shown me (Gen 32:10). In other words, Jacob submitted that his success had absolutely nothing to do with his own strength, efforts, position or character. He humbled himself before God. The bible tells us that God will not despise (turn away) a broken and a humbled heart (Psalm 51:17). Perhaps the clearest illustration of humility getting the attention of God is found in the book of Daniel. The angel of the Lord said to Daniel: From the first day that you set your heart to understand (the will of God) and to humble yourself before your God, you words were heard (by God); and I have come because of your words – Daniel 10:12.
Ask Honestly: Jacob continues: Deliver me, I pray from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children (Gen 32:11). Jacob was very direct with his prayer. He did not beat about the bush but he was very honest with God. He said, I am afraid, help me. He did not try to impress God with clever words. He simply surrendered to the gravity of the situation and prayed a truthful prayer. I have come to realize I must surrender to the truth. If I have been a fool, I surrender to that truth and go to God and say, Lord I have been a fool, help me. Surrendering to the truth requires that we pray what is truly in our heart. If what is in our heart does not reflect the truth, God will show us that as well. It is crazy not to tell God the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
What Made Jacob’s Prayer Fervent?
The Angel of the Lord visited Jacob because he prayed an effective prayer. Once visited by the Angel of the Lord, he continued in fervent prayer, asking for the blessing of the Lord over his quandary with Esau. He was so determined and relentless in his pursuit that he wrestled with the Angel of the Lord even after his hip came out of joint. He wrestled until day break. Elijah is another man who would not relent in prayer. He prayed seven different times until a cloud of rain appeared in the sky.
We must be as Elijah and Jacob. We must wrestle until day break (until there is light at the end of the tunnel). The presence of the Lord signifies that something significant is about to happen. That is not the time to give up but it is the time to press into God and wrestle with him until we receive the blessing.
When we doggedly pray the will of God in all humility and surrender is when we will see results in our lives.