Friday, August 13, 2010

Wrestle With God

The Bible has a number of unusual stories. In Genesis 32 we find the account of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel. The unusual thing is what happened before God changed his name. Jacob was alone and wrestled with a man. Why he wrestled with the man isn’t clear, but Jacob wrestled with this man all night and refused to give up until the man blessed him. The man Jacob wrestled with was God. Many of the details of this story aren’t clear, but God felt it was important that it be included in the Bible. I have to think that there’s something more here than just that Jacob’s name changed.

Oh the audacity of Jacob to wrestle with God, but Jesus spoke of how men ought to pray and not faint in Luke 18. He told of an evil ruler and a woman who came to him for help. He wouldn’t have helped her, but she was persistent and he helped her because of her persistence. Jesus contrasted God with that ruler, saying that God would avenge his elect speedily, but he also talked about them crying unto him day and night. When we pray, God hears us the first time, but there’s benefit in wrestling with God. To wrestle with God shows our faith. That isn’t to say that God needs to see our faith, but we need to see our own faith. Had Jacob not believed the man he wrestled with could and would bless him, he wouldn’t have spent the night holding onto him.

When we pray, we may tell ourselves that we believe God will answer, but we often have the attitude that he either will or he won’t and it’s up to him. It could be that we’re too quick to take no for an answer. Jacob spent the whole night wrestling with God, refusing to let go until God blessed him. How long are we willing to pray? For how many of us is it our custom to say a short prayer at various times of the day? Perhaps it takes a minute of our time. But it’s not so easy for us to spend more time in prayer. An hour? Two hours? A whole night? It’s easy when we’re emotionally disturbed by something, but not with other things. But it takes faith to pray in such a way that we refuse to give up until God gives us an answer. We’re quick to settle for whatever. We may even think of ourselves as more devote because we’re willing to accept whatever answer God will give us. But when we look at the prayers of the great men of the Bible, that doesn’t appear to be their attitude. Yes, they were willing accept God’s revealed will, but until he revealed his will, they didn’t give up.

Often, we assume that because things are the way they are that that is God’s will for the situation. We might assume that God has a best solution for everything and if we just accept it then he’ll give us what is best. Even so, we take action on things as if we have the ability to change things. God has revealed his will concerning a great many things, but he often leaves the details of our lives wide open for us to decide what we want to do. And in some cases is may be that he wants us to ask for things so that we can see that he responds to our prayer made in faith. So it is beneficial for us to wrestle with God when we pray, asking specifically for a blessing from God and refusing to give up until God gives us a clear answer. He may still say no, but let’s not assume that’s the answer until he gives us the answer.