My life is sort of like “Groundhog Day,” so when I realized this weekend was Mother’s Day I also realized an opportunity lost in not writing a post for Mother’s Day. When my sister reminded me what this weekend’s post was about, we realized that it was perfect. Mothers, just like Jabez, need to be bold and selfish in prayer. Happy Mothers Day.
I’ve been thinking that my prayers are too selfish. I’m always asking God for guidance and blessings, protection and strength to resist temptation; especially strength for as an addict it’s easy to let my mind wander where it shouldn’t and become weak. I feel I do a really good job in my rejection of temptation but I also feel I’m able to do so due to God’s hand upon me.
Recently, I began to wonder about my method of prayer and whether or not there was a better way to ask for God’s blessings and support. So I asked the Priest here at the prison and he replied, “Pray like Jabez.” I asked him who Jabez was and he said to find Jabez in my Bible. I searched by consulting my concordance and I found that Jabez is mentioned only one time, and it’s in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.
Have you read 1 Chronicles? If not then you need to know that the first nine chapters trace the genealogy of man from Adam to Israel’s return from captivity; a time span of thousands of years. 1 Chronicles Chapters 1 through 9 is boring to read and many (most?) people skip these chapters, as I did, and miss the single person called out for his cry to God for a strong life. Jabez, and only Jabez, is the focus of the author’s only record beyond the genealogical record. One must ask, “Why?”
First we need to understand Jabez’s name. Names in Biblical times often predicted the life’s achievements of individuals. For example Soloman means peace, which is appropriate as Soloman was the first King of Israel to reign without war. So what does Jabez mean? It means ‘pain,’ or more literally, ‘he causes (or will cause) pain. Jabez’s mother named him such saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” What a way to live life! Can you imagine living in Biblical times with a name that predicts you’ll cause, or have already caused, pain? Knowing this, one might wonder how Jabez won the only spotlight in the first name chapters of 1 Chronicles.
The answer is in the way Jabez prayed!
1 Chronicles 4:10 reads
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “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 so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
Note that last word, “pain.” To include his name’s meaning in his prayer underlines the importance of one’s name in Biblical times, and the belief that one’s name predicted their life’s outcome.
Jabez asked for four things:
That God bless him
That God enlarge his territory
That God would keep his hand upon him
That he be protected from evil
It all sounds like good things to pray for. It’s when you look behind these four requests that Jabez’s wisdom becomes more evident.
First, he asks to be blessed ‘indeed.’ In these times, adding indeed to a prayer was like our adding exclamation points at the end of a sentence – a form of almost demanding to be blessed. It also means that the request is honest and almost pleading; a pseudo command. Jabez was not afraid of sounding selfish in his prayer for blessings – he was bold in his request!
Second, he asks for his territory to be enlarged. At first look it sounds like he was asking for more land property – a literal translation in our culture today but not in the times of this writing. Jabez was asking God to increase the size of his ministry. Jabez was also asking God to provide all that was needed in order for Jabez to achieve the new, added, work God would ask of him. In other words, Jabez was asking God to use in him a greater capacity than what He was using Jabez at the moment of this prayer – it could be translated to say, “Give me more to do for you O God.” Again, not selfish but bold.
Next he asks for God’s hand to be with him through it all. In this Jabez acknowledging that he could not achieve his new objectives without God’s help. Jabez was saying, “Work through me to the glory of you, my God.” Jabez was telling God that he wanted to be God’s instrument of glory. Jabez did not want to become great, Jabez wanted God to become great through Jabez. Again, not selfish but bold.
Finally, Jabez asks that God help him to maintain a blessed life by protecting him from evil. Jabez knew there’s evil in the world and that those working to do God’s work would come under attack by that evil. Again Jabez was acknowledging he couldn’t do it without God’s glorious help. As bold as Jabez was in his first three requests he was equally humble in asking for God’s help and protection. It could be translated, “I’ll do all I can, O God, help me with the rest.”
My learning from this is that maybe God wants us to be “selfish” in our payers by asking Him to use us for His greater glory. Maybe I’m not being selfish after all.
There are people who believe that by praying this simple prayer daily that they will, and do, see God moving in their lives more obviously every day.
I’m willing to try, are you? Please join me. ~jdoe