Perhaps we need to adjust our verbiage and our actions with regard to prayer. Our pastor, Buz McNutt, preached yesterday on the parable of the persistent widow from Luke 18:1-8. In so doing, he reminded us that our Puritan ancestors spoke of praying through things instead of praying about things.
This has resonated deep within me. In fact, I am writing this in the wee hours of the morning after being awakened by the Lord to pray. My soul has been churning as I have cried out to the Lord with a fresh focus on this kind of praying.
Let me see if I can explain this a little. If we are his and walking in fellowship with him, we know that he hears us. We also know that as our Father, he delights in answering our prayers. When in such fellowship, God will often stir our hearts to cry out to him. Perhaps for a need of our own. Perhaps for another person. Perhaps for an outpouring of his presence upon us, upon his people, upon the land.
When I was awakened, I clearly had one person on my mind. God put me before him praying for that person. But not just about them. To pray fervently on their behalf. To pray through – travailing in prayer – until I knew that my own being was being shaped towards this person.
It is a travailing prayer. Like a woman giving birth. It may be agonizing as we cry out to God that all is vain and all is lost unless he acts.
As I opened up my Bible to read what God would say, I came to a text that pictured this kind of praying through. I have been reading through Genesis in my devotional life. I had now come to the passage where Jacob found himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On one side was his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob and Laban had played a two decade old dance of tricking one another. They had erected a memorial that Jacob could not return past.
In the other direction was Jacob’s brother, Esau. Jacob had tricked him of both his birthright and his blessing. Esau was coming after Jacob with 400 of his men in tow. What would Jacob do? He turned to the promises of God. As he did he found himself wrestling all night long with God (or an angel of God). Jacob would not let go until his wrestling opponent would bless him.
He did get the blessing, albeit at the expense of his hip. So with a limp, Jacob could face the morning knowing that God would keep his promise.
Wasn’t God going to keep his promise anyway? Sure. But what was accomplished in that nighttime struggle was not a change of plan for God, but a change of heart for Jacob. He limped into the day with fresh confidence in the Lord.
He had prayed through not just the night, but through until God blessed. Until God transformed him. Until Jacob knew that it was not his tricks nor his treats that would protect him.
That the Lord would give us a passion for this kind of praying. Not just praying about stuff. But praying through.