Have you ever thought about your prayer life? Have you ever examined it and wished that you could be better at communicating with God? Have you ever just felt like there were times when your prayers were just hitting the ceiling and bouncing right back down? I wonder if you’ve ever stopped to consider whether there is any power in your prayers.
I want to tell you about someone who had a simple prayer that God answered in a mighty way and how that relates to us as a church and as individuals. His name was Jabez.
We find Jabez in I Chronicles 4:9-10 beginning in verse 9.
“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 pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NKJV).
Why would God answer this prayer for Jabez and what is the relevance of having it in the bible for us to read?
Consider this story:
In a small Oklahoma town that had two churches and one brewery. Members of both churches complained that the brewery was giving the community a bad image. And to make matters worse the owner of the brewery was an out spoken atheist. He didn’t believe in God. The church people had tried unsuccessfully for years to shut down the brewery. So finally they decided to hold a joint Saturday night prayer meeting. They were going to ask God to intervene and settle the matter.
The church people gathered on Saturday night and there was a horrible thunderstorm raging outside and to the delight of the church members lightening hit that old brewery and it burned to the ground. The next morning the sermons that were preached in both churches were on the power of prayer.
But the insurance adjusters promptly notified the brewery owner that they were not going to pay for the damages because the fire was an act of God and that was exclusion in the policy. The brewery owner was furious and he sued both churches claiming that they had conspired with God to destroy his business. But the churches denied that they had anything to do with the cause of the fire.
The presiding judge opened the trial with theses words: I find one thing in this cause most perplexing-we have a situation here where the plaintiff, an atheist is professing his belief in the power of prayer, and the defendants all faithful church members are denying the very same power.
It seems that sometimes as Christians we pray asking God to do certain things, then act totally surprised when God answers our prayers. We pray and pray but don’t really expect.
Back to I Chronicles 4:9-10
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’
What a pain! Has anyone ever said that about you? Jabez’s name in Hebrew means “pain”! His mother delivered him in great pain and she never let him forget it. She named him Pain so that he would always remember what he had done to his poor mother. Other parents do something similar by rehearsing all the disappointments they have felt with their children, and the pain it has caused them. You might say Jabez came from a dysfunctional family, with a controlling mother who was an expert at causing guilt for her children. But the Bible says Jabez was more honorable than the rest of his brothers. Why would the bible say that?
We find Jabez buried in a long list of genealogies — so and so was the father of so and so, and so and so was the father of so and so . . . . It goes on for many chapters in the book 1 Chronicles. You are so bored by the time you reach Jabez that you almost skip over him. It is significant that what Jabez is remembered for is not some outstanding achievement, but a prayer. He did not win a great battle or erect a great building. He simply prayed a prayer. But out of all the people in this list of characters, he alone is lifted out because of the prayer that he prayed.
Let’s look at the prayer piece by piece in order to discover why God was pleased enough with his prayer to have it forever recorded in scripture and discover how it relates to us.
His prayer was in four parts:
1) He prayed that God would bless him.
2) He prayed that God would enlarge his territory, or his borders.
3) He prayed that God’s hand would be upon him.
4) He prayed that God would keep him from evil.
Let’s look at these four things in greater detail.
1. Jabez prayed for God to bless him.
He sought God’s blessing on his life. He was not worried about being selfish; he wanted God’s best and believed that God wanted to give it to him. Maybe He remembered his ancestor Abraham, when the Lord said to him: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Jabez sought the blessing of God that he might be a blessing to the world. The Bible tells us that our whole reason for existence is to be a blessing to God and a blessing to the world. That’s it. You are not here for you. The world does not revolve around you. Your whole purpose for existence is to be a blessing to the world. And Jabez seemed to realize that.
There is nothing wrong with praying for God to bless you, if it is for the purpose of being a blessing. It is not wrong to pray for wealth, if you want to bless people with your material blessings. If you want to have more so that you can give more, then that is an acceptable prayer. If you want to be able to give more to missions or an outreach program so that people will come to know Christ, then by all means pray for material prosperity. If you want wisdom so that you can help other people then pray for wisdom.
2. Jabez prayed that God would enlarge his borders.
Jabez was from the tribe of Judah, which was the ruling class among the Hebrews. To increase his territory meant that his people would have more area to live in and that he would have more people to serve as a leader. He was not thinking of himself, he was thinking about the welfare of others. A leader is a servant of other people.
Jabez wanted to be used by God more than anything else. Is that your prayer and desire? Is there a longing, a passion inside of you, to be used by God no matter what it takes?
Are you living only for yourself or do you want God to use your life in this world? Do you want to be blessed by God to be a blessing?
Then pray for God to enlarge your life and your sphere of influence. Ask him for something so big that you cannot possibly do it by yourself. Ask him to enlarge your territory. Surely there is more to life than trying to make you happy. You have a much higher purpose.
3. Jabez prayed for God’s hand to be upon him.
Jabez knew that what he was praying for was bigger than what he could accomplish himself. He was praying for something so big that only the hand of God on his life could accomplish it.
What would you pray for if you knew that you could not fail? What is God speaking to you about that you have been ignoring? What have you dreamed about, but dismissed because you thought it was an impossible dream?
Begin to pray for the hand of God to be upon your life so that you can accomplish something great for him. What if it is something so great that when it comes to pass, you and everyone else will have to say, “This had to be the hand of God, because there is no way I could have done this by myself!”
4. Jabez prayed that God would keep him from evil.
The New King James puts it like this: “Keep me from evil that I might not cause pain.” It is actually a play on words. His name meant pain. He had caused pain, but he did not want to cause any more pain. He wanted his life to be a blessing. He wanted to be protected from the harm of evil, but he also wanted to be kept from sinning, because he knew that sin causes pain. It brings pain into the world. It brings pain into the life of the one who commits it, and it brings pain into the lives of those whom the sin was committed against. But most of all, sin causes God pain.
Do you remember what the world was like just prior to the flood in Noah’s day? The Bible says that, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Then it says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain”. Sin brings pain to the heart of God.
So, first he prayed for God to bless him, then to enlarge his territory, then for Gods hand to be upon him, and then finally for God to protect him from evil.
So these four things show us that Jabez prayed to God for real kingdom worthy things, things that would glorify God and he knew his purpose was bigger than just him and his life.
So he did not put the focus on himself, it was about other people and about God. What promises has God placed inside you? What dreams have you lost sight of today? Take hold of the promises of God and do something great for him. You may find out that your purpose is bigger than you ever dreamed possible.