Worry and Prayer


Worry and Prayer

April 26th, 1989 @ 7:30 PM

Genesis 32-33

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim. And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight. And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape. And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove. And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us. And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him. And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company. And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank. And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant. Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves. And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord. And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it. And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee. And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord. So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money. And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Genesis 32-33

4-26-89    7:30 p.m.



And now may I have the opportunity of welcoming the uncounted throngs of you who are sharing this hour on KCBI, our wonderful, extensive radio station.  This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Worry and Prayer.

In our exegesis and in our exposition of the first book in the Bible, the Book of Genesis, we are in the midst of the life of Israel – God’s prince.  But it was not always like that.  There was a time when Jacob was full of treachery, and he flees from the face of those that he has wronged to Haran at the head of the Mesopotamian Valley, a long, long way from the home in Palestine.  And the day is now come for him to return from Laban back to home and to face Esau.

His name describes his character.  Jacob means "treachery;" it means "supplanter;" it means "cheater."  And under the direction of God, and because of the providences of life with Laban up there in Haran, he is now returning home.  But so great is his fear of meeting Esau, and coming back to the land of his fathers and of his own birth, that he is filled with almost indescribable worry and fear.  In order to find some way to meet Esau, who is coming to meet him with four hundred armed men, he divides his family and his flocks into four sections.

And one by one by one by one, each part, each parcel is to meet Esau; and that’s his human arrangement in order that the terrible wrath of Esau might somehow be assuaged before Jacob himself meets his brother.  Now, after he has it all arranged, and all of these four different flocks and groups and families are crossing the River Jabbok, and as they are on their way to meet Esau and his little army of four hundred men, why, Jacob is left alone.

And there in Peniel he has this marvelous experience with the Lord wrestling with him in his obstinate and treacherous nature all night long.  The angel finally overcomes him, touches his thigh, leaves him a cripple.  And in keeping with the almost devastating circumstance in which he has found himself, and in great terror before what the day might bring, and because of that tragedy of the angel’s touch that crippled him forever, he kneels and falls in the presence of this emissary from God and pleads for a blessing.

And that is the great conversion of Jacob.  He’s a new man.  He’s a new somebody else.  He’s not the same.  And he has a new name, "a prince of God," Israel.  That is something that all of us are to remember.  There is always the possibility of great change in anyone’s life no matter who he is.  He can be the vilest offender and the chief of sinners, but he also can be a saint of God.  The power of conversion, of turning, is the greatest power in human life.  So, Jacob becomes Israel, a prince of God.

Now, we’re going to look at his life and see how it is that things that we do hurt and destroy and fill us with all kinds of foreboding and worry.  Where does worry come from?  Where does fear come from?  Where does dread and foreboding come from?

One, it comes from wrong in our lives.  It comes from our own failures and shortcomings and sins.  All of the days and the years of the beginning of Jacob’s life was filled with the fear of the face of Esau.  And there’s no exception to that in human life.  When we do wrong before God, you can count on it, there is a nemesis that will always follow.

Adam, how splendid, how splendidly did God create him!  And with what marvelous surroundings in Eden did God place him.  Everything was beautiful.  Then when he fell into transgression and wrong, he became afraid.  That’s the word the Bible uses.  He was afraid.  And he said to the Lord God: “The reason I didn’t meet you is because I was afraid.  I’m naked.  I am afraid.”  Wrong does that.

Saul, the first king of Israel, finally came to Samuel and raised him out of the world into which he had gone in death and pled with him: “I don’t know where to turn.  I don’t know what to do.  God doesn’t answer my prayers, and I am lost and fearful.”  Sin and wrong always does that.  There is no exception to that in human life, in our lives, in their lives, in all humanity.

Now, there is another reason why we’re filled with fear and trepidation.  It is because in our lives, instead of depending upon God, we are depending upon ourselves.  You have a brilliant instance of that in the case of Jacob.  He was scheming, thinking how can he himself deliver himself from the fear of Esau, so he makes those arrangements, as I’ve spoken of, those four groups to meet Esau, one after another.

That is a tragedy when, instead of looking to God, we look to ourselves.  Do you remember the story of Elisha and of his servant?  When Elisha was surrounded by the bitter host of Syria, the servant, Gehazi said: “Oh, my master, what shall we do?  What shall we do?”  All around the armies of the Syrian king: “What shall we do?”  Elisha was unperturbed, undisturbed, quiet in his heart.  And he bowed his head and prayed and said: “O Lord God, open the eyes of my servant Gehazi.  Open his eyes and let him see." [from 2 Kings 6:17] And the Lord heard that prayer and opened his eyes, and behold, the heavens, the whole heavens were filled with horses and chariots round about Elisha.  God did it.  Instead of depending upon our strength and our wisdom, God can lead us and God can show us.

We’re so that way in all of our lives.  We’re constantly filled with trepidation and fear and foreboding for the morrow.  The disciples say to Jesus, “Lord, carest thou not that we perish?  [Mark 4:38]  Look at this wind and this storm."  God is the controller and the leader and the presider over of wind and storm.  Yet they think, because of their own weakness, that they are unable to cope with the providence. 

Think of the women at the tomb.  Do you ever think things like this when you read the story of the life of our Lord and of His death?  When the women came to the tomb, what was their care and what was their concern?  Who’s going to roll this stone away?  Who’s going to roll the stone away?  How can we anoint His body?  When the stone was there, a stone in God’s hands would be so inconsequential and so insignificant as not to be named, yet they were worried about that stone that covered the grave.

We have no reason to worry.  Worry is taking things out of God’s hands and putting them in our hands.  Worry is the interest we pay on the troubles that we’re afraid of tomorrow.  The answer to fear and to worry is in that beautiful verse that you read.  The English says: “Be anxious for nothing.."  If I could translate it another way: “Be fearful for nothing,  Be worried about nothing,  But in everything, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." [Philippians 4:6]

May I take a word out of the medical world and read it to you?  Dr. Hyslop, one of the greatest physicians that England ever produced, said to the British Medical Association, and I’m going to read.  “The best medicine which my practice has discovered is prayer, not all of those things you buy at the pharmaceutical place and not all the other things that go with the practice of medicine."

He says, “The best medicine which my practice has discovered is prayer.  As one whose life has been concerned with the sufferings of the mind, I would state that of all hygienic measures to counteract disturbed peace, depression of spirit and all the miserable sequels, I would undoubtedly give first place to the simple habit of prayer.  It is in the highest importance, merely from a physical point of view, to teach children to hold daily communion with God.  Such a habit does more to quiet the spirit and strengthen the soul to overcome mere incidental emotionalism than any other therapeutic agency known to man."

That’s not a preacher – that’s a physician.  Instead of burying and carrying our worries and our troubles and our fears and our forebodings and our dreads, just let God do it.  Lord, how weak I am, but how strong You are.  How limited I am, but how infinitely unlimited You are.  I may not have the answers.  I don’t need to know the answers.  If He knows them, that’s enough.

Now, may I close?  Faith in God and a committal to God will bring an answer to every problem and every situation that will ever develop in your life.  When Jacob bowed before God in Peniel, he became a new man, and he went to meet Esau in the strength of that committal.  So it is with us.  All of our sins and our weaknesses, God removes them.  They don’t stand between us and God.  I don’t care what you have done, nor do I care where you came from or any of the dark chapters in your life.  They are nothing.  They don’t stand between you and the Lord God.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our sins from us.  He places them in the bottom of the sea.  He remembers them no more.  God is your companion and your fellow pilgrim.  He’s your friend, He’s your strength, He’s your right arm.  Just love Him and trust Him and walk in His blessed name.

And about our tomorrows, you and God can work it out.  You and God can work it out, no matter what.  I read one of the craziest things today.  In reading in the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that great essayist of New England, somebody rushed into his, into his office one day, into his place one day and said, “Oh, Mr. Emerson, the world is coming to an end."  And Emerson replied, “No matter.  We can do well without it.  We don’t have to have it."  Just be that way.  All of these things that we think are so vital and so necessary, you don’t have to have them.

Up there in Scotland, there was a godly widow of a sainted preacher.  And she was an old, old woman, and a visiting preacher came to preach in the pulpit, and they had made arrangements for him to stay in that widow’s home that night.  He woke up early in the morning, and when he woke up early in the morning, he went to the window of his bedroom and raised the shades, and there, and there, written in glass, carved in glass, cut in glass in the window, was this Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; this is the day which the Lord hath made."  And you remember the rest of it.  “I will rejoice and be glad in it."  And it so impressed him as he stood before that window and saw this rising sun shine through it, and looked at that cut in the glass, “This is the day which the Lord hath made."

And when he went to breakfast to eat with that aged, saintly woman, he said, “I just never saw anything like that.  I never, I just never thought of anything like that.  Where did it come from?”

And she said when her husband died, it filled her with dread and trepidation of what the morrow might bring.  Then she said she opened her Bible and just happened to turn to that verse:  "This is the day which the Lord hath made,” and I don’t need to worry.  I don’t need to bear any burden about it.  I don’t need to be crushed at the possibility of what might happen on any day.  "This is the day which the Lord has made,"

And if we can be that way, oh, how sweet and how precious!  God bless us as we learn to live that day at a time.  This is the day you worried about yesterday.  Why should I worry about tomorrow?


Worry?  Why worry?

What can worry do?

It never keeps a trouble from overtaking you.


It puts a frown upon your face

And shortness in the tone.

We’re unfit to live with others and unfit to live alone.


Worry?  Why worry?

What can worry do?

It never keeps a trouble

From overtaking you.


Pray?  Why pray?

What can praying do?

Praying really changes things,

Arranges life anew.

It puts a smile upon your face,

The love-note in your tone.

It makes you fit to live with others

And fit to live alone.


Pray?  Why pray?

 What can praying do?

It brings God down from heaven

To live and work with you.

[author unknown]


Lord, how I need that, not to be troubled, not to be fearful and not to be anxious, but just turn it over to God.  Lord, You give me wisdom for the way, strength for the pilgrimage, help in every problem, an answer to every difficulty, and I’ll just depend upon You for the gift from heaven.  Then life is filled with the blessing and the presence and the sweetness of Jesus, Our Lord.

I realize that on Wednesday, it is God’s family that is here, but always there may be someone whose heart the Lord has touched, and to whose life the Lord makes appeal.  That’s why Jesus came into this world, as Dr. Wempus has taught us again and again, to open heaven’s gate for us, to wash our sins away, dying on the cross to cleanse us from every transgression.  And even in an assembly like this, there may be someone here tonight who would love to accept the Lord as his Savior, and to come and to be a part of the family of God, or someone to put his life with us in our dear church, or to answer an appeal of the Spirit that you give your life in a special way to Him.

We’re going to stand in a moment, and Brother McNab is going to lead us in a hymn of appeal, and I’ll be standing here at the front.  And if God has spoken to you, while we sing two stanzas in this hymn, you come and stand by me.  And God bless you in the way, while we sing our hymn of appeal.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Genesis 32-33




1.    Treachery of

2.    Fear in meeting

3.    Whence comes
worry and fear?


1.    Jacob’s early
dealings with his brother Esau, he feared an Esau reprisal

2.    Adam’s fear of
the Lord after he sinned

3.    Elisha’s servant’s
fear when Israel was surrounded by Syria

4.    Disciples in the
storm at sea

Dependence on self

1.    Arrangements made
by Jacob

2.    Israel in the
wilderness; no bread, food, water

Faith in God

1.    Jacob after

2.    1 John 1:9
confession, God is able to cleanse us

3.    Our tomorrow
Psalm 118:24

4.    Prayer