On my drive home tonight I was listening to a sermon that was a good reminder for me, and I want to pass it along to you. The man said that when we pray we should be praying God’s promises back to him. Otherwise, how do we know that we will receive what we ask for? To ask him to do that which he hasn’t promised isn’t necessarily wrong, but there’s no guarantee he will answer yes. I want to spend my short time asking God to do what he’s promised since I know that he will. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
I want to tell you about an incredible resource you can use to have God’s promises in front of you while you are praying. It’s a manual called Take Words with You by Pastor Tim Kerr of Sovereign Grace Church Toronto. It’s free to use and print as much as you like. I recently printed most of it and had it bound together with a coil binding for less than $5.
So after I arrived home and put my stuff in my room, I walked outside under the night sky and knelt down in the grass and began to pray. Soon I began to wrestle with God, pleading with him to do what he’s promised– to send out laborers into the harvest field.
Earlier tonight, I told the little flock of Spanish speakers at my church that there are over 800 languages spoken in Papua New Guinea and many of them are without the Bible, without Christ, and without hope in the world. That fact is bothering me. It’s horrible! How many thousands have perished and how many more are in line? Who will go to them and preach the only Gospel that will save some of them from God’s wrath? Who will endure suffering and call them to worship the Christ who is Lord of all?
And that’s just one country out of about 190 on the globe today. The harvest field is massive and waiting to be reaped by workers. The multitudes who have never heard need missionaries to go to them if they are going to believe (Romans 10), and why should God not send well-trained teams of disciples who will endure suffering and persist in the work until they either die and go to see Jesus or the church is planted and its time to move on. That’s the way I argued with God tonight. I trembled as I thought afterwards that I was telling God that he must do what he’s said. Who am I to tell God he must do anything? I deserve to be crushed into hell and should my sinful tongue tell the Almighty what to do? Well, yes, if my wrestling with God in prayer is akin to Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. You see, I don’t think any of us will wrestle with God in a physical manner like Jacob did, but I’ve heard multiple men talk about wrestling with God in prayer. This story of Jacob wrestling with God physically was written down for our instruction to teach us that it’s right to wrestle with God spiritually– in prayer.
Notice that Jacob was alone. The text says, “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24). I’ve never heard anyone wrestle with God in corporate prayer– when multiple people are praying together. We should pray together regularly as those in the early church did (Matthew 18:19-20, Acts 1:14, Acts 2:42, Acts 12:12) but if you are going to wrestle with God you must be alone. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).
After wrestling all night, even continuing when his hip was put out of joint, Jacob told God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). And God blessed him (Genesis 32:29).
Tonight I was telling God that he must do what he’s promised– specifically this one: “Therefore (because there are crowds of harassed and helpless people in the world) pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).