The unnamed servant of Abraham is sent on a mission fraught with challenge and potential disaster (Genesis 24: 34-67). He must find a wife for the son of his master among the proper kinsfolk; securing a wife for Isaac among the Canaanites simply will not do. (Perhaps Abraham remembers his own missteps with Hagar as he and Sarah conspired to fulfill God’s promise apart from divine counsel.) The trusted servant hatches a plan. He will wait by the well, and the young woman who offers a drink to him and offers to draw water for all his camels, too, will be the right one. Obviously she will be both kind and strong—good qualities in a prospective bride. Can you imagine how much thirsty, long-traveled camels might drink?
Rebekah fulfills the job description and demonstrates remarkable courage, in addition. Joining the camel caravan (friendlier camels than when they first met), she willingly departs her home to meet the son of covenant. As she departs her family, she receives their blessing and the assurance that they fathom her larger role in God’s covenantal history with a people called to be a great nation.
What I love about this ancient narrative is the servant’s sense of divine guidance in what he is doing. He prays fervently: “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!” I do not think that the servant is simply asking God to bless his matchmaking machinations, but focuses his intercession so that all might fulfill divine purposes. He senses that he plays more than a bit part in the unfolding drama of the Abrahamic legacy.
How specifically are we willing to pray? When we pray in vague obsfucating language, it may reveal a lack of trust in God’s capacity to answer the very concrete request being made. Of course we are aware that we cannot dictate to God how to respond to our intercessions; yet love requires that we be most specific. Glenn Hinson, beloved teacher of so many, has written: “I do not think one can pray in generalities if prayer represents our deepest concerns . . .When we pray, therefore, we may pray specifically and yet be in keeping with God’s nature if we pray open-endedly (A Serious Call to a Contemplative Lifestyle, 54).
When we pray with specificity, out of love, we both express our trust in God and our love for others. Our intercessions become a part of God’s own loving spiritual energy that can accomplish more than we can “ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is the purest form of theology—what we believe most deeply about God is revealed in how (or whether) we pray.
Molly T. Marshall
I Invite you to join our sisters and brothers at Myanmar Institute of Theology as they enter a 24-hour prayer vigil for God’s blessings on their ministry. I also invite you to continue visiting our website.