Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jacob's Pleading Grounds In Prayer

I am not one for “secrets” in the Christian life. The word smacks of Gnosticism. There are no secrets in the Christian life. We have been given all that we need for life and godliness. Secrets regarding prayer are especially troubling. Countless books have been published on the subject of prayer that purport to give us methods of guaranteeing success in prayer, as if God is bound by laws of physics that force Him to respond the way we want once we get the formula right. The Prayer of Jabez comes to mind. Millions of people were led to believe that by simply repeating this prayer in a mantra-like manner, they were certain to get untold blessings, most of which were financial.

Having said that, Scripture does give us models of prayer. These are prayers that were mighty. Mindlessly repeating them today does not guarantee an answer for us any more than a mindless speaking of them would have guaranteed anything when the prayers were originally uttered. However, these prayers do exhibit attitudes that please God.

An example of such is Jacob's Prayer at Mahanaim, which is found in Genesis 32:9-12. The prominent features of Jacob’s prayer are the grounds on which he pleads with God.

First of all, he pleads with God on covenantal grounds. He says, “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac."

Secondly, Jacobs pleads on God's command and promise – He says, “Who said unto me, ‘Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will do thee good.’”

Thirdly, Jacob pleads on the pure grace and mercy of God. – Jacob prays, “I am not worthy of the least of all the lovingkindnesses, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two companies.”

Fourthly, Jacob pleads on the grounds of God’s deliverance. Relying solely on the unmerited mercy of God, he asks, “Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and smite me, the mother with the children.”

And finally, Jacob pleads with God based on His past faithfulness. Jacob casts his eye back, not just to God’s faithfulness to him, but all the way back to his father and grandfather’s life. He says, “And thou saidst, ‘I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

This is no claim to a secret to success in prayer, but it is certainly a model of a God-honoring prayer and one from which we can learn much.

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