Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”
This prayer shows us the longing of a father’s heart for his son, aching to see his offspring blessed by the God who bestows kindness and favor on his children. This is the cry of one who hopes the best for another. This desire for a blessing expresses a universal, unconstrained need. Abraham’s words are instructive to us today and can deeply empower our prayer lives.
As we begin this journey of praying through the Bible, let’s start with blessing. Think of someone in your life who is struggling with knowing that God is the One who blesses. Pray this over a family member who needs second-chance grace, the kind of grace that pursues those who are far from God—or pray this for a friend who cannot see light in the darkness.
The Hebrew translation of this prayer augments the word blessing. It’s a series of words that mean “that Ishmael might live before [God].” And the blessing involves Ishmael’s face, that he would experience God as he faced the Almighty. There is relationship coursing through this verse, depicting the God who lovingly faces his creation, who walks behind, before, and beside as a protective parent. That is the essence of the blessings we pray over our loved ones—that God would shine his face upon those who need him, and that he would protect, defend, and be with his children.
It is much more difficult to pray a blessing upon someone with whom you’re in conflict. Part of your healing journey may be asking this for your friend or a family member who perplexes you: Lord, I pray they would live before you, that you would prosper their soul. In praying for our painful relationships, we become more like Jesus.
To pray for another is to bless them—to dare to ask that the One who made every heart, body, and soul would protect and walk gloriously alongside them. We see this in beautiful fulfillment as Jesus incarnates God on earth, facing the creation he fashioned, showing us the heart of the One who blesses us all.
We are blessed so that we can bless. We are given grace so that we can give grace to others. We are loved so that we can embody love to someone who truly needs it. We are forgiven so that we can learn the art and joy of forgiving another.
Jesus, would you bless the person I’m thinking of right now? Would you walk alongside them, bring comfort, show them that you see them? Would you turn their face toward yours? Would you reveal yourself to be faithful, utterly reliable, and wholly interested in their welfare? I entrust them to you. Amen.