Overcoming Through Prevailing Prayer

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 Ge 32:22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.  23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" 27 So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob." 28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank.

 1Jo 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is He who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
 7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Joh 20:19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"
 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;  31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

One of the common threads I see in this weeks reading is “overcoming.” In our gospel reading, Jesus helps Thomas overcome his doubts. In the epistle,  John speaks of those who overcome the world, as those, who like Thomas come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And the account of Jacob overcoming in an all night wrestling match  with a “Man” who turns out to be none other than the pre-incarnate Christ.

This account of Jacob left alone and wrestling with a Man all night has always fascinated me.
What was going on here? What can we learn from this supernatural wrestling match to help us with our walk with the Lord?  Before we get any further, let’s look at the actual scenario. What was going on in Jacob’s life before this all night wrestling match?  

Jacob is returning to his homeland. after spending many years in exile in Mesopotamia. He had fled out of fear of his brother Esau, whom Jacob had cheated out of the blessing due the eldest son.

 Ge 27:41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob."

This was the last word that Jacob had heard from Esau. Esau was going to kill him,  and now he was headed back Canaan for a head to head meeting with his brother.  

 Ge 32:6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him."  7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; You don’t need 400 men to say, “howdy ho!”  to your long lost brother! This was not looking good for Jacob!

This was Jacob’s state of mind. He was greatly afraid and distressed. Does this describe your situation today. Is life throwing fear and distress your way? What kind of fear and distress do you need to overcome in your life?

Is it loneliness? Illness? Financial problems? Direction? Family concerns? Acceptance? What is it? Have you sought to bring it to the Lord with the attitude that Jacob had? “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” Kind of a nervy prayer isn’t it?

If we were to put that phrase in modern terminology it would sound like something you used to say when you wrestled with your brothers or maybe a friend....if you held the upper hand, you would say something like, “I won’t let you go until you cry uncle!” But Jacob’s not wrestling with his brother here....he’s wrestling with God!

This whole incident is a picture of prevailing and persistent prayer. It is even spoken of as prayer in Hosea 12:4

Ho 12:4 Yes, he (Jacob) struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him....

So what can we learn about prayer from this account. Well for starters, Jacob separated himself from his family and possessions and was left alone. In prayer, we need to leave our day to day concerns at the door. God knows of those concerns. He wants to deal with us.

So Jacob is alone with his fear and distress.  He was ready to do business with the Lord.  This should be our state of mind for prayer as well.

Uncluttered by the cares of this world and ready to be honest with God. When you come to God in prayer, come uncluttered. The business you have with the Father may involve your family and possessions, but it is you that He wishes to do business with.  So come separated unto Him, and be honest about your state of affairs.
Jacob came to wrestle with God and God literally shows up in a physical form to oblige him, and in so doing, we can learn much about prayer. This wrestling match or prayer goes on for a long time....all night. Be prepared to persevere in prayer.

This doesn’t mean you have to stay up all night and pray, although that could be the case. It may simply mean that you pray persistently day by day until you get an answer. That answer can show up as a yes, a no, or a not yet!

Now when He (God) saw that He did not prevail against him (Jacob wasn’t going to give up) He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.”

Just try to picture this. It just doesn’t make sense does it?  The Angel of the Lord did not prevail against this mere mortal Jacob? Come on! If He could take out a hip just by touching it, imagine what other kind of damage He could’ve done!  

No, the Angel of the Lord CHOSE not to prevail over Jacob. He chose not to dispense of Jacob or dismiss him. He chose to let Jacob continue to bring his supplications to Him. He could’ve silenced Jacob at any time, or turned a deaf ear to him, but He allowed him to continue with his weeping supplication. Weeping and pleading with God to spare him from his brother Esau.

By the way, this was not the first time he sought God about this Esau thing, That very afternoon he had prayed to God asking for deliverance from the hand of his brother, but like so many of us, he prayed, but he didn’t wait on God for an answer.

He proceeded with his own plan of appeasing Esau and trying to make Esau think he was a powerful man himself. He sent waves of gifts, goats, rams, camels, cows, ahead of him and in Gen 32:20 we read, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me.”  

But guess what.....he still had no peace. He had no peace because it was his plan and not God’s. He didn’t know it at the time, but he still had some deception issues that needed to be dealt with.  And so he went back to pray. Only this time he was determined to get an answer.

There are a couple of incidents in Luke that underscore this principle of prevailing in prayer:

 Lu 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'  4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,  5 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'"  6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.
 7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
Why did Jesus share this parable? It’s right there in 18:1, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Stop giving up on praying!  Will He find this kind of praying faith on the earth when He returns? Will He find this kind of believing, prevailing prayer at Living Word? In your life?

In the men’s Bible study this week, we were studying the 11th Psalm. David starts out by saying, “In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain.” Don’t give up on prayer! Don’t flee! Trust in the Lord! Don’t let go brother! Don’t let go sister! Prevail! Bring it to God and let Him deal with your situation!

Later on in Luke 18 we read of another person engaged in prevailing prayer:

Lu 18:35 Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. 36 And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. 37 So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he cried out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 40 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, 41 saying, "What do you want Me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight."  42 Then Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Even though people tried to hush him up, he cried out the more! The devil will do all he can to hush you up when it comes to prayer. But learn from the blind man and when you see those wrenches that the devil throws in your path to keep you from prayer, cry out all the more!” You’re getting close! Look what his consistent crying out did to Jesus!

“He stood still! God stopped everything and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Guess what? If He wills it, it will be done! The man prevailed in prayer and received his sight!

Jacob prevailed in prayer even after taking a painful shot in the hip. Sometimes God introduces pain when we make a commitment to pray. This pain is a test of your true commitment. Lesser men then Jacob, and by that I mean less desperate men than Jacob, would’ve given up, but he continued on! Because he was desperate. The question is are you?

How many people have abandoned prayer at the first sign of resistance. How many people have abandoned prayer because they did not get instant relief from their pain? Or they begin to pray and all it seems to do is bring more trial into their lives.  “If this is what I get for praying, I might as well stop!”  

Learn from Jacob, the pain that was inflicted on him, was carried by him for the rest of his life. God doesn’t promise to remove pain, only to help us through it. So Jacob suffered pain, but he didn’t give up. He prevailed in prayer and waited until he got an answer to his request.

One commentary that I read concerning this incident in Scripture put it this way: “It is God’s good pleasure to be vanquished by the stranglehold of faith.” Why did Jacob prevail? Because He had faith. He believed that this Man he was wrestling with could provide an answer for his dilemma.  That’s the kind of faith we need when we pray.

 Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

This must be out attitude when we gather for church prayer on Sunday nights. We aren’t just praying to the wind! We are praying to the God who is able to help us in our every need. We don’t know how He will answer our prayers, we just know that if we keep coming before Him, He does respond.

 E. M. Bounds in his book on prayer writes: “Trust is not a belief that God CAN bless, that He WILL bless, but that He DOES bless.” Jacob knew this and so he prevailed in prayer.

I find Mt 11:12 also instructive in this matter of wrestling with God and prevailing in prayer.
Jesus said “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

The Word “violence” here carries with it the idea of something being seized. I don’t need to stretch my imagination much to work the word “seized” into a wrestling match.  Wrestlers grapple. They seize each other in strategic places in order to gain the upper hand.

What Jesus was saying here is that from the days of repentance (the days of John the Baptist) the day one begins to think differently about God he begins to wrestle in prayer with God. How true! Spiritual battles rage as the evil one seeks to tear us away from the love of Christ, and so we must pray!

We seize onto God and the blessings of His kingdom are given to us because we relentlessly seize onto Him! In addition, in our times of prayer, God will often seize us in strategic places in order to help us realize deeper spiritual truths about ourselves. Often times these truths that are realized are the greatest blessing in our time of prayer.  

I remember being called to a house of a woman in a congregation in which I was serving as an elder. She had chronic back pain and she and her husband were reading in James about calling the elders of the church to come and pray over her, anointing with oil, and so on.

We came to her house and did as James instructed us, but she was not healed of her back ailment. It seems she had a deeper spiritual problem and God spoke to her during our time of prayer and brought healing to her soul!

In Jacob’s case, the first thing he needed to realize was that he was a sinner! And so God seized him at his point of sin. He asks him, “What is your name?”  Now, c’mon, you and I know that this angel already knew Jacob’s name, He just wants Jacob to say it and confess it. He says, “my name is Jacob!” And the light went on!

How many of you know what Jacob’s name means? It means supplanter or deceiver. In other words Jacob admits before a holy God that he is a deceiver. Do you see the confession here? Could’ve there been any greater blessing granted to Jacob than to realize this truth about himself?

In our own wrestlings with God we too are often challenged with the question, “Who am I ...really?” and the answer is “I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy and grace!” Upon hearing Jacob’s confession, the angel gives him a new name. He is now called Israel.

Israel, literally means, “Prince with God.” The King James says, “For as a prince hast thou power with God and men.”  As we come to Christ, confessing our sinfulness and receiving His forgiveness God bestows a name on us as well....it is Christian. Follower of Christ.

And as His follower, we too are princes and we too have power with God and men, for it is God’s good pleasure to be vanquished by the stranglehold of faith.

Jacob finishes his prayer at sunrise and crosses back over the river. I like the picture painted here. It’s dawn, light is breaking forth. Friend it is in prevailing prayer that light eventually will break forth. That’s why we need to learn from Jacob and hang on.

He was greatly afraid and distressed, he was alone, with darkness all around him, but he prevailed in prayer. Light broke forth in his situation. He finally saw who he really was and who God really was. He no longer needed to take the matter into his own hands....he could trust God for the outcome!    

And as Paul Harvey might say, here’s the rest of the story: Here’s what happened when Jacob met Esau.

 Ge 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

Who would’ve expected such an outcome!

 Eph 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The power that works in us is the power of the Holy Spirit who desires to prevail in prayer, as Jesus said in the garden to His snoozing disciples......”the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” With those words, I invite you to overcome all excuses of the flesh and become a regular at our Sunday night prayer meetings.

I don’t know how God will move at these meetings, I only know and believe that according to His Word,  He is moved by persistent prayer. How He is moved is up to Him, but if the blind man remains silent, Jesus walks right through town, He never stands still to give attention to the blind man’s plea.

It is God’s good pleasure to be vanquished by the stranglehold of faith. And that faith is evidenced as we come to Him in prevailing prayer.