When looking for models of prayer, few people look to the Pentateuch. Unfortunately, when we limit ourselves to a few memory verses, or reading only the New Testament, we miss out on wonderful blessings that are hidden in the depths of Scripture.
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are filled with great passionate prayers by Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. In Genesis, we read wonderful prayers by Noah, Joseph, and Abraham. And in the 32nd chapter of Genesis, we find this wonderful prayer by Jacob, which could be used as a model prayer for us today.
Please read Genesis 32:9-12.
Notice that the prayer is a kind of sandwich: it is bookended by two wonderful pieces of bread praising God for who He is and what He has said and done. Then there’s some good meat of confession, and some cheese of supplication. Let's dive into this a little further for today's devotional.
First, it is always a good idea to begin and end our prayers with worship for who God is and what He has said and done. Far too often, people jump right into their list of supplications. We first need to remember to whom we are praying and give Him the glory He is due. Only then will we be in the right mindset to bring our requests before Him. And we should always conclude the same way, so that we walk away from our prayers thinking peacefully and worshipfully about God instead of worrying about the request that we just laid before Him. True prayer fills us with peace and joy because our focus is on the Lord.
Secondly, while the bread of our prayer sandwich is praising God for who He is and what He has said and done, no good sandwich is made up simply of bread—there should be some meat! After praising God by identifying who He is, Jacob moves on to acknowledge his own lowly status. When we are confronted with the awesome reality of God, it reminds us of just how lowly we really are. Compared to God, Jacob declares, “I am not worthy.”
When we truly confess our sin and recognize our own fallibility, we realize just how undeserving we are of God’s many blessings. Some prayers will simply consist of this cycle of praising God, confessing our sin, praising God for forgiving our sin, then confessing more sin, then praising God, etc. There is nothing wrong with that type of prayer, but Jacob goes even further.
While a good sandwich can consist simply of meat and bread (think of a delicious brisket or hot dog), most Americans like to go non-kosher and add some cheese to it. That’s what Jacob does in verse 11 when he lays his request down before God. This is an important part of the prayer, but it is not the focus of the prayer.
Some Christians disagree with this point. We pray like the only thing that matters in prayer is our supplications. We list off our prayer requests and spend the whole time simply asking God for more and more. But this is like gnawing on a block of cheese! Sure, cheese can taste good, and sometimes its ok to pray with our focus on our request, but the true essence of prayer comes when we take our eyes off of the request and focus on God.
By focusing on the bread of who God is, we take our eyes off of the problem and put them on the problem solver. When we look at the wonderful bread of the sandwich, it reminds us who we are, how underserving we are, and we get some wonderful meat of confession and repentance in our prayer. The sandwich is completed when we lay a slice of fine cheese on top, particularly by praying for the needs of others in intercession. But we can also pray for our own needs like Jacob does here.
By confessing his sin and asking God for help while sandwiching this meat and cheese with the bread of praising God for who He is and what he has done, Jacob is providing a great model for a prayer sandwich. So spend some time today imitating his model and praying to God… maybe even do so while fixing a good sandwich!
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