Praying like Jacob

I stumbled across the following prayer from Genesis 32:9-12 last week, where Jacob is talking to God about a family reunion his is dreading with his older brother Esau. For those who don’t know, when the two brothers were younger, Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright as a firstborn son. Later on, Jacob would then deceive his father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn. Leaving Esau out of pocket and furious.

Jacob fled, and started a new life, married and had kids, but knew that the time had come for him to come home.

Maybe we have something dreaded around the corner, whether its family or work-related. But we might find encouragement and guidance in the prayer of Jacob.

  • Recognition and Worship: Oh God of my father Abraham and Isaac. When we start we can remember who God is, that He is personal and intimate with us. He is also God over us. Too often we dive straight into petition, and our faith is weaker, because we do not first remember Who it is that we are speaking to. Somehow, faith arises in us when we recall Who God is.
  • Gratitude: I am unworthy of all the kindeness and faithfulness you have shown me. Similarly our faith increases when we recall God’s goodness to us. I was recently reading a Puritan Prayer which started similarly:
  • Plea/Petition: Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother.
  • Honesty: For I am afraid he will come and attack me and my children. I think we are often scared to be honest with God in our prayers. Honest about our doubts, our sins, our failings and actually our feelings. But God is big enough, and He delights that we can come to Him honestly. This is one of the reasons Christ died for us, so He could meet us where we are at.
  • Holding to the promise: But You have said “I will surely make you prosper”… There are so many promises in the bible we can hold to and present to God in prayer. May we find verses of promise in His Word that give us hope in prayer.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 5 A Vision for Marriage and Friendship

In this chapter we see human relationships as God originally intended. We will explore 4 dynamics of this vision, and consider an application for each.

1) Equality

When God made woman, He used a rib, taken from man’s side. If you read the footnotes in your NIV you’ll see that the word ‘rib’ was taken from ‘part of the man’s side’. Why is this significant? Because it denotes equality between man and woman, not sameness, but equality.

But is this a modern reading, have I only come to this conclusion because I’m a 21st century reader in the western world?! No, see Matthew Henry’s Commentary (written in 1708) written over 300 years ago:

“That woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, or out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him” (pg. 8)

This was God’s original intention for relationships between man and woman. Equality, protection and love. How far we have come from this! How far we have rejected God’s plan and decided our way was best. How wrong we were!

In terms of an application, as people of a New Covenant, who live for the Kingdom of God, let us pursue equality.

2) A Song of Appreciation

We see some of God’s creative qualities arise in man, at the sight of his new companion! Man composes the first ever song, and it wasn’t a “worship” song! It was a song of appreciation towards his wife!

Too often we take relationships for granted, either that or we idolise them. Here Adam models for us a healthy middle option, appreciation and thanksgiving. May we do the same!

3) Leaving Parents, Cleaving to Wife

A challenge all couples are faced with, abandoning the old and enjoying the new. Marriage does not work if we carry our parents into it. Boundaries are required.

Jay Stringer uses the dichotomy of simultaneous “honour” and “honesty” when we think about our parents. We are to honour them, even as married people, but we must also be honest about how they have impacted us (for good or for ill). Part of this honest assessment is choosing to abandon that which was wrong, hurtful and damaging.

We all carry childhood baggage, either intentionally and explicitly handed to us, or subconsciously and unwittingly received. May we choose to leave this behind. At the same time let us seek to honour, and thank God for good parents who loved us and attempted to pattern for us God’s parental love.

4) Naked and Unashamed

This was God’s intention. And we see that it is one of the very first things to be destroyed by sin. Shame creeps in, people want to hide themselves, and forgo intimacy. We may hide physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, verbally, or even behind various personalities. We dare not let people in.

And we have very good reason not to, have you see the damage and harm “letting people in” can do? We have all been betrayed, and hurt by those closest to us.

In marriage, may we lead by example in vulnerability. In our friendships may we match

One of my favourite definitions of intimacy, is a cheesy word-play: “in-to-me-see”. Within intimacy, we allow others to see into us, for who we truly are, and we are allowed to see into them.

I am stirred by the concept and power of vulnerability. So here is one final thought: We are most tempted to cover-up and feel shame over our weaknesses. We hide them, whatever they are. But in marriage God invites us to be truly vulnerable, to share our weaknesses. The Bible says that God’s power is, in fact, made perfect and complete in our weaknesses. Chose to reveal yourself in marriage today, not hide.

Tuesday Tools: Cull the Excess

For the last couple of months I’ve been constructing my own productivity theory. (Forgive me if someone has already beaten me to it!) It’s a cross between minimalism and the theory of diminishing returns!

The premise of this theory is that human beings are not good at handling excess, in fact we thrive in a sweet spot between having too much and having too little.

Before we begin, let’s think about the different areas in which we may find ourselves with an unhealthy surplus:

1) Time: it seems very few people in the western world claim to have an “excess of time”, rather it seems most people are busy – all the time. (All the time – people are busy!). But I don’t think that is true. I honestly don’t. I think for most people, they have an excess of time available and they spend it poorly. And soon wonder, “where’s all the time gone”. (If time was really as limited as we claim, I don’t think Netflix, YouTube or social media would be as popular as it is) – we’d all be too busy for it.

2) Money: again, few people will claim they have more money than they need. But apparently, if you earn £20K a year, you are in the richest (10%) of the global population. The truth is, you are more likely to have excess money, and spend it poorly than to not have enough. See for yourself in this online calculator: https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i

3) Other areas might include, resources, space, material possessions, relationships and a surplus of movie choices. Apparently the affects of excess are felt even when you increase the amount of desktop monitors beyond 3 or 4.

Again, I reckon my theory is closely connected to the theory of diminishing returns as well as minimalism. However, I have always associated minimalism with possessions and having a clear house, whereas my theory is about time, money and other resources – for the specific purposes of productivity.

So why does the excess need culling? Is it so bad? Why can’t I keep it? You may be wondering these questions or similar ones. So let me unpack why it is so essential that we examine the excess in our lives and seek to “cull it”.

I) Excess hinders our creativity and therefore makes us sloppy. When we have more than we need, we don’t have to think of creative solutions to problems, we can just fix it with an inefficient, imprecise, expensive solution. Like using a sledgehammer to hit a nail into plywood.

For example, the other day I noticed my laptop was heating up, because I use it all day. My first thought was “I need to buy a laptop stand, to prop up the back and give the fans some room”. This is because I have excess money (though of course I don’t tell myself that). And after resisting the urge to impulse buy, a luxury not available to those without excess, I decided to simply fold a piece of cardboard up and wedge it under the back of my laptop. Problem solved.

II) Excess isn’t appreciated appropriately and therefore wasted. When we have more than we need, we don’t see the value of what we’ve got. We become flippant and wasteful in how we spend the resource (be it time or money). We forget the importance of optimisation.

III) Excess makes us ungrateful and therefore leads us to jealousy. Linked to the point above, when we have an unnecessary surplus we become ungrateful. A lack of gratitude soon spirals down into comparison games, jealousy and wishing we had what others have, instead of enjoying and appreciating the gifts we have come to take for granted. If you are struggling with envy, one of the best things you can do is look round and be grateful for what you already have.

In this post we have explored some of the areas we may find ourselves with surplus, and the damaging affects of excess. In Thursday’s post we will explore, what to do with our bounty and specifically ‘how do we cull?’

Let me end with a quote from Proverbs (a wisdom book in the Bible) to soak in your mind. It is a prayer of a wise man who is asking God for two things, it is the second that is of most interest to us:

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God