Jacob’s life provides the student of the Bible various lessons. One important lesson that we can apply to our own lives is the example of prayer we find in Genesis 32. Here, Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau for the first time since Jacob fled Canaan. As Jacob made his way back to the promised land, he learned that Esau was coming to greet him with 400 men. Fearing the worst, Jacob prayed.
Jacob’s prayer can be an example for us when we are in a time of distress. He first recognizes God and then acknowledges his own unworthiness. (Gen 32:9,10) Jacob then recalls all the favors and blessings that he has received. By remembering this in his prayer, Jacob is recognizing God as the source of these blessings and favor. Jacob then asks for God to save him and states that he is afraid. He recalls the promise that God made to him that Jacob’s descendants will be like the sand of the sea.—vss. 11,12
This prayer provides us insight into Jacob’s character. He was humble, not elevating himself in position to God or his brother. Jacob was full of faith in God—he had seen God overrule for him in the past and had confidence that God would continue to do so. He was also a man with a sincere heart unafraid to ask God for help.
When we face a trial or difficulty, God wants us to come to him in prayer. When we ask for help from God, do we base our requests on his promises? God has made many precious promises to his believers. Like Jacob, we can rely on these promises during our trials because we know God is faithful to what he has promised. Isaiah 55:11 (New International Version) says of God: “My word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty.” Additionally, if we are anxious, nervous, or afraid, God wants us to rely on him. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7, NIV) Let us remember during our trials to turn to the Heavenly Father using the privilege of prayer, just as Jacob did.