But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ Genesis 32:12
Jacob’s deceptions come back to haunt him in a big way as he faces a confrontational reunion with his brother, Esau. Jacob ran away twenty years earlier after his brother threatened to kill him for stealing his father’s blessing. Now Jacob is returning home and Esau is coming to meet him. Jacob sends his servants ahead of himself with gifts to try to mollify Esau, but he remains behind and prays.
Jacob prays well, because he prays the promises of God. Twenty years earlier God promised to make Jacob’s descendants as common as dust. He also promised he would be with him wherever he went. Now he gives those words back to God, linking his request for mercy and protection to God’s own plans and promises. We pray the promises of God when we base our prayer requests on God’s own words or on God’s own character. Throughout the Bible God reveals his character of mercy, forgiveness, and lovingkindness. These are traits we can pray back to God as we seek his mercy or forgiveness. We can bank on God’s power and abundance as we pray for help and provision. We can remind him of his will that none should be lost as we pray for family or friends who do not know him.
Here’s what J.D. Greear has to say on the topic of praying the promises:
If you study the prayers of the Bible, you begin to notice that the prayers God honors and answers are those that repeat His promises back to him. Go and read the story of Jacob, for instance. At the beginning of his life God had prophesied—before Jacob was even born—that the blessing would be his and not Esau’s (Gen 25:23). But it was not until Jacob tookit in a prayer-wrestling match with God that it really became his. He laid hold of the promise of God through a night of prayer.
The Bible is a book full of promises; there are an estimated 3,000 of them. Yes, I realize that some of them apply to specific and unique situations, as with God’s promise to give Jacob the blessing. But I also know that Paul calls all the promises of God “Yes” in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). So in a Christ-centered way, every one of them is Yes for me and for you.
I do not want you to read through the Bible. I want you to pray through it! The Bible is our prayer book, so read through it and lay hold of the promises of God! I make it a discipline of mine every time I read the Bible to go back and pray through what I’ve just read. And whenever I pray, I try to tie promises of God to what I’m praying.
Jacob prays well by praying the promises of God, and God honors his request by taking away Esau’s anger. The next time you pray, prepare your case before presenting it to God by filling it with reminders of God’s own character and his own words.