by William J. Stewart
Amidst a list of the names of the family of Judah, we find what has come to be called in our modern day, ‘The Prayer of Jabez.’ The text reads:
Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause evil.’ So God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
Sadly, this short prayer has been highly commercialized due to the books and merchandise of Bruce Wilkinson et al. Contrary to Wilkinson’s claims, repeating Jabez’ prayer is not the solution to all our problems. Reciting the same prayer time and again makes it a vain repetition (Matthew 6:7). The Lord did not point believers to Jabez’ prayer, nor did any of the inspired writers. It is not a lost but now found blessing for God’s people. It is one of many good examples of faithful servants of God praying. Let’s consider him and his prayer today.
JABEZ, THE MAN
The opening chapters of 1 Chronicles are likely among the least read texts in the Bible. There we find a seemingly endless list of genealogical data. Of most, it is said that they lived, begot children, and died (Ecclesiastes 2:16; 9:5). However, the Spirit saw fit to reveal more about Jabez.
What made this man outstanding? He was not a great prophet or preacher; nor was he a wise man or ruler of a nation; nor was he famous from victory on a battlefield. The Spirit tells us that he was “more honorable than his brethren.” He lived righteously.
His was an uphill battle. Bible names are important. Names often describe something about the individual. The name Jabez means “sorrow.” His mother called him “sorrow.” However, he overcame what others might have expected of him, and became what God expected of him.
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed…”
This might also be translated, “…blessing me Thou doest bless me” (YLT) How often do we begin our prayers by asking God to bless us? And yet that is the very thing which Jabez did. It is not wrong for God’s people to ask for blessing (Genesis 32:24-29). God desires to bless us, and indeed, those who are in Christ are richly blessed (Galatians 3:7-9; Ephesians 1:3; 3:8-9, 14-21). The question is, do we realize the blessings which God has provided?
“…and enlarge my territory…”
Jabez sought expanded borders, longer coasts, broadened limits. Those who preach a “health and wealth” gospel will point to texts like this and proclaim that it is God’s good pleasure to fatten our pocket books and fill our lives with wealth. But is that really what Jabez was asking for? In order for his physical borders to expand as an heir in Israel, it would be necessary for another’s borders to diminish. Is that what he prayed for?
Rather than understanding the expanding of his territory to be literal, it makes sense to say that Jabez sought to reach beyond his own limitations. He sought to grow, to go beyond the comfort zones which hedged him in, and to increase in his service and usefulness to God.
But friend, we cannot simply pray that we exceed our limitations, and then wait for God to do it for us. We must pray for such, and then put our hands to the work of expanding our borders. The people of Israel had literal borders which required their labour (Joshua 17:14-18), we have spiritual borders which demand our attention.
“…that Your hand would be with me…”
The hand is used figuratively many times in Scripture with regard to God’s strength, direction and comfort. To request God’s hand be with us is to acknowledge that we cannot go it alone. We need the Lord. If we have sought God’s blessing, and are intent on expanding our service to Him, then know for surety that His hand will be upon us (Psalm 119:173). God is ready to be a source of comfort to uphold His people (Isaiah 41:10).
“…and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!
When God’s people seek to do what is good, there will be no shortage of opposition from the wicked one. Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from the evil one (Matthew 6:13; 26:41). Satan is very aware of what God’s people are doing, and just as he sought to overthrow the faith of Job, and Peter, and so many others, he will see to destroy us.
How shall we keep from evil? The first three points of the prayer lead us to this point.
1) seek God’s blessing in life,
2) establish a goal to grow in faith, and
3) allow the Lord to provide direction in life.
Notice the last words of Jabez’ prayer, “that I may not cause pain!” He did not want to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. He sought to be greater than his name, to be more than what others may have expected from him. He sought to be what God could make him to be.
“So God granted him what he requested.”
God heard his prayer, and granted it. friend, may we be challenged by Jabez; not to recite his prayer, but to pray for the very same things that this righteous servant of God prayed for. May we seek to increase more and more in our service to God, being aware of the many blessings which the Lord has given; seeking to leave behind our comfort zones and setting out for increased borders. Might it be our constant desire to not walk in our own way, but to seek God’s hand in our lives, and when confronted with the easy path of the wicked one, to turn from it and keep our feet firm on the solid rock.