I have been thinking about the concept of wrestling in prayer. Previously in doing so I did not look at our ancestor Jacob when he wrestled with that man whom Jacob afterward called God. Jacob was in what looked like to him the most dangerous time of his life. His brother Esau was coming to greet him with 400 men. Not exactly a group you’d take on a picnic! Jacob was fearful because he had cheated his brother of the rights of the firstborn and his blessing. He had reason to be afraid of Esau.
Having sent his family and all his possessions on ahead, Jacob wrestled all night with some man. Why we are not told except that Jacob wanted this man to bless him. He had his father’s blessing, but this blessing was more important. So much so that Jacob would not let the man go, even after the man dislocated Jacob’s leg at the hip. Talk about not taking no for an answer!
This reminds me of the woman who wanted Jesus to deliver her child from a demonic possession, but she was a Gentile and had no right to Jesus’ blessing. She even endured Jesus’ sharp refusal with an apt rely. “Even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from the table” she said. Jesus was amazed at her faith – her refusal to take no for an answer. She had great faith.
Jacob was like this – fully determined to be blessed by God. How he knew this man was God, it does not say. Can you say Theophany?
When we wrestle in prayer are we wrestling with God? Is God reluctant to bless, to answer our prayers? I still don’t think so. Why did the man wrestle with Jacob all night when he apparently could have defeated him at any time? What did Jacob have to do to be blessed?
Jacob had to confess his name before God. “What is your name” the man asked. The last time Jacob was asked this question he lied. He said that his name was Esau. The blessing that Jacob received then was all built on deception. Now he could use no deception – he had to confess the truth about himself in order to be blessed. And the Lord blessed him by changing his name to Israel. Jacob was now a prince with God – one who struggled with God and has come through to victory.
God is not reluctant to answer our prayers. But we have to understand a little bit about prayer. Why pray? Why pray to God who loves us and knows what we need before we ask? Prayer is not a conduit for us to inform God of things he does not know. It is not a way to get God to do stuff he really does not want to do. Prayer must be a way in which we are transformed by entering into a union with God regarding things that God already wants to do.
The first step in this transformation is a willingness to admit before God who we really are. “God be merciful to me a sinner” is what gives us standing with God. The man didn’t need to know Jacob’s name. He knew who he was wrestling with. To ask Jacob his name must have been for Jacob’s sake. “I am a supplanter, a grasper of heels,” admits Jacob.
Jacob didn’t want this blessing to be based on anything other than the truth. I tend to think that this wrestling with God had more to do with bringing Jacob to a place of honesty and dependence more than anything else. This seems to be why the match lasted all night.
Sometimes our prayers feel like they are falling on deaf ears. Don’t stop praying but take the time to examine your own heart. Who are you really? Can you be called a dog by Jesus and still have faith to receive? We can bank on the righteousness of God. He will bless us with answered prayer. We on our part need to believe that indeed our God is lord of all and nothing can separate us from His love. We cannot dress ourselves up in a way to fool our God. He knows exactly who we are yet still loves us. While we were yet sinners Christ dies for us, demonstrating for all time his undying love. Surely he will answer our prayer. But will we have faith to see it?