Grace to you!
Today’s reflection is on prayer. It is drawn from Genesis 32:23-32. A text which, for me, is one of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament that describes in a dramatic way the power of prayer.
Jacob was the chief character in the story. He was one of the two sons of Isaac. He was desperately in need of divine intervention for reconciliation between him and his brother Esau. Fearing for his life, he had one chance to make things right and he did.
He sent some gifts ahead of his brother as a way of winning his favor. While the gifts were on the way, Scripture says: "Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day" (Gn 32:24).
This verse unpacks some attitudes we should adopt at prayer. Prayer is an alone moment with God. During those moments of quiet and introspection, we can easily see things in a new light. We attune our hearts to the right person whose help can change our situations or make things clearer for us. God is that person. Alone with God is always a beautiful disposition in prayer.
Silent moments with God are powerful. Recall the story of Elijah when he was running away from Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal and how he found God in the gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:11-13). It is a similar picture of how silence enhances a private conversation with God.
This doesn't mean we can't encounter God in the clashing of the wind or a noisy situation. It suggests silence has a powerful way of leading us to true self-discovery and insight in a way a noisy world hardly could offer.
Cardinal Sara reflected on the power of silence in his award-winning book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. It is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
So, when alone, Jacob wrestled with a certain man he understood to be God's angel. Pay attention to Jacob’s wrestle (prayer) intention: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Gn 32:26).
This is the prayer of someone who is in dire need of help. It’s a prayer of one who realizes that an opportunity of grace must not slip by without capitalizing on its grace-moment. He maximized the moment of grace, praying when he needed it most.
God answered his prayers and gave him a new name, from Jacob to Israel. In case you may not know, the name Jacob literarily means “supplanter” (Gn 27:36) or “heel grabber” (Gen. 25:26) (see The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, 2011, p. 423). Or “He that supplants; he that follows after; a heeler; one who trips up; takes hold by the land; supplanter; a detainer” (The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, 1998, p.118). Its synonym could be a trickster or a con. None of these connotations sounds like a good name to me.
On the other hand, according to the literal feature of the text, Israel means “one who has striven with God [and with men], and have prevailed” (Gn 32:28). Etymologically, the word means “prince with God” or “may God prevail” or “one that prevails with God” (The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, p. 114). It could also mean, “may God contend” or possibly, “may God rule” (The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, p. 415). It is a name that will come to point to the new children of God, the children of the promise. A beautiful name.
May I ask: When in need, do we remember to look up to God? In those moments when worries want to force us into our rooms, crawling into our bed and covering ourselves with the blanket of failure, do we remember to take them to God in prayer? When we are cornered by despair or depression, not wanting to do anything or see anybody, except maybe staring at the television, getting drunk or high on drugs to escape our worries—all ways that make us feel worse in the end—do we remember to call to God in those alone moments and pray, "Lord save me. Bless me?"
Prayers are a far better answer to our worries than liquor, weed or pills. In prayerful silence, there is calm for the troubled heart. Scripture says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…” (Ps 55:22A)."
I pray you prevail with God. Amen.
God love you. God bless you
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 14 A: Gn 32:23-32; Mt 9:32-38]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.