Wrestling in Prayer


Today, we’re going to consider the story of Jacob’s unusual encounter with God. It contains several lessons that will help you pray powerfully.

Bible Reading

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. (Gen 32:24-31)

The Opponent’s Identity

Before we talk about the prayer principles of this passage, we need to establish that this really is a passage about prayer. Who was Jacob’s opponent? Most Bible scholars consider this encounter a Christophany – an Old Testament appearance of the Lord Jesus. They thinking this was God in skin for the following reasons:

  • Jacob sought a blessing from this unidentified wrestler.
  • The opponent was clearly superior – He dislocated Jacob’s thigh.
  • The stranger did in fact bless Jacob.
  • At the end of this struggle, Jacob declared that he had “seen God face to face.”

Prayer Principles

Jacob sought solitude. Jacob sent the family on ahead and spent the night alone. If you search the Scriptures, you’ll find that many Bible characters experienced prayer milestone in solitude. Most of us are too busy and distracted to have any exceptional communion with God.

Jacob persisted in prayer. He didn’t pray for five minutes, then quit. He was desperate and determined. He as not going to quit until he got an answer.

Jacob pushed past physical discomfort. Jacob’s urgent need drove him to stay up all night so that he could get ahold of God. Not only that, but he held on through the physical discomfort of a dislocated hip. It was really the first time Jacob made an honest, persistent effort to attain something he wanted. (The change in his character, I think, is what God was after in this wrestling match.)

Jacob had to admit who he was before God blessed him. Jacob’s name means supplanter or trickster. Before God would bless him, he had to admit what he was. That was the purpose of the question “What is your name?”

God’s assurance of a blessing was enough for Jacob.

Jacob didn’t have to keep praying until the result was achieved. He could stop when he had assurance that God was going to meet his need.

The path to power with men is to have power with God. Jacob understood that getting ahold of God was the key to resolving the human conflict in his life. Preachers, teachers, and Christians in general who want to influence people for God should seek to influence God first.

What About You?

  • Do you make an on purpose effort to have solitude? Do you use that solitude to seek God?
  • Do you persist in prayer?
  • When did you last endure any discomfort to pray through? Have you missed a meal or lost sleep so you could seek God?
  • Do you seek to influence people without first influencing God?

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