9 ¶ And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. 11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. 12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
Jacob’s prayer acknowledges who God is and then repeats what God told him to do. He makes the interesting statement that he knows he is not worthy of the least of God’s mercies or the truth that God has revealed to him and so he humbles himself. Then, he pleads for deliverance from the imagined fury of his brother for he fears his brother will slaughter his entire family. He finally restates the promise God made to his family.
Moses does this when God tests him by threatening to destroy the Hebrews when Aaron made them a golden calf to worship and they engaged in their wicked heathen worship.
Exodus 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
We must be careful of imposing human limitations on God as if He needed to be reminded of His promises or He might forget them. Since God clearly knows the future and what will be done, not only what we will do but what He will do, the reminder is on the human’s part an argument expressing the justification for confidence that God will help. We do this in argument with each other when we remind a boss or a spouse or a friend or acquaintance of something they had promised when its performance appears to be in doubt. It rarely means that we actually think they’ve forgotten the promise.
Here it should be noted that Jacob is making a direct prayer to God with a purpose, not a prayer at God meaning nothing. In Christian culture much is often made of the so-called Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:9 ¶ After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
It is repeated in movies and literature, in public events and private, and yet, as per the context, it is not, “the Lord’s prayer,” but is a model of a prayer for His disciples and us. It is Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray and in what form to make a prayer, not even the only form in which to make a prayer. Yet, most people in the Christian culture and even those who just have a passing acquaintance with it but feel vulnerable will use this as an excuse not to engage God but to throw up a ritualistic prayer as if that means something. Why not just repeat Genesis 1:1 and then ask for something? What about John 1:1-18? Here, Jacob is seeking and assumes he has an audience with the throne of God and is not just repeating a formula, a chant, or a mantra.
Hebrews 4:11 ¶ Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Always remember Jesus’ own admonition against endless and vain repetitions and ritualistic prayers.
Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Speak to God directly if you know He is there to hear you, as Jacob has done. Throw words out you do not believe if you only hope there is a God and have no intimate contact with Him through your spirit.
God wants your genuine, heart-felt prayers and concerns. Of what value is throwing up the Lord’s Prayer when something bad happens, considering you have no regard for God at any other time unless you force your children to recite meaningless mantras like;
“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”
Then, there is the good old stand-by, “Bless this food to our bodies and our bodies to your service.”
What do memorized ritual prayers mean if nothing is behind them? Do you think those recited prayers are considered in these verses?
Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Psalm 107:21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
Jacob here is speaking to God, not at Him. How do you pray?