After Jacob prayed (in Genesis 32:9-12), he sent his servants ahead with presents for Esau in an attempt to find favor with him. Then he also sent his family ahead while he was left alone. There he wrestled with a man until daybreak.
I can kind of relate to this story in a couple ways. I was a wrestler in high school, and I have a bad, arthritic hip.
Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32: 24-29
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
This man that Jacob wrestled with was not an ordinary man; he was, in fact, the preincarnate Christ (Hosea 12:4). His wrestling was not just physical wrestling; it also involved agonizing prayer (Hosea 12:4). Evidently Jacob knew that this man he was wresting was from God, because he refused to let him go until He blessed him. Thus, they wrestled until dawn, and the man (who was Jesus) finally blessed him.
What a story! And what a man this Jacob was—for he was not willing to give up the promise of God (Gen. 32:12), and likewise wrestled with God all night for a blessing, though God had to cripple him in the process (Gen. 32:25).
Indeed, the blessing came out of the crippling of his hip. For by this affliction God broke him down—humbled him—so that he confessed all of his sins that were stored up so long: sins against Esau (when he took his birthright), sins against his older father (when he deceived him), and sins all against God. And this is really what all the wresting was about; he was striving against God in regard to past sins. For while he was so close to Esau, all his memories and stored up guilt came to the surface, and he was forced to wrestle with them and deal with them. And so finally, in the wresting of prayer, God broke him down so that he confessed his sins; then God blessed him for it.
But there are other lessons we could learn here: mainly that blessings in prayer require persistence, that prayer is hard work and sometimes even painful, and that through it all, if we persist until the end, we will prevail and find a blessing from God.