As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham,
“who had received the promises,”
is asked to sacrifice the son
God had given him. Abraham’s faith does not weaken (“God
himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”), for he “con
sidered that God was able to raise men even from the dead.”
so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father
who will not spare his own Son but will deliver him up for us all.
Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in
the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.
God renews his promise to Jacob, the ancestor of the twelve
tribes of Israel.
Before confronting his elder brother Esau, Jacob
wrestles all night with a mysterious figure who refuses to reveal his
name, but who blesses him before leaving him at dawn. From this
account, the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol
of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.
Moses and the prayer of the mediator
Once the promise begins to be fulfilled (Passover, the
Exodus, the gift of the Law, and the ratification of the covenant),
the prayer of Moses becomes the most striking example of inter
cessory prayer, which will be fulfilled in “the one mediator be
tween God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Here again the initiative is God’s. From themidst of the burn
ing bush he callsMoses.
This event will remain one of the primordial
images of prayer in the spiritual tradition of Jews andChristians alike.
When “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” calls Moses to be
his servant, it is because he is the living God who wants men to live.
God reveals himself in order to save them, though he does not do this
alone or despite them: he callsMoses to be his messenger, an associate
in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a di
vine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses at
tune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in
which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks,
makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his