Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Every single blessing and promise that God gave is mine in Christ. Some of you read through your Bible every year and that is great, but what you really ought to do is pray through your Bible. What you ought to do is read the sections of scripture and identify the promises of God that are given so that you can appropriate them in your life through prayer. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host Molly Vidovich. We've been learning this week that prayer is a big part of a healthy Christian life, but a lot of us really struggle to pray consistently. We're not sure what to talk about and we end up only going to God when we're facing a crisis. So how do we start treating prayer as more than just an emergency hotline? Let's continue our theme of prayer this month with a familiar story from Genesis in a new study called Press Through. If you missed any of the messages from earlier this week from our teaching series called Ask, you can find them online anytime at jdgreer.com. But for now, it's time to get started with the message pastor J.D.
titled Wrestling All Night. You've got your Bible, now why don't you take it out. I wanted to address something that I really sense the Spirit of God saying to our church right now. Something that the Spirit of God wants to develop in us, his people, and that is to teach us how to pray. To teach us how to pray, to take us deeper and make us much more effective in how we pray.
Prayer is the most undervalued resource in our lives, in our families, and in our church. The Bible teaches us that all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us, he does so through the means of prayer. Prayer is the conduit by which his power comes into your life. It is the conduit through which his power comes into your family. It is the way that you lay hold of the promises and the blessings of God. Now, most people, whether they are religious or not, pray at crucial points in their lives.
I would say that's one thing that probably unifies us. We probably don't all pray the same way, we probably don't pray the same amount. But most people, whether they believe in God or not, in a moment of crisis, will a lot of times offer a prayer up to God because they know they need help in some way. Where does that impulse come from?
Where does it come from and how is it that we can do it effectively? We're going to look at two different Old Testament characters who had profoundly in shaping encounters with God and got their prayers answered and we're going to look at them and see what we can learn about how we should pray. The title of this series is Press Through because it's a theme that's going to come up this week and next week.
We press through in prayer. The first Old Testament character is Jacob and his story is found in Genesis 32. Genesis 32, so if you want to find that in your Bible, Genesis is the first book of the Bible. We're going to begin around verse 9. Genesis 32 is the story of Jacob wrestling all night with a strange heavenly man of some kind.
It is supposed to be, this story is supposed to be, among other things, a picture for us of prayer. Before we get into that, before we get into Genesis 32 and the story, let me set the background of this story a little bit so that you can understand a little bit more what's going on as we get into this strange wrestling match. Jacob had cheated his older twin brother Esau out of his inheritance. You see, in those days the oldest son got what they called the birthright, which meant that he got about two-thirds of his father's inheritance. No matter how many sons there were, the oldest son got about two-thirds of it and then all the other sons had to split that final third.
In this case, he also was supposed to receive the promises that were given to his grandfather Abraham that his family would be the chosen family that God would work through to bring salvation to the world. Esau and Jacob, though twins, were very different. Esau was tough. He was macho. We know that he was hairy and that he liked to hunt. He probably watched SportsCenter and drove an F-150 with a big old semper fi decal in the back window.
He probably had season tickets to the local UFC fighting arena. He probably looked like a character out of Duck Dynasty would be my guess. Jacob, however, was more of an indoors kind of guy. We know that he had smooth skin and that he liked to cook.
He probably watched Bachelor and drove a Mini Cooper and had a Pinterest account. So they were very, very different. One day when Jacob and Esau were teenagers, Esau had been out hunting and he came in and he was really, really hungry and Jacob had just finished cooking a pot of lentil stew. So Esau said, hey brother, could I get a cup of that lentil stew because I'm powerful hungry? And Jacob, being the younger brother and always looking for a chance to get the upper hand with his older brother as younger brothers are fond of doing, Jacob says to him, well, why don't I trade you something for it?
And Esau said, like what? And Jacob, knowing that you need to start high in a negotiation throws out, well, how about your birthright? Now, to be honest, I don't think that Jacob actually thought he was going to get the birthright. I think he was just starting with something really high to negotiate with, thinking that you would negotiate down from there and he would end up with a new pair of Air Jordans or an iPod or something like that. But he throws out, well, why don't you trade me your birthright?
Esau, being a teenager and impulsive as teenagers can tend to be, thinking only of short-term gratification and not the long-term effects of their decisions. Can I get an amen from a parent of a teenager somewhere? Says, that sounds, well, what good is my birthright if I'm going to be dead by tomorrow? He says, so yes, give me, you can have the birthright, just give me the cup of that stew.
So he traded. Well, a few years passed by and their dad, Isaac, now is about to die. And Isaac, who probably doesn't know about the deal anyway, and who prefers Esau to Jacob, wants to formally confer the blessing on Esau. And so he gets Esau and asks him to go out and hunt up some venison, prepare it for him, feed it to him, and then Isaac will formally confer the blessing on him. So Esau leaves and Jacob and his mom think, who's in on it, like, here's our chance. So they go pull some venison out of the freezer and they microwave it and they dress up Jacob like Esau. You see, by this time, Isaac is very, very old. It says that his eyes were dim, which means he could barely see and he couldn't hear that well. So they dress up Jacob in Esau's clothes and it says they actually took goatskin and tied it to his arms and put goatskin on the back of his neck and rubbed, you know, goatskin all over him so he would smell like Esau.
I'm not sure, honestly, what it says about you when to imitate you someone would strap dead goat to their arms and rub that all over it so you smell like a dead goat. But whatever, that's how he imitated Esau. Then he went in and he put on his deepest voice and he imitated Esau and he tricked his dad. He tricked his dad. Somehow they pull it off and when Esau gets home, he finds out that the blessing has already been bestowed and there is no reneging after a formal bestowal because the last thing you did in a Hebrew bestowal is you raise your pinky and you say no take backs. I'm just kidding about that part.
But for whatever reason, it could not be changed. And so the blessing and the inheritance now belong to Jacob. Well, as you can imagine, Esau is pretty chapped about the whole thing. And so he says, all right, I'll let my daddy die. I'll let my daddy die in peace. And I'll give the family a few days to mourn.
But after that, I'm going to kill my brother. Well, Jacob hears about it. And so he takes off. He leaves. He's gone for upwards of 30 years.
Never sees his family for 30 years. But because he's pretty ingenious and he's crafty, he gets ahead and he becomes fabulously wealthy. His name, Jacob, means grasper, grasper, someone who strives. He got that name because when Esau, who was born first, came out of the birth canal, it says that, this is kind of a creepy scene, but this little hand comes out of the birth canal right after Esau and grabs a hold of Esau's heel and hangs onto it almost as if, you should not have been first.
I should have been first. Like he's trying to pull him back in. So they named Jacob the grabber or grasper, but the name has a double meaning and it can also mean liar or deceiver. And those two words pretty well sum up Jacob's life.
One who grasps or strives and one who lies and deceives. Somewhere during this time, after Jacob has been gone, God has started to work in Jacob's life. And after 30 or so years, God appears to Jacob and tells him to return home to the land of his fathers. And if he does, God says, I will be with you.
Genesis 31, three. Well, Jacob obeys and starts to go home. But as he gets close to his home where he has not been for 30 years, he has the thought, I wonder what my brother Esau is going to do when he sees me. And so he begins to wonder, and then he gets word that Esau has come out to meet him with 400 armed men, which is never a good sign.
And Esau, who is fabulously wealthy but forgot to bring his personal army with him, is in despair. So chapter 32, he begins to pray. Verse nine. Oh God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac. Oh Lord, who said to me, return to your country and to your kindred that I may do you good. Do you see what he just did by the way?
What did he start with? He started by taking God's words and holding back up in front of him. Hey, this is what you said to me, God. This is what you told me to do. I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown to your servant.
Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, for I fear him that he may come and attack me. Verse 12, but you said, you said, I will surely do you good and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for a multitude. Again, you hear what he's doing? You said it, God.
You said it. This is your word. And I'm taking your word and I'm holding it back up in front of you and I'm saying, God, this is what you commanded and I'm asking you to keep your word. But did you notice, by the way, what he's praying for? What's he praying for specifically? He's praying for deliverance. He's praying that God would keep Esau from killing him.
God, get me out of this mess. All right, well later that night, verse 24. Later that night, a man came and wrestled with Jacob until dawn. When the man saw that he could not win the match, what a strange phrase, he struck Jacob's hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Literally the Hebrew there says he touched his hip, just means he touched it. By the way, do you have any idea how painful that would be? You ever had like your finger or some joint knocked out of socket? I had a finger knocked out of joint when I was playing basketball and just excruciatingly painful. Your hip is the largest socket on your body.
To have it knocked out of joint would have been just unbelievable pain. And this guy just does it by touching it. I mean, we're talking about some kind of power that this strange heavenly man has. This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. We have a bundle of three books to help make praying regularly a little easier. Each called Five Things to Pray. This set will enlarge your vision and equip you to pray passionately and powerfully for those you love and the renewal of your city. You can pray through a set of five things each day over the course of three weeks and then start again. Or you can take one of the prayer themes for the week and pray one point every day from Monday to Friday. Whatever it looks like for you, we'd like to encourage you to reserve your copy today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
Or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Thanks for being with us today. Now let's get back to the final moments of today's message. Here's Pastor J.D. Verse 26. Then the man said, Let me go for it is dawn. But Jacob panted in pain.
I will not let you go unless you bless me. Which, by the way, impresses me about Jacob. All that stuff I said a minute ago about Esau and the UFC cage fighting stuff. When you can hang on to an angel after your hip's been knocked out of socket, that's varsity.
Right? I mean, that's impressive. But his name is Grasper.
And so that's just what he does. Verse 27. What is your name? The man asked.
He replied, Jacob. What's this about? I mean, seriously, an angel cruising down from heaven has no idea who this is? Just decides to strike up a wrestling match with a guy that he doesn't know? No, he knows his name.
You know what he's doing? He's getting Jacob to admit his name. What's your name? My name is Jacob, and I'm a liar.
And that's how I've gotten to where I am today because my life has been filled with grasping and deceiving. Verse 28. Your name will no longer be Jacob, the man told him. Your name is now Israel, which means literally you have prevailed with God. That's why it says the next phrase, because you have struggled with both God and men, and you have won.
Verse 29. What is your name? Jacob asked him. Why do you ask? The man replied.
I don't know. You just tore my hip socket out of joint, and you just changed my birth name. And when I tell this story later, I thought it'd be helpful to be able to tell people who you were. You know, it doesn't tell us whether the man ever told Jacob his name or not. But what we do get is the next phrase, which is extremely important. Verse 29. Then the man blessed Jacob there.
All right, so multiple questions. First of all, who is this strange heavenly man? Some Jewish commentators around Jesus' time thought that this was Esau's guardian angel who had gone ahead of Esau to try to wrestle the blessing out of Jacob's hand and get it back for Esau, which I think is kind of ridiculous. Other commentators don't go that far, but they say this is an angel. Maybe. But why does the angel have to leave at daybreak? He's not a vampire, right? Angels love light. Maybe choir practice starts at dawn.
I don't know. I think, and I would say most theologians believe that this is God. It's what we call a theophany. A theophany, which means a manifestation or an appearance of God, an appearance of Jesus a Christophany before Jesus is born to Mary in Bethlehem. I think the strongest clue for that is in the next verse, verse 30. Jacob named the place Peniel, face of God, for he said, I have seen God face to face.
Not I saw an angel, but I saw God face to face, yet my life has been spared. So then the question, if this is God, becomes if Jacob is wrestling with God, how does God not win? How do you wrestle with God and have him not win?
That's a great question. We'll come back to it. But first, let me finish the story. Jacob with his new name goes on to meet Esau, and somewhere as they approach one another, God supernaturally changes Esau's heart so that his heart melts for his brother, and he runs, leaves the 400 men behind to his brother and embraces him, and they stand there weeping in one another's arms for several hours. Jacob goes on not only to be reconciled to his brother, but also to father the Jewish nation, and one of Jacob's descendants, his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson would be Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Here's my question for us. What is God trying to teach you and me through this story? I'm going to identify five things for us that I believe God is teaching us through this story, and I'm going to tie every single one of them to prayer because the context of this whole story is prayer. This whole wrestling match comes about in the midst of Jacob praying, right? It starts with a prayer that Jacob has, and that's when the guy comes to wrestle with him, and so it is giving you, among other things, it is giving you a picture of prayer. So I'm going to tie all these to prayer.
Number one, here's the first lesson. The blessings of God are released into our lives through prayer. The blessings of God, that God has decreed over us and prophesied over us, come into our lives through prayer. Think about that phrase I called your attention to in verse 29.
Remember this? Where it says that then the man blessed him there after Jacob held on to him and said, I'm not going to let you go until you bless me? If you go back and read the beginning of Jacob and Esau's life, God spoke prophetically through Rebekah, which is their mother, that Jacob would end up being the one who got the blessing. So God has already decreed the blessing over Jacob, but it doesn't really become his, at least in the fullest sense, until verse 29, when he grabs a hold of it through a night of wrestling with God in prayer. He laid hold of the promise of God through a night of prayer, and that's when the blessing that God had intended for him actually became his. The Bible, you see, is a book that is full of promises, 3,000 of them to be exact, or 3,000 of them to be generally in the ballpark, 3,000 promises that are given to you and to me. Now, I realize that a lot of them apply to specific and unique things, situations that people were in.
I realize that. But I also know that Paul said, all the promises of God are yes in Christ Jesus, which means that in a Christ-centered sense, every single blessing and promise that God gave is mine in Christ. Some of you read through your Bible every year, and that is great, but what you really ought to do is pray through your Bible. What you ought to do is read the sections of Scripture and identify the promises of God that are given so that you can appropriate them in your life through prayer. That's what I do when I read my Bible. It's the way that I transition from Bible to prayer. I will pray first before I open my Bible. God, this is your word.
This is not a dead book about things that happened a couple thousand years ago. This is your word. This is your word to me today.
I want you to identify the things for me that you were saying to me as I read it. And then after I get done, I go back, and I look at the things that God has brought to my attention as I read, and I appropriate those blessings into my life and into my family. This is our prayer book right here. This is our prayer book that is given to us that we lay hold of the promises of God through.
So my question for you is very simply this. Which of the blessings of God lay unclaimed for you and your family? Which of the blessings of God has he already given that are unclaimed for you?
Let me give you some examples of how I do this. When I pray for my children, when I pray for my children, if you look in my place where I pray, you will see out written beside my children, you will see Psalm 127. Psalm 127 says this, children are a heritage or a blessing from the Lord. Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them. Now the first thing I have to do is remind myself that it is a blessing that my house feels like it's overflowing with children.
Okay, so that is a reminder to me. But then the next verse says this, for like arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior, this is how a godly man's children are. What's an arrow for?
An arrow is something you put on a bow string and you launch it into the heart of the enemy. I know that God gave me my children, Psalm 127, for the purpose of raising them up to be arrows in his army of blessing and salvation. Not a literal army that's gonna cause violence, but I mean, in his army of blessing and healing and salvation. And here's what I say to God quite often. God, this is why you gave me my children, this is what you said. God, half the time Veronica and I feel like we don't have the foggiest idea what we're doing in raising our kids.
If anything, God, I feel like I'm just screwing them up. But God, this is what you said your purpose was for my children and so I am asking you this day that you give me the ability to create in my children that purpose for which you gave them to me. Because Psalm 127, one, the first verse of that Psalm says this, unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor, labor in vain. God, unless I build it, unless you build it, it's all in vain. So God, do what you promised, take this promise and make it mine. You see how that works? Here's how I pray for me, Psalm 84, 11.
Let me set the context. Sometimes I'm very afraid of how God has worked in my life, the blessings that he's given me that I'm not going to be able to handle them. I look around, I'm like, God has blessed our church, God has blessed my family. What if I screw everything up? What if I don't know how to handle this size church? What if I don't want to handle these blessings? What if I mess my kids up? What if I mess my family up? What if I mess me up?
What if I mess all of you up? Psalm 84, 11, no good thing will he withhold from those who fear him. I'm like, God, not a single thing did you say you would withhold, not one thing. God, I need wisdom, I need the ability to make decisions, I need you to keep me from temptation. God, I need you to give me everything that you have intended for me and I'm taking Psalm 84, 11 and I'm just holding it up in front of you and saying, God, give me what your word said you would give me if I asked. When I pray for you, Deuteronomy 33, 16 is one that often comes to mind. It's a word about Joseph and what it says about Joseph is that he dwelt in the favor of the one who dwelt in the burning bush all of his days. The favor of the one who was in the burning bush, that's God, and it says that Joseph dwelt in that all of his days.
Here's why that reminds me of us. God has given us a season of favor, is that not right? God has blessed us and my fear is always, what if it runs out? What if God gets bored and decides he's going to go to some other church? And I'm like, is it possible that a church could all of its days dwell in the favor of God? And I say, well, absolutely, because Joseph, all of his days dwelled in the favor of God. Sometimes it was painful for him, but God was always with him. And I say, God, would you let us dwell in your favor all of our days so that we make it to the end of what God has given us to do, walking in your favor?
That's what Jacob did. He just took God's words and he held it back up in front of him. And he says, God, you promised.
Again, here's my question. What promises have been left unclaimed for your family? What promises has God intended, have already been spoken that are just not actualized because you haven't grabbed a hold of empty prayer? With the first message in our new series called Press Through, you're listening to Pastor J.D.
Greer and Summit Life. There's a lot more to come with this study, but in the meantime, you can hear today's message again or download the transcript when you go to jdgreer.com. J.D., the people I find it most difficult to pray for, and not because I don't want to, are my parents. I'm just not sure what to say. So how can we pray specifically for our parents? The Bible tells us to honor our parents, and sometimes we don't know exactly what that means. One of the things I've learned more of recent is that I can honor my parents by praying for them.
So praying for wisdom for them, praying for comfort, because obviously as your parents age, it's a time of loss as they're seeing friends pass away or they're dealing with the discomfort and pain that goes with their own bodies aging. These things are ways that you can help pray the promises of God over them, and also learn promises that you can be sharing with them that bring them comfort and direction. It's part of a three-book bundle, how to pray for your kids, how to pray for your parents, and how to pray for your cities that I think will add some definition and some clarity to how to pray for these things and how to engage God's promises about each of those three areas. We are offering three of these five things to pray books this month in a bundle. We'll send it as our way of saying thanks when you donate $35 or more to support this ministry.
It's easy to give when you call us right now at 866-335-5220, or you can give online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovich. Be sure to join us next time when we'll continue our month of teaching on prayer on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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