The Characteristic of True Prayer
Genesis 32:26
And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me.

Now that Jacob found himself once more in Esau's power, he trembled to think of the consequences. There were two considerations which must have intensified his agony of mind.

1. That he had brought these difficulties upon himself. Conscience now accused him of his crime with the same vehemence as if it had been committed only yesterday. Ah! this is a solemn fact in connection with certain sins which we rashly perpetrate! Painful indeed was Jacob's reflection now upon the past. Had he conducted himself as a straightforward man in his youth, he might have avoided his present trouble. How he wished he could have commenced life again! Even in old age men are doomed to possess the sins of their youth, to reap the inevitable consequences of early aberrations.

2. That others beside himself shared in the impending danger. He is now the head of a family; he has wives and children whom he passionately loves; they are in danger of being put to death on the morrow by his furious brother; and his conscience reproaches him with being the cause of their misery. Surely this was the keenest pang of all — the bitterest ingredient in his cup of bitterness. Such is human life. Say not that children are never punished for the transgressions of their parents; reason not concerning the injustice of such an arrangement; the hard fact continually stares us in the face, and warns us at every step to beware, to take heed to ourselves, to be prudent in our conduct, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of others, whom we may unwittingly injure. "And Jacob was left alone." It is when you are alone with the powers of nature-powers whose existence speaks of a higher Power, which sustains them all — that the light of Heaven is most likely to flash upon your soul. It was when banished to the isle of Patmos that John saw the glorious visions recorded in the Book of Revelation; it was when imprisoned in Bedford goal that Bunyan dreamed his Pilgrim's Progress; it was when shut up in total darkness that Milton sang his Paradise Lost. We are taught here that —

I. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF THE PRESENCE OF A PERSONAL GOD. It is stated that "there wrestled a man with Jacob until the breaking of the day." God is not an abstract idea of the mind; is not the natural powers by which we are surrounded; for He has a personal existence. God is a person, and as such, men in all ages have desired to know Him; to commune with Him, to call upon Him in distress. It is when we pray, however, that this fact forces itself most vividly upon our minds. It may be said, therefore, that true prayer can never be uttered where the presence of a personal God does not inspire the soul. You must feel, like Jacob, that there is a Parson with you, standing at your side, listening to your cry; for otherwise it will not be prayer, but a form — it will not be an outpouring of the heart, but a meaningless performance.

II. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A STRUGGLE TO OVERCOME DIFFICULTIES. The experience of formidable opposition in drawing near to God is by no means uncommon. The repelling power with which Jacob struggled on this occasion, has been encountered by almost every suppliant at the throne of grace. Indeed, our Lord seemed anxious to prepare the minds of His disciples to expect it. "And He spake a parable unto them for this end, that men ought always to pray and not to faint." But our Lord prepared His disciples to expect difficulties in prayer by other means than parables — by His dealings with some who sought temporal favours at His hands. While He sojourned in the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, a woman of Canaan came to Him, crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Passing on with perfect unconcern, He feigned not to hear her; for He answered her not a word. She then cried all the more, "Have mercy on me," so that His disciples felt annoyed, and besought Him to send her away. Thus when we encounter difficulties in prayer, when we feel as if God did not hear us, it is because God wishes to. test our faith, and by testing to strengthen it. Consequently, not only do we enjoy God's blessing with greater relish when it comes, but we are also made stronger for His service.

III. WHEN WE TRULY PRAY, WE BECOME CONSCIOUS OF A CHANGE IN OURSELVES, AS A TOKEN OF SUCCESS. It may be that when we are apparently most unsuccessful, we are really most successful. We do not obtain the very thing we seek at the time, but the spiritual strength we acquire in the effort may be infinitely more important than the thing itself. It always happens thus when true, fervent, earnest prayer is sent up from the heart to God; when there is a mighty struggle to obtain a blessing from above, there comes over the soul a change for the better, a visible improvement, a closer resemblance to God's image. Jacob carried in his body ever after a memorial of the wrestling of that night; for "he halted on his thigh." We are reminded here of a beautiful story, told of the celebrated John Elias, the prince of Welsh orators. He addressed on one occasion a meeting presided over by the late Marquis of Anglesey. The marquis, as you know, was lame, having lost a limb in the famous battle of Waterloo. Referring, therefore, to that circumstance, the speaker thrilled his audience by this striking remark, "We have a president here this evening, whose very step as he walks reminds you of his bravery!" So Jacob "halted on his thigh." His limping gait kept in remembrance his wonderful victory with God. A man of prayer is well known as such; there are certain marks which reveal his character; his public performances bear the impress of his private wrestlings. In this transforming, elevating, and invigorating influence of prayer lies the secret of a godly man's strength.

(D. Rowlands, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

WEB: The man said, "Let me go, for the day breaks." Jacob said, "I won't let you go, unless you bless me."

Jacob's Struggle for a Blessing
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