A Prayer that Leads to Love
Can prayer affect our relationships? Can it bring us love? Yes! The prayer of Abraham's servant proves it.
Abraham's servant turned to God in prayer for help. He prayed because he needed God's help to find a wife for his master's son, Isaac. The servant was bound by an oath to find a wife among Abraham's kinsmen – not from the surrounding people. This presented problems because Abraham had left his kinsmen when he was 75, which was about 65 years earlier. As a result, it is unlikely that the servant would know anyone by sight. Abraham was too old to go out wife-hunting, and he was adamant about Isaac staying in the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.
The servant had the sole responsibility for making a major decision. Abraham's ten camels, which the servant took with him, probably wouldn't offer any help. So, when he got to the town, he prayed this prayer:
"LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring…. May it be that when I say to a young woman, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac." (Gen 24:12-14 NIV)
Some scholars will say that his prayer was a formulaic oracle prayer, where the oracle only had to answer yes or no (The IVP Bible Background Commentary 55). But Nahum M. Sarna offers a different view: that this servant is the "first person whom Scripture records as praying for personal guidance at a critical moment." His prayer is sincere, a "'prayer of the heart,' uttered spontaneously and without formality." The prayer also shows direct connection to God. The servant understands "God as approachable" (JPS Torah Commentary 164).
He's asking God to speak to him in a way he can understand, in practical terms. Or, he's praying that his "criteria … might be in accordance with God's will and be effective" (Sarna 164). Either way, he expects his prayer to be answered. He trusts God to work things out.
The ever-approachable God answers his call immediately. Rebekah comes to the public well, where visitors, shepherds, and townspeople, alike, meet and talk. The servant asks for a drink, and Rebehkah not only agrees to the servant's request, but also offers to water his ten camels. Watering ten camels, which would each drink about 25 gallons, would take upwards of 100 dips into the well (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary 530). It looks as if the camels were able to help him select a wife for Isaac after all.
Rebekah met all the servant's criteria. In his prayer, he delineated the desired character of Isaac's wife: "hospitable to strangers, kind to animals, and willing to give of herself to others" (Sarna 164). Her response to the servant and his camels was proof. She was also Abraham's relative (which was acceptable and even desirable back then): Abraham's brother Nahor married Milcah; she had a son named Bethuel; Rebekah was Bethual's daughter (Gen 24:15).
But she far exceeded the servant's prayerful expectations. She was incredibly beautiful, intelligent, smart, clever, chaste, virtuous, and decisive, as her story reveals. She decided -- not her father or brother -- to leave right away with the servant (Gen 24:57-58). This was quite impressive, since the father or brother made the terms for marriage at that time.
What did her decision bring her? Love. She rode back on the camels with her maids to meet her future husband. We can only imagine what Isaac must have felt when he saw the camels coming, and what Rebekah felt when she saw Isaac for the first time. What we know is this: "Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother" (Gen 24:67 NLT). Isaac loved Rebekah. They had a monogamous relationship, which was incredibly rare in those times. Rebekah took the place of the matriarch.
The servant's simple and heartfelt prayer was answered immediately and abundantly by God, who is Love. And so, the answer brought love.
How does this impact our lives – in particular, our love lives?
- To be effective, our prayers must be from the heart, in earnest, pure, and simple.
- It's okay to be specific, to know what we want, to have high standards, and to ask God to help us.
- We can expect God to answer us in a way that we can understand.
- If a relationship is right, God will find a way to make it happen. If it's not right, then God will give us another answer. It may not be what we want to hear, but it will bring love into our lives. It just may not be on our timetable or in the way we imagine.
- God always has more blessings for us in store than we can imagine, for God loves us abundantly and infinitely.
- If we're looking for love, it doesn't hurt to bring along a few camels.