Pray When Scared

Genesis 32:1-12

1Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

3Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” 6When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

7In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

9Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Experiment 101: Human Head Alive In Jar!!!

Do you enjoy watching the TV Show: “Just for Laugh?” You may have you watched the episode, Experiment 101: Human Head Alive In Jar!!!

This show presented an experiment where tourists interested in Science closely observe and examine human body parts on display. The human head inside a jar was actually alive person. He would open wide his eyes and mouth and shout suddenly. A video camera records viewer’s reaction when frightened.

Viewers who were obviously frightened were given more attention. Not all viewers were amused. There were those slow to react or not easily scared.

It’s natural human reaction to be scared or frightened. While most people may react frantically when frightened, some have managed to keep their composure under control. There are scary situations we cannot control that may alarm or frighten us. During undesirable situations, we find it necessary to pray for God’s help. God may use frightening events to draw us nearer to Him.

The lifestyle of Jacob exemplifies prayerfulness of believer when scared of something. Jacob may have been a courageous explorer, yet when he returned to Canaan, he anticipated possible trouble from his own brother, and he was scared. Why? He may have reflected upon Esau’s plan to kill him.

1. Reflect

1Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

The Hebrew term “Mahanaim” means “two camps.”

Previously, Jacob together with his household and Laban and his relatives camped in Mahanaim. After they made a covenant not to harm each other, they built a monument as reminder of the treaty they agreed upon. From there, they went on opposite direction. Laban and his relatives went home eastward.

Jacob continued on his journey westward to Canaan. When God’s angels suddenly appeared to him, Jacob concluded that the place where they camped was also God’s camp. Jacob was about to move out from that camp but decided to linger there for a while after his encounter with God’s angels.

Why did the angels of God appear to Jacob?

Jacob may not have told his family that he was actually scared of Esau his brother after he reflected on Esau’s anger. From his previous experiences, Jacob learned that whenever God’s angels appear to him, God has a message for him. God knew that Jacob was scared, and sent His angels to encourage him.

Did God send His angels as reminder that He is ready to help whenever Jacob encounters scary situations like his reunion with his brother?

Have you ever done something in the past that may have haunted you, scare you or make you feel guilty so that you may not even want to tell others? How do you normally react whenever you reflect on the mistakes or undesirable situations you have done in the past? How can we be freed from guilty feelings?

Psalm 51

Psalm 51 was King David’s prayer for forgiveness. King David was a man who desired to obey whatever God wanted him to do. Yet one time, he decided to take vacation and relaxed, instead of going to war which was his duty just like any other king in his generation. What happened next? He committed adultery with Bathsheba and masterminded the death of Bathsheba’s husband.

Be careful! Don’t be caught off guard during vacation or relaxing moments. If you reflect on what you have done and feel guilty that you spend hard earned money on worldly pleasure not for eternal treasure, reflect on David’s prayer.

He prayed in Psalm 51:10-17, 10Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Jacob may have felt guilty that he deceived his brother twice. God’s angels appeared to Jacob but no account of what they told him. It may have been God’s way to assure Jacob that He will keep watch of him in spite of his guilty feeling. Jacob sent also his messenger to research if Esau was still angry with him.

2. Research

3Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”

Where did Jacob get the idea to send messengers? Jacob may have taken his idea to send messenger based on his encounter with the angels of God. Angels are God’s messengers. Jacob’s encounter with God’s angels may have inspired him to send messengers to explore or research on the temperament of Esau. He wanted to know if Esau was still holding a grudge against him.

Jacob did not tell his messengers about his motive of sending them. He just sent them to inform his arrival. He actually instructed his messengers that he wanted to find favor in the eyes of his brother Esau. That should give us an idea that Jacob was really scared to meet Esau. He did not want a surprise arrival.

The idea of meeting his brother may have terribly scared Jacob so that he sent messengers to Esau but he did not want his household to sense his guilty feeling. A report from the messengers would help him prepare for whatever unwanted situation that may arise when he come face to face with his brother.

Vision 2020

Our mission team has come up with the concept “Vision 2020” in which we will be sending short-term missionaries to the Philippines in the year 2020. Our mission focus will be in places that are familiar to those who will go.

Many are apprehensive to join “Vision 2020” even when they hear God’s calling clearly. Why? They simply just don’t know what to expect or what to do. What do we expect that short-term missionaries do in the Philippines?

They will research or look for churches that may need our support. Another purpose of short-term mission is for missionaries to reflect on God’s call. If one is called to full-time ministry, the missionary will know it very clearly.

Jacob sent messengers for him to prepare for whatever concern that may arise not just when he meet his brother but also how he may adjust his lifestyle. Joining full-time ministry or full-time mission work is a lifestyle. One needs to get good understanding of what to expect before venturing in ministry or missions.

Even with familiar situations, we need to ask the Lord for guidance to know what God has prepared for us. Let’s take look at King David’s prayer lifestyle.

It says in 2 Samuel 5:18-25, 19David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” 20So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them.

22Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

David knew that he can easily defeat the Philistines but he did not rely upon his familiarity of his enemies. Instead, he sought God’s guidance.

Like David, when we pray, God will enable us to address even familiar situations accordingly. Our reaction should be the result of our trust in the Lord.

3. React

6When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

Jacob reacted instinctively when he heard the report of his messengers. He was scared and concerned about the safety of his people. Where did he get his decision to divide his household into two groups? Why did he not pray first?

Jacob represents many of us when we are in trouble. We may also decide instinctively before we remember to pray and ask God for wisdom. God allows us to react instinctively for us to see the difference between praying first before making decision and reacting before praying for wisdom.

When God’s angels appeared to Jacob, he called the place “Mahanaim” which also means “two camps,” it may have given Jacob the idea and personally interpreted that God was telling him to divide his household into two groups. It’s also possible that Jacob named the place Mahanaim or “two camps” as reminder that he divided his household into two groups when they camped in that place.

Daniel and His Friends

With faith in Christ, can we trust that the Lord will give us wisdom to react instinctively during unfamiliar situations? Let’s learn from Daniel and his friends.

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and brought the Israelites to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar ordered the chief of his court officials to choose young men among the exile to be his personal attendants.

It says in Daniel 1:6-9, 6Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 8But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.

It continues in Daniel 1:17-20, 17To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds… 19The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

Would you agree that it was God who gave the court official the decision to include Daniel and his friends with those who were chosen?

Anyway, God moved the heart of the official to favor Daniel and his friends. Can you believe that God can move the heart of your employer/boss so that among all employees, he will favor you, increase your salary or promote you?

It says in Daniel 2:20-21, 20“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.

Daniel’s resolve not to defile himself, and God made their ugly situation as exiles favorable to him and his friend. God gave them wisdom and they were favored and given prominent position in the kingdom.

Similarly, when Jacob decided to divide his household, it appeared that everything he did favored him. Do you agree that Jacob’s decision was wisdom from God? Why do we conclude that? What did Jacob do to deserve it?

We can easily trace when the Lord appeared to Him for the first time in his dream, Jacob responded by faith. Jacob said in Genesis 28:20-22, 20If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Jacob made a vow to give a tenth of everything that God would give him as practical testament of his faith. His determination to give every tenth of what God gave him continued to the next generation of his descendant.

It says in Deuteronomy 8:17-18, 17You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Do you agree that the Lord is the Provider of all our needs? How do you resolve to practically remember that God gave you the ability to produce wealth?

When Jacob prayed, he remembered the promises of the Lord.

4. Remember

9Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Most often, God allows us to be scared to remember His promises for us. Ever since you trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, what did He promise you?

Jacob remembered and mentioned in his prayer the promises of God. Why? Did he presume that God forget them. No!

After he mentioned God’s promises to him, he acknowledged that he was not worthy of the goodness that God gave him. Then, he elaborated his fear, not only for himself but for his household. So, Jacob was not actually scared about his safety. He was frightened of what may happen to his family.

It’s a very familiar situation, right? Many of us are very much concerned about the future of our family, but what can we do? Let’s learn from Job.

It says in Job 1:1-5, 1In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2He had seven sons and three daughters, 3and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants.

3He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

Many parents can identify with Job. We may not be a great as Job but like Job, it’s not easy to control the behavior of our children. Job was righteous and blameless but his children were party-goers. Meaning: It’s not always guaranteed that parent’s faithfulness in the Lord will result to good-behaving children.

Christian parents have responsibilities to take care of their children.

Like Jacob we have to do something for their betterment. Like Job, we need to pray for them. We can’t control their behavior but we have to teach them.

The Lord commanded in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

What command, what message have you heard from God today?

You may not necessarily be scared but deeply concerned of the future of your family members. Let it be our lifestyle to pray for our family members.

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