Genesis 32: The Power Of Prayer
The Divine Supplication
The Power Of Prayer
A young man was sitting alone in the church. I thought he was crying, and so I went to him and asked, “are you alright?” He responded, “I am afraid I am going to lose my house. I haven’t been able to come up with the payment this month. I don’t find a way for the next month either. I lost my job and I am afraid. I am not alright.”
I let him talk. I listened to him for some time. We sat together in silence for some time. I did not have an answer to his dilemma. He is a good man who is faithful in life, to church, and in his prayer life. So, the only thing I needed to do was being with him in silence. I did not have a solution for him.
Then I remembered the prayer of Jacob and his fight with this unknown person in the middle of the night. He wrestled with this person, maybe an angel, all night. He asked for his name, but the angel did not give it to him. Jacob was not willing to let him go until he told Jacob his name. The story goes on to say that Jacob did not get an answer. But in the process, the angel broke his arm. Because he wrestled with God. He fought for a response from the man he was fighting. He was not ready to walk away.
The answer came as a complete change in his personhood, his name, future, life, and all that he had in life. God changed who he was as a person in response to his wrestling with God.
Prayer has a way of making that happen to all who pray. I told this young man, maybe you have to keep wrestling with God for an answer. The answer God gives may not be with what you are expecting of him, and in the process, you might break a bone or two. But it is worth it because when God breaks the bones, he will mend them stronger than before. When he changes your name to something else, he will empower you to be that which he turned you into. He will not let you fail once he gives you a purpose unless you goof it up.
The widow of Zarepath challenged Elijah, in a similar fashion, when he was asked to bring life back into her son. Elijah ate the last bread she had. She was generous in giving him all she had and was left with nothing before the Lord opens the treasury of grace on her.
In that process, she lost her son. He got ill. Even though she gave everything she had to the prophet of God, God took her son. She was heartbroken and lost. When Elijah came around, she let him have it. She told him what he didn’t want to hear, but she was going to wrestle with the man of God for the life of her son. She was not going to back down from the demand of life back to her son. 1 Kings 17:7-24
Elijah was caught off guard with this kind of request. He asked her for her son, and she brings him to Elijah. Elijah cried out to the Lord for the life of the boy. God returned his life in the unrelenting prayer of Elijah. The fight was on and God gave in. He let his guards down so that God can enter into the boy. He had to let God send the spirit of life back into the boy. The wrestling with the prophet, and thus with God, paid off.
Asking for what you want, sharing with God what is going on, wrestling with issues that make no sense, and sometimes breaks your heart, are all part of prayer. For Jacob, it was, of course, a physical wrestle, but it was more than merely physical wrestling. It was the struggle of what was going on in his life. He knew how he stole the blessings, the birthright, and the slave labor at Laban’s house were all part of his wrestle.
Did I do it right? Where did I fail? He asked himself. How can I do things differently? Where should I go from here? What should I do to get my life back in order? How can I do things to make a difference in the world? How can I care for my family and children? What is that you want of me, Lord? He had questions after questions to straighten his life.
A thousand questions rushed through his heart. Jacob did not know what the Lord wanted. But the man knew he could talk. Jacob could complain and make the day a day of mourning and beating his breast. It was a day of total awareness and acceptance of where he was, and how miserably he failed. But he was not going to fall into the trap of guilt or sadness, depression or fear to reject God’s mending grace.
Prayer is this anguish you feel in the presence of God. It is the confusion that you might experience when God is trying to talk to you. Give it a minute or two, a day or two, a week or two, let God work with you and figure this out together. He did that for Jacob, and he does the same with Elijah. Why not with us?
Ask, and whatever you ask, I am going to give you, promises the Lord. (Matthew 21:22) It is the remembrance of this promise that constitutes a constant prayer.
The man crucified on the right of Jesus did not live the best before they caught him for whatever he did. He was next to the one who did nothing to warrant what he was going through. But they both, and one on the left ended up with the same kind of punishment.
One person had no remorse, but resentful. The second person was remorseful and repentant. The third person in the middle, Jesus, was treated unjustly and did not deserve anything that he received. He was the victim in the story. He was pure but unfairly and unjustly treated. But he took it like a champion.
All three prayed one way or another.
The one on the left prayed without knowing that he was in need of help. He needed awareness of himself. He was so blind to himself; he was crying inside, not externally, for help. The thief on the left was blind to his sins and thus blind to his need for mercy and forgiveness.
The man on the right was crying for mercy. His request was for kindness and compassion. He was asking for a gesture of goodness towards him. He expected nothing other than a merciful glance that did not judge him. His desire was not for the kingdom, but a gentle look from someone without judgment. He knew he deserved the cross. But he did not realize he deserved heaven. In his plea, he was seeking love. He was looking for someone to understand, accept, and give hope.
The third man on the cross was Jesus. He was not asking for anything from anyone, except the Father the grace to forgive. Then he cries to God the Father to impart forgiveness. He was not ready to give up on his enemies. He was ready to fight the battle for the souls of those who failed to see God in them, around them, and on the cross.
On the cross, his prayer was not about getting him off the cross. His priority was to let those who did this to him know he leaves the world without ill will. The recipe for life, eternal life, was leaving the world without strings attached – un-forgiveness – to himself. He knew that means he had to let go, forgive. His prayer to the Father was to forgive, to let loose, and give up all those that will hold him down here on earth.
What Jesus preached all his life is what he was living right there on the cross. When you live in him, when you live in the Father, you can ask for whatever you want, it will be given to you. (John 14:13) He said that to people before they nailed him to the cross. Now it is time, attaching himself to the Father, to ask for what he wanted, the forgiveness of the sins of humanity. His prayer was that he has fulfilled what he came to do. As promised, He aligned his life with the Father’s will. He pleaded with the Father to grant forgiveness to all humanity. Not just to those who are crucifying him at the time.
Jesus’ prayer was for total forgiveness of all those who do not know what they are doing when they oppress the other. He asked for forgiveness on those who failed to see what they do to another; through abuse, anger, and tyranny.
Jesus wrestled with the Father so that the Father will show forgiveness and mercy to the world he died for. He wrestled with the Father to let the man on the right enter into the kingdom forever. Jesus was not ready to let go of anyone clinging to him, even if it is at the last minute. Jesus wrestles and conquers. He wins and awards justice.
The best way for you to wrestle with God in prayer is to attach yourself to God. Like the vine that is attached to the sturdy trunk of the tree. Grow strong in Christ, and then we can ask for whatever we want.
When we have this kind of attachment with God, the grounds will be shaken under us when we pray. When Peter and the Apostles prayed, that is what happened. The ground shook under their feet. Fear came upon the people. The spirit of God descended upon all those who were gathered around there. Acts 4:31
Wrestling prayer has the power to break the bonds, shake the lands, collapse the structures, and eventually free the people. When Paul and Silas prayed, everything came to pass, as I just said before. When Peter prayed, this is the same thing that happened. When Jesus prayed on the cross, the grounds shook and split the earth in two. Read Acts 16:25-28 to understand the power of prayer.
Prayer of supplication, the wresting prayer as I call it, is the secret weapon that we all carry in our backs. It is part of our making. Nobody needs to figure it out or learn. It is activated when we know we can enable them. There is a toll-free number in our hearts to call and activate God into our ring. God is ever-present, ready, and waiting for the call we make.
When I think of supplication, this is what comes to my mind.
It is a prayer of desperation.
It is an act of wrestling with God in mind and body.
It is a cry of fear, without letting loose.
It is a challenge to God on what He promised.
It is going into the room alone with God!
It is sitting in silence all day long!
It is the moment of helplessness for God to shake the waters!
Prayer is letting God be with you whenever you want.
So I said to my friend, cry out, and God will hear your cry. Wrestle like Jacob. Let God break a bone or two. He knows how to heal it too. Moses did that, and so did Noah. Abraham cried out, and so did Elijah. The thief asked for mercy, and so did the woman with bleeding. The blind, the lame, the sick, and the lost, all came to Jesus asking for divine mercy. He asked for it without shame or fear. God granted it without reservation. He was broken in every way, and came back to full life like none other. He knows what it is to break and he knows what it is to come back to life.
My friend did just that and went home in peace. A few days later, he called me to say; he found a new job and a new pathway forward. He will continue to knock on the Lord’s door every day and promised; he shall not turn back. He will wrestle with God and see how God breaks his bones. Because he was sure, he will be given a new name if God breaks his bones.
So, if God breaks your bones, He won’t walk away without changing your future, your fortune, and favor on you.
© Fr. Jos Tharakan 2019