Have you ever been in a wrestling match? Wrestlers fight to stay on their feet and battle an opponent until they’re exhausted, while receiving little fan support or appreciation. Wrestling isn’t much of a glory sport; there are no bright lights or last-minute touchdowns or crowds roaring your name as you sink a three-point shot at the buzzer. Yet the image God chooses to give us of a powerful prayer is that of a wrestling match.
Prayer is where we learn to wrestle with God. Prayer can be a battle of wills. It’s a match between our obstacles and our ability to overcome them. Changing is not easy and neither is submitting our emotions and desires to God so that he can work in our lives to produce that change. In order to really pray, we have to learn to be fighters.
Are you willing to condition your prayers into weapons that leverage spiritual power over your emotions and obstacles?
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
Jacob came into the world struggling and wrestling for his destiny. He had to battle through many things that we all struggle with:
1. He was an entitled teenager
In Genesis 25:27, the Bible says that Esau became a skillful hunter while his younger brother Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. He didn’t have much responsibility except hanging out at home (playing video games perhaps?!). Not only did have a lot of free time, he got his brother to sell him his birthright, which made him first in line for the family inheritance. This essentially ensured his financial security for the rest of his life. On top of that, he ended up stealing his brother’s blessing. He had it made.
But sometimes “having it made” can be a challenge. When we get everything we want, we don’t develop the inner strength and character to become who we are meant to be.
Do you see a little entitlement in your life? You don’t have to be a teenager to be entitled. One sure sign of entitlement is how angry you get when things don’t go your way or you are hit by unexpected pressure and stress. What are some challenges you are facing right now? Instead of getting angry or trying to escape your stress, take time to think about how God could be working through the challenges in your life to make you stronger and change you into a different person.
2. He was a young married with issues
Think you’ve waited a long time to get married? Jacob waited 7 years to marry the love of his life! On top of that, he lived with his in-laws for 14 years and they were constantly in his business. Jacob had to learn that being a good spouse is not something you are born knowing how to do, it’s something that you have to nurture and develop.
Many young married couples get taken out by their challenges. Just because you get in fights and arguments doesn’t mean the world is ending! See what God is trying to show you through the arguments so that you can get help from other couples to deepen your relationship with your spouse.
3. He was a provider
Jacob would be the equivalent of a modern-day engineer. Today you put together some strings of code and you come out with the latest and greatest apps and some truly life-changing technology. Jacob was equally innovative. He would take sticks and peel back some of the bark and mate the flocks. This would produce flocks that were speckled, spotted or dark. Because of a deal with Laban in Genesis 30, Jacob became rich!
Still, Jacob would have understood the challenge of needing to take care of your family and your future financially. He also would have understood all the temptations that come along with that pressure, like self-reliance, deceit, pride, and fear.
Do you feel pressure to take care of your family and your future financially? What temptations do you battle in that process? Being aware and talking about these issues can help you learn to turn to God and handle the pressure spiritually.
4. He was an older married with issues
Just because you are more mature in the married game doesn’t mean you are an expert. You are in a different stage in life and therefore have to learn different things in your marriage that you may not have developed in earlier years. Jacob had to deal with aging parents, long-standing bitterness in family relationships, learning how to parent teenage kids, as well as fears of the future and searching for personal relevance.
Ask yourself – are you a good learner in the struggles you may be facing now in your marriage?
How to Wrestle in Prayer
Jacob faced issues like many of us do and what helped him to become a totally different person was prayer.
This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
“Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob, with all of his issues and imperfections, became a fighter. He became someone who was relentless in prayer and in faith that God could bless him and protect him. All the challenges in his life and his decisions to pray hard through them turned him from Jacob (“the deceiver”) to Israel (“God fights”).
Who is God trying to turn you into? How do you respond to the challenges in your life? Are you growing and becoming stronger, or shrinking and becoming discouraged?
In order to experience a transformation in prayer, we can learn a few things from Jacob about how to wrestle:
- Take the time – Jacob prayed all night. When was the last time you spent that much time praying? Sometimes we feel discouraged but spend only a few minutes actually trying to talk to God. Plan a day this week where you can spend open-ended time praying.
- Pray through the pain – Do you avoid praying about painful situations? Jacob didn’t stop praying even when his hip was wrenched from its socket. Many of us stop praying for much less. Jacob faced physical pain, but often we stop praying when we face emotional or spiritual pain. What does it take to get you to stop praying?
- Believe in the blessings – Jacob wouldn’t stop praying because he believed God could take care of him (v.26). Do you have a negative view of God, that he doesn’t want to take care of you? Next time you pray decide to pray faithfully, and tell God you will keep praying until you see and understand how he is taking care of your life.