How To Pray Through The Guilt

When it comes to prayer, guilt makes cowards of us all. It can drain the juice right out of an otherwise lively prayer. Feeling like an impostor, I’m afraid I don’t deserve God’s ear.

But I get encouraged when I see a man like Jacob pray boldly in the face of a long list of reasons why guilt should’ve intimidated him. Born into one of the richest families in the ancient east, Jacob’s nature (and even his name – “heel-grabber”) leaned toward the dishonest. His con-artist ways soon merged with his own mother’s shady disposition, so they tricked Esau out of his inheritance rights as the older brother.

But this trick soon soured Jacob’s enire life. Esau vowed to kill him, so mother sent Jacob away to their equivalent of the witness protection program – living with relatives in another country. Now penniless, Jacob hiked hurriedly toward a shadowy future with distant relatives. As far as he knew, his future was history.

Yet at this low point, Jacob encounters the God of his ancestors. Jehovah arrests the broken young man as he’s running from his past, trying to get some restless sleep on a pile of rocks.

Note the covenant language: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you… the land on which you are lying. I will bring you back to this land.” (Genesis 28:13 NIV)

Armed with this amazing promise, Jacob slowly builds a life among his mother’s relatives, and even regains much of his wealth. But just when Jacob starts enjoying a little affluence in his new life, God speaks again: “I am the God of Bethel… Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. (Genesis 31:13 NIV)

Jacob wants to return, but he’s married to his guilt and the offspring of the wedding is fear. How will he ever deal with Esau’s violent hatred? Stirring up his faith, Jacob decides to obey and head home.

But once on the road, something happens that resurrects his dying fears; Jacob gets word that Esau is coming toward his caravan with 400 men! His heart sinks. Why does Esau need 400 men just to welcome him home? It’s clear what Esau intends to do.

In this blood-chilling circumstance, Jacob’s guilt must’ve laid heavily on his chest each time he tried to breathe. All he could cling to now was Jehovah’s word. Quieting his guilt and grounding his prayer in the covenant agreement, Jacob calls God into account for what He has promised, challenging Him to stand behind His own words – “O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper…’ Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau… “ (Genesis 32:9-12 NIV)

And the answer came: “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

Have you ever experienced praying and getting a breakthrough despite the guilt? Encourage us by sharing it…

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