Praying Like Jacob

woman holding Bible up

May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.Genesis 43:14

The Context

There is a powerful lesson about prayer in this brief passage. Please allow me to provide some context. Jacob (aka Israel), the son of Issac, the son of Abraham, spoke these words to his son Judah. Jacob believed that his youngest son, Benjamin, was being held for ransom. As far as Jacob knew at this time, he had already lost his son Joseph, so in verse fourteen, he is facing the loss of another son.

God’s Word shows us a lot about Jacob’s human nature. Jacob’s sons, Joseph and Benjamin, were his youngest kids, and it seems that Jacob may have loved them more than their older brothers. This is a common but unfortunate outcome when children in a family span across many years. However, for Jacob, his special love for his youngest sons is not without merit.

Jacob Faces a Big Problem

So, in Genesis, chapter forty-three, we see Jacob facing a challenging problem. He’s lost Joseph, and Benjamin is being held for ransom. Does he risk even more sons? Will Egypt decimate the very children called to inherit the promise given by God to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, the promise passed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob? 

Now verse fourteen shows us the faith of Jacob. Remember, God didn’t rename Abram, Israel, and God didn’t rename Isaac, Israel, but God did rename Jacob, Israel, and it is that name that God’s chosen people are stilled called today. Jacob knew God and God knew Jacob.

Not only did Jacob carry the promise of God, but Jacob also had a powerful tailwind. God personally selected his grandfather, and his dad had, by faith, submitted to his sacrificial death and had been redeemed by a substitute ram that foreshadowed salvation through Jesus. God’s favor rested upon Jacob.

Okay, that’s the context. If Jacob attended our small group meeting or our Zoom Bible study, everyone would take to heart his comments, and he would be asked to pray the closing prayer. So, in verse fourteen, Jacob shows us true faith.

Praying Like Jacob

Jacob begins his prayer, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.” Jacob has asked God, just as Jesus taught us how to pray. Prayer uses the faith God has given you to ask Him for your needs and the needs of others. Jacob did this. Then a peculiar addendum is added. Jacob essentially says, “If I must lose another son or all my sons, I accept this and say, ’The will of God be done.’” Isn’t this the same humble pray that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying:

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. (Luke 22:42)

So, what is the take-away for us? It’s a difficult lesson; our prayer of faith is faith in God, not faith in a spiritual recipe. We can’t add a bit of righteous living, a smattering of good deeds, and praying on our knees and get exactly what we asked. No, first, we must be sure that what we ask for represents what Jesus will put His name to. And then, as a child of God, we ask our Father in the name of Jesus. We place our request in the hands of God, and we say; nevertheless, Your will be done.

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