BLOG: (February 28-March 6) Genesis 28-33, "Wrestling with the Lord"
Do you know how many times the word “wrestle” is used in the scriptures? Believe it or not, not many times. Three times in the Old Testament, all three of which are in this week’s Come Follow Me scripture block. Once in the New Testament in a letter to the Ephesians. And twice in the Book of Mormon: Enos’ infamous story is one, and later Alma is described as laboring much in the spirit and wrestling with God in mighty prayer (Alma 8:10). Zero times in the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. This isn’t to say that wrestling in the spiritual sense isn’t important. It is! It’s just not usually described this way.
I would suggest that any mighty prayer could be classified as wrestling. Have you ever wrestled in such a way? Think back on your experiences with praying. There’s a marked difference between a routine prayer and a mighty prayer. For me, it feels like a vibration in my body and a true yearning of my soul, and afterwards, it feels like I’ve exercised because my body is tired too. I’d like to say that I pray this way all the time, but that would be lying and I believe in being honest (queue up Article of Faith 13!). Enos was praying for remission of his sins. Alma was praying for the Lord to bless the people of Ammonihah by pouring out His spirit on them. Jacob was praying to be delivered from his twin brother’s wrath. I’ve prayed for remission of my sins, and I’ve prayed for the Lord to bless others and pour His spirit upon them, so I can relate to Enos and Alma. I’ve never had to pray for safety fearing a sibling would kill me, so I can’t relate to Jacob in that respect, but I do have twins, they’re 5 now, and I can testify that they are best friends and worst enemies, so there’s that. Jacob wanted to preserve his family; I pray for my family daily, and try my best to call on the powers of heaven to bless and protect them when I’m especially worried or anxious.
The Lord had commanded Jacob to return to the land of his father and Jacob was being obedient. Surely that obedience deserves blessings and safety, right? Jacob didn’t feel that way. He was humble and petitioned the Lord. He acknowledged his unworthiness before the Lord and acknowledged that he trusted Him. Enos and Alma did likewise. They knew the Lord’s purpose regarding His children and that what they were pleading for was aligned with the Lord’s mission. They weren’t cocky though, they were humble and acknowledged His omnipotence. They understood that His thoughts and ways are not the same as ours (Isaiah 55:8) and that He was in charge. They were communicating their will to Him and then asking to understand His will so that they could realign theirs as necessary. The Bible Dictionary teaches us that this is true prayer, or we could say mighty prayer.
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.
To further quote the Bible Dictionary, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7-11) Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” Think about small children. Do they have any qualms with asking for what they want? Mine sure don’t! It’s natural for them. We’ve cultivated a relationship so that it’s natural for them to ask me for things they need and want.
The Lord desires us to have a personal relationship with Him. His love for us is infinite and eternal.
Through this relationship, our desire to pray is strengthened. Think again of small children. We want them to ask for our help. When my girls were toddlers, I REALLY wanted them to ask for my help when it came to doing something that may be too difficult for them, like rinsing themselves off from playing in the mud in the backyard so they didn’t get mud all over the house or sweeping up a glass jar they accidently dropped on the floor. As they got older and developed more skills, I expected them to be able to do it by themselves because I had taught and coached them through many life experiences and they were now capable of handling it well on their own. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t there should they need some backup, but I didn’t take point, they did. The Lord is the same way. He wants us to call on Him, and as we gain and develop our spiritual skills, He trusts us a bit more to act and handle situations appropriately. He doesn’t not want us to ask for His help, but let us remember that it’s not meet for us to be commanded in all things because that would make us slothful and not wise servants (D&C 58:26).
Back to Jacob. He has spent all night wrestling in the wilderness, seeking and yearning for a blessing from God. As our Come Follow Me manual says, “as a result of Jacob’s faith, persistence, and determination, God had answered his prayers.” Now this faith, persistence, and determination led him to prepare and pray mightily. He prepared how he would handle the situation, most likely with guidance from above, and prayed to have the desires of his heart fulfilled. We should note that his desires were righteous desires. (See our blogpost about desires here) How might we prepare to come before the Lord and petition Him with something we believe is a righteous desire? Elder Holland and President Eyring gave us some ideas in a Face to Face event back in 2017. The Lord blesses us with miracles that come as a result of our faith, persistence, and determination. Lots can be said about each of those words, but suffice it to say that we have to do something, we can’t just idly wait for it to happen. Reminds me of the quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work.”
Prayer was instituted for our benefit. It’s a “form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings” (See BD). We’re not commanded to pray so that God can hear us sing His praises and laud Him. We’re commanded to pray so that we can take time and make space to reflect and bring our will into alignment with His. Remember His goal is to bring to pass our immortality and our Eternal Life. He’s already got that and He is desirous to share it with us. That’s the whole point of the Plan of Salvation: for us to be like Him and share in His perfect happiness and perfect joy.
We have to invite Him in; He won’t force His help on us. My husband frequently sings (much to our children’s dismay!) the hymn “Know This, That Every Soul is Free,” and that hymn has some powerful lessons to teach us about this principle. It has to be our choice; if it isn’t our choice, we can never be like Him. He stands at the helm and invites us to follow Him and participate in and accept His gospel. Through our acceptance and participation, we invite the Lord to personally tutor and coach us.
I'm Tiffany and I live in sunny Arizona (love me some sunshine!). I have 5 beautiful daughters. I know what you're thinking, that's A LOT of estrogen! and you'd be right, but we have some of the greatest times known to mankind through our adventures in learning (we homeschool), loving, playing, and growing together. In my spare time, I love to read (I own literally thousands of books) and hike in the beautiful mountains near my home.