When You’re Up Against the Wall – 6 Powerful Prayer Principles

Jacob was scared. Really, really scared.

He was headed home, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Twenty years earlier he had fled from his brother Esau’s presence and his father’s house. 

“As soon as Dad dies,” Esau had vowed, “I will kill you.” And he meant it. 

Now, after decades of self-imposed exile, Jacob was coming home. And he was bringing his family with him. Granted, he was a new man. Years of spiritual growth had transformed him from a conniving, self-centered mama’s boy into a man of integrity and courage. 

But Esau didn’t know that. As far as he knew, Jacob was still the manipulative weasel who had stolen his blessing – and the one he had promised to kill. 

It’s not surprising, then, that Jacob found it difficult to sleep the night before he knew he’d encounter his brother. The faces of his young children danced before his eyes every time he closed them. His wives’, too, women he’d promised to love and protect. 

But instead of figuring out a way to avoid an encounter with his brother, like the old Jacob would have done, he did what the new Jacob had learned to do – he prayed. And it wasn’t just any old prayer. It was a prayer we can learn from and apply. Let’s take a closer look at Jacob’s prayers, as recorded in Genesis 32:9-12. 

6 Powerful Prayer Principles 

1. Acknowledge God’s faithfulness in the past. 
Jacob began his prayer with "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac.” By doing so, he reminded himself that God had been faithful to his family for three generations. He had kept the promises he had made to them. He could trust him. 

2. Acknowledge God has brought you to this place. 
Jacob recognized God as the one “who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’” Essentially he said to the Lord, “I’m in this scary place, with my uncertain future, because I’ve followed you.” 

The same is often true in our lives today. Obeying God’s call on our lives doesn’t guarantee that we’ll avoid bad, sad, scary places. It does, however, assure us, as Billy Graham often said, that “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” 

But what if we find ourselves in a precarious place because we’ve disobeyed or ignored God’s direction? Are we on our own? Thankfully, no. God also hears and answers the honest prayers of a repentant heart. 

3. Humble yourself. 
Jacob understood that all he had, and all he had become, was because of God’s mercy and grace. “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant,” he prayed. “I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.” 

The same is true for us. Acknowledging that God is the source of our blessings protects us from an ungrateful, entitlement mindset. 

4. Ask boldly. 
“Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau,” Jacob said. Despite his precarious position and Esau’s superior strength, he boldly asked God to protect him and his family. 

Like Jacob, we sometimes find ourselves in impossible situations with the odds stacked against us. And we, too, can pray to the God of miracles to do the unimaginable. 

5. Be honest. 
“I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children,” Jacob confessed. There is no need to hide our fears from God. He knows our hearts better than we do. Honest transparency unburdens our hearts and draws us closer to the Lord, whose shoulders are broad enough to bear our burdens. 

6 Claim the promises God has given you. 
Jacob concluded his prayer this way: “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.'" By recounting to the Lord (not because God had forgotten, but because Jacob needed to remember) the specific promises God had given to him, Jacob’s faith was strengthened. 

When we pray back to God appropriate promises that fit our situation, our faith grows stronger, too. By claiming the promises in God’s word, we remember that God is a covenant-making, promise-keeping God who encourages his children to call on him. 

Unlike Jacob, most of us won’t be fearing for our lives today. Most of our problems fall somewhat lower on the fear factor scale. But regardless of their severity, we need God’s intervention. 

Whatever you’re facing today, I encourage you to remember God’s faithfulness, acknowledge that he has brought you to this place, approach him humbly, ask boldly, speak honestly, and claim the promises he has given you. By praying like Jacob did, we, too, can access God’s power on our behalf and watch him answer for his glory. If you’d like someone to pray with you, leave a comment below and share your request.

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