I would daresay most people who read this post are struggling with something. Many in Texas and Louisiana are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey alongside other struggles they had before the storm. In Bible study last night we discussed the life of Jacob, who definitely had his struggles. Jacob’s name was given because he grasped his brother’s heel during birth. His name means “heel-catcher” or “supplanter”, which is one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another.

In chapters 25-32 of Genesis, we read that Jacob was a scoundrel. He enticed his brother to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew (talk about price gouging!); he tricked his father and brother and stole his father’s blessing (supplanter); and, fearing for his life he fled. Even with all that Jacob had done, the Lord came to Jacob in a dream (Gen. 28:10-22). The Lord can use anyone for His purposes: people who struggle to tell the truth, who manipulate others and even those who have a hard time getting along with family members and friends. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and He said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.’” (Gen. 28:13-15)

Jacob received a promise from the Lord about his future. When he went to Haran to work for his uncle Laban, his circumstances changed, and the shoe was on the other foot. His uncle tricked him into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, and he had to work another seven years to marry Rachel. He became prosperous because of his understanding of sheep and goat husbandry, which caused resentment from his greedy cousins. They wanted what he had–and planned to get it (Gen. 31). “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.’” (Gen. 31:3)  

As Jacob is returning to his father’s land, he hears that Esau and an army of 400 men are coming to meet him (Gen. 32:6-8)–the same brother he tricked into selling his birthright for stew and stole his father’s blessing. He was afraid of what his brother would do to him and his family. Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” (Gen. 32:9-12)

Stricken by fear and at the end of himself, Jacob humbled himself before the Lord and cried out to Him–this wasn’t a prayer of confidence. Today we can use the model of Jacob’s prayer to humble ourselves before the Lord, to experience God’s direction and His peace in the midst of whatever mess we find ourselves in. The components of the prayer are 1) Remembering who God is; 2) Reminding God of what He promised and what would happen when we obey Him; 3) Acknowledge all the things God has already done for us; 4) Confess our fear – He already knows anyway; and 5) Profess your faith and anchor your profession of faith in the promise of God.

In my distress I prayed to the Lordand the Lord answered me and set me free.” (Psalm 118:5)