Monday, July 23, 2007

Refusing to Let Go of God

“…Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Genesis 32:26, NLT

Jacob’s story as it is told in the book of Genesis is one of my favorites. The story begins with Jacob camped out by the Jabbok River waiting to meet Esau, his twin brother. As you probably remember, Jacob cheated Esau out of his firstborn blessing and has now received word that Esau is about to pay him a visit accompanied by an army of 400 men undoubtedly in order to get revenge. As Jacob waits overnight and wonders what is going to happen, he ends up wrestling with a man. Because the ‘man’ saw he could not win, he wrenches Jacob’s hip from his socket. Astonishingly, even with his hip out of joint Jacob will not let go until the ‘man’ blesses him! The ‘man’, who turns out to be an angel of the Lord, finally blesses Jacob and gives him a new name, Israel, which means “he who struggles with God.”

What I most admire in this story is Jacob’s perseverance and the way he will absolutely not let go until he receives a blessing. His faith makes me wonder about my own--could I persevere with God in prayer and to not let go until God blesses? It seems that what most of us desire from our prayers are instant answers and immediate results. Yet the Bible speaks many times about persistence—from Jesus’ parable about the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18) to Paul’s many comments on persevering in prayer, such as ‘keep on praying’ (Rom.12:12), pray at all times and be persistent in your prayers (Eph. 8:18), ‘devote yourselves to prayer’ (Col. 4:2), and finally to ‘never stop praying’ (I Thess. 5:17).

For many years I have pondered the power of intercessory prayer, which is simply the type of prayer where we lift up the needs of others before God. Some people seem to have a gift for this type of prayer. Recently one of my professors described intercessory prayer as similar to when Jacob clung to God and would not let go--except in intercessory prayer we cling to God, not letting go until he blesses the person we are praying for. This certainly challenges the usual way we pray for others. Instead of just mumbling a prayer to God on someone’s behalf what if we, like Jacob, grasped God tightly and would not let go? What would it be like to persist in prayer and not give up when the answers don’t come quickly?

Would that we all could learn to be more like Jacob--unwilling to let go, daring to persist, to persevere, to hang on for dear life--as we lift others before God in prayer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Noah and the Impervious Neanderthals

3 minutes in the car tonight with my son Noah. A verbatim transcript.

"Dad, did you know that they are not going to launch the Space Shuttle anymore?"
"No I hadn't heard that."
"Yes, it is being retired. They are building a new ship that is impervious to heat, in order to fly to Mars."
Silence. Did he just say impervious?
How many 10 year olds know the word impervious?
"They want to build it within the next three years."
I want to ask him how he knows this but I'm afraid to.
Some deer are in a field next to the road.
"Oh. Hey look at all those deer! Did you see them?"
Noah looks around. "Yeah I see them."
"There were four of them. Did you see all four? One of them had horns," I say.
"Dad, deer don't have horns, they're called antlers."
"Oops. My mistake." How embarrassing.
We drive up to our house.
"Hey Noah, remember this time last year they were building our house?"
"I remember."
"And we were living in the rental house. Do you remember the rent house?"
Silence. He furrows his brow and frowns.
"I don't want to remember the rent house," he says very seriously.
"Why not?"
"Because I had to share a room with that Neanderthal named Hannah Potts."
Ah, yes. I also had a Neanderthal sibling. A terrible thing to deal with. I want to assure him that Neanderthals do get better over time, but he'll find that out for himself.
Interesting what one can learn by spending a few short minutes in the car with a child!