I was listening to a Christian radio program while driving home the other day, and started thinking about how I often struggle with God over things in prayer. Sometimes that can be a good thing!
Many of us know the story of Jacob in Genesis chapter 32. Jacob was returning to his homeland in Canaan with his two wives, Rachel and Leah. On the way, he sent messengers to his brother Esau (who dwelt in Edom) to appease him.
However, Jacob’s servants told him that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob was distressed and divided his people, flocks, and herd into two companies. He begged God to intervene and protect him from harm. He reminded God of His promise to bless him and make his descendants innumerable.
During the night, he took his two wives, his servants, and his sons and crossed over the river Jabbok. When he was alone, a Man (Jesus) wrestled with him all night until daybreak. Jacob struggled with the Lord, and that day he saw God face to face.
Jacob wanted God’s blessing, but God was letting him struggle that he might truly see who he was in God’s sight. Jacob had been a deceiver and scoundrel much of his life. God asked him, “What is your name?” – not because He didn’t know it, but because Jacob needed to see himself as God saw him. The struggle produced a hip out of socket and a limp for the rest of his natural life.
Sometimes, God allows us to struggle with Him in prayer, and we are often crippled for our own good. Spiritually speaking, our view of ourselves and our problems need to be bent and dislocated in order for our struggling to cease. Our pride and bad judgment can cause us to live a life that distorts what God has planned for us. He desires for us to “walk a different way” after we have wrestled with Him and He has prevailed.
Submitting to God’s plans often involves wrestling, as is evidenced with some of the Bible’s great heroes. Abraham’s faith was tested when he dialoged with God about the wickedness in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).
Moses pleaded with God on behalf of Israel when they began worshipping a golden calf and foreign gods. He reminded God of His promises to His chosen people (Exodus 32).
We read in I Kings 19 about Elijah and his struggle with depression. After God’s miraculous display of His power on Mount Carmel, Elijah withdrew into the desert to die. He prayed, slept, and was nourished by the Lord Himself. Then while hiding in a cave, he had a pity party as God revealed Himself to him in a small, still voice.
David was alone and living on the run during his darkest days. He lamented to God in many of the Psalms including 35, 55, 56, 57, and 59. He despaired of his life and longed for the peace of death. Praying to his God seemed to be a lesson in futility.
The apostle Paul tells believers in Romans 15:30 to “strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” In Colossians 4:2, Paul admonishes the church to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving,” and in 4:12, he tells them that Epaphras, one of their fellow servants, “always labors fervently for them in prayer.”
Prayer is often the anguish of the soul in the presence of God. Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
The bottom line is that prayer is often engaging and deliberate. It’s emotionally draining and often exhausting. It’s exhilarating and soul-satisfying as we wrestle with a Holy God who sees our frailties and embraces our humble efforts.
What a mighty God we serve…
You can visit Deborah on her blog God Mission Possible.
Deborah’s book Mission Possible is available at Alabaster Box Publishing.