Parashat Chayei Sarah
Torah: Genesis 23:1 – 25:18
Hafterah: 1 Kings 1:1-31
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-17 & John 4:3-14
An answered prayer: (Gen 24:12-14)
The Torah portion contains a prayer of Abraham’s servant, which was answered. Let us look at the prayer, how it was answered and what followed afterwards:
This Torah portion never gives us the servant’s name. It states that the servant was the oldest in Abraham’s household, and that he managed everything that belonged to Abraham. However, from Genesis 15:2 I deduct that Eliezer of Damascus was that servant in all probability.
Abraham called Eliezer and asked him to swear an oath in a custom that seems very odd and uncomfortable to us 21st century readers. It also seems peculiar that an oath is required as Eliezer has loyally executed Abraham’s instructions for the longest time, however consider this:
- In Genesis 15, Abraham considered that Eliezer will be his heir. With Isaac’s birth, Eliezer’s status and future wealth nosed dive back to the position of a servant. Here in Genesis 24 may be an opportunity for Eliezer to grab what does not belong to him, i.e. to betray Abraham and Isaac for financial gain. The oath certainly blocked this possibility. I do not doubt Eliezer’s loyalty to Abraham, but noted that the oath removed the temptation from him. The oath protected both Abraham’s interest as well as Eliezer’s integrity.
- Abraham wanted assurance that his Covenant with Adonai remains intact. Through the oath, he ensured that Isaac will not be tempted and lured back to the land from which Abraham was called to “lech lecha”. Isaac’s future was in the Promised Land. The oath ensured this.
Eliezer travelled to Aram-Naharaim, to Nahor’s city and arrived at the well before dawn. The enormity of his task weighed upon him and he followed Abraham’s example – to call upon Adonai for guidance in uncertain situations. This is the first principle regarding his prayer.
His prayer testifies of humbleness as he addressed Adonai as “… The GOD of Abraham, my master…” It was clear whom he addressed. We too can address the LORD as “the GOD of Abraham” (and add Isaac and Jacob as well). In our understanding of GOD as a Trinity, I am of the opinion that it is not wrong to pray to Yeshua aka Jesus Christ, or to the Holy Spirit. However, in the prayer example above, GOD the Father is addressed.
In all earnestly, Eliezer asked Adonai to answer his prayer within a stated time-limit, i.e. “today”. Whilst freedom from his oath to Abraham may have tempted him, and he didn’t want to succumb to it. Eliezer reminded GOD of HIS loyalty to Abraham (GOD remembered, and Eliezer was really reminding himself that Adonai was loyal to Abraham). So doing, Eliezer was praying the scriptures – he referred to the covenant that was cut in Genesis 15. These are two further elements we should incorporate into our prayers: To state our urgency and to pray the scriptures. And then leave it to GOD as HE hears you immediately and answers immediately, although it may take time before you see the answer unfolding. HIS timing will be perfect. To pray the scriptures require you to know the scriptures, to take GOD at HIS Word, and to trust HIM to execute HIS promises. This prayer-step requires preparation work, to read and understand the Holy Scriptures. Understanding grows from reflection and analysis and questioning your own interpretation. It requires critical review of the applicable commentaries and teachings.
Eliezer tells GOD exactly where he is and to what purpose he is there and then ask for GOD to guide him to the right girl. Note that he is not praying to satisfy his own impatience, but intercedes for a wife for Isaac. Eliezer puts GOD on the spot, to show HIS favour and grace towards Abraham. As a long-serving slave, Eliezer is clearly familiar with the relationship between Abraham his master and Adonai Abraham’s Master. Eliezer’s prayer is without pretence, concise, to the point and conversational because he knows that GOD listens. Like Eliezer, we should pray to the point, without too many words. Prayer is a conversation with GOD and not a monologue to impress an audience.
Even before Eliezer finished his prayer, GOD answered him. Eliezer was tuned in to receive and acknowledge GOD’s answer and he was not too self-occupied to notice. He knew that as he prayed conversationally, GOD would answer in a like manner. GOD hears when we pray and HE answers immediately. It is only for us, limited in time and/or not paying attention to HIS answer, that it occasionally seems that HE is not answering or delaying.
As soon as Eliezer realised that his prayer had been answered, he bowed down and worshipped Adonai. In this prayer of acknowledgement, Eliezer brings glory to Adonai for HIS loyalty and truth to Abraham and for HIS guidance. He doesn’t tap himself on the shoulder, in congratulations for being such an excellent prayer-warier. The glory goes to GOD.
Once Eliezer met Rebekah’s family, he gave testimony of his purpose, his prayer and GOD’s truth and loyalty to Abraham to them, even before he ate.
Eliezer’s prayer principles:
- When in doubt, ask the LORD for guidance.
- Address the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in your prayers.
- Humble yourself before HIM.
- State the urgency that you labour under.
- Pray the scriptures. Stand on GOD’s Word and on HIS promises.
- Tell GOD straight what you approach HIM for. Get clarity in your own mind before you pray, or else ask HIM to provide clarity for you.
- Be alert to GOD’s answer.
- Thank GOD for HIS answer. Give glory to HIM.
- Testify to GOD’s truth and loyalty and glory.