For the fourth audience in the Catechesis on Christian Prayer, Pope Benedict turns his attention to the Jacob’s wrestling bout with God in Genesis 32 and what that says about prayer. I have always had difficulty understanding this passage, so I greatly appreciate the Holy Father’s explanation! Here is the excerpt:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the biblical account of the Patriarch Jacob’s struggle with God at the ford of the Jabbok (cf. Gen 32:23-33). This mysterious encounter takes place at night, when Jacob is alone and unarmed; the identity of his assailant and the winner of the contest is not at first clear. Jacob is wounded and must reveal his name to his rival, suggesting his defeat, yet he receives a new name – Israel – and is given a blessing. At daybreak Jacob recognizes that his opponent is God; limping from his wound, he now crosses the ford. The Church’s spiritual tradition has seen in this story a symbol of prayer as a faith-filled struggle which takes place at times in darkness, calls for perseverance, and is crowned by interior renewal and God’s blessing. This struggle demands our unremitting effort, yet ends by surrender to God’s mercy and gift. At daybreak, Jacob called the place of his struggle Peniel, which means “face of God”, for he said: “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (Gen 32:30). In our prayers, let us ask the Lord to help us as we fight the good fight of faith, and to bless us as we long to see his face.