Pray Toward Heaven and Row Toward Shore

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys.

Genesis 32:13-15

As Jacob headed homeward to face his estranged brother, Esau, he was understandably worried. Esau had, after all, promised to kill him (Gen. 27:41), and he was coming to meet Jacob with an army of 400 men (Gen. 32:6).

At first, Jacob prayed for God's protection, reminding the Lord of his promise to protect Jacob. He seemed to be moving forward with exemplary faith. But then he took his fate into his own hands, offering Esau lavish gifts as an apparent bribe. He planned for these gifts to be presented in stages, a ploy that would slow down Esau's progress and prevent him from a secret attack on Jacob. Was Jacob no longer trusting God? Or had God given Jacob this plan to assuage Esau's anger? The text doesn't tell us.

Years ago I heard a Christian speaker say that if you're alone in a boat in the middle of the ocean, you should pray toward heaven and row toward shore. God expects us to trust him, the speaker said, and also use our own abilities to overcome the obstacles we face in our lives. He didn't have much room for waiting upon the Lord, but was concerned that too many Christians fail to act when they should.

I believe that sometimes we need to pray patiently and to wait for God quietly. At other times, our faithful prayers lead us into decisive action. It can be difficult to know when we should act or when acting too quickly rushes ahead of God's will for us.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What is your tendency? To pray and wait? To pray and act? To act and then to pray? To act without praying? What does God want you to do with the challenges you face today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I can imagine myself doing exactly as Jacob did, praying urgently and acting cleverly. I must confess my own tendency to act before I wait upon you, even to rush ahead of your will because of my own impatience and fear. I'm sure there are also times when you want me to get going and do something, yet I sit around passively. Forgive me for my inattention to your guidance, for my hastiness and my laziness.

Help me, gracious Lord, to discern rightly what I should do with the challenges before me. Help me to know when to wait upon you. Help me to know when I should step out in faith. May your Spirit guide me, and may I be attentive to you in all things. Amen.