Birdwoman Falls, Glacier National Park

Jabez's Prayer

  "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.    And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested"  (I Chronicles 4:9-10).

    The name Jabez means "to grieve" or "be sorrowful".  His mother gave him that name, because she bore him in pain or sorrow.  She may have had a breach birth with him or it may have just been a hard time in her life.  In any case, Jabez got the name because his life started out in sorrow and he carried that name with him. How would you like to go by a name which means "to be sorrowful"?

    The Word says that Jabez was more honorable than his brethren. In his prayer, we can see some of the factors that made him worthy of honor. Although his life began in sorrow, Jabez didn't give up because of the hardships.  He didn't blame his parents, the world, himself, or God.  He didn't become angry, depressed, or bitter.  Instead, he turned to God.    The Word says that Jabez "called upon the God of Israel."  James 4:2 says, "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not."   We are to ASK in order to receive. God gives us a fantastic invitation in Jeremiah.  "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).  Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:   For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).

    The name for God used in this passage is "Elohim".  It is the plural form of "El" meaning the mighty one. He is the one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It is the name for God used in relation to God being the covenant God.  He is the God who entered into a covenant relationship with man.  He is the God who is true to His Word.  He keeps His promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped this God because He did what He promised.  He is the self existing, all sufficient, eternal God of Israel.  The word "Israel" means the one who prevails with God.  Jacob, the supplanter, was given the title, Israel, after he wrestled all night with the Angel of God.    Some people are independent or too prideful to ask.  Some are too fearful to ask.  Others are just ignorant of God's promises or they don't see God as being a good God.   However, Jabez went to the source of creation, the source of all blessings.  Jabez called upon the God of Israel.

    Now some would say that Jabez was selfish in his prayer, but let us look a bit closer.  He said, "Oh that thou would bless me indeed."  In the Hebrew language the word "bless" is used twice for emphasis.  It is blessings upon blessings.  Some would grumble and struggle with the crumbs that fall from the table when they could have a nine course meal at the King's table. It would be like someone going on an Alaskan cruise as my wife and I did last year and packing sandwiches in our luggage for the trip when you can eat twenty-four hours a day, all you want, for the price of the cruise. However, David declared, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies" (Psalm 23:5a).  Remember Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan. David commanded Ziba, the servant of Mephiposheth, his fifteen sons, and twenty servants to provide for Mephiposheth. David also invited him to sit at the king's table as one of the king's sons.  It was a place of honor, blessings, and fellowship.  Mephibosheth did nothing to deserve the place at the king's table, but his father, Jonathan, had made a covenant with David, the king.  Because of the covenant that Jesus made for us by dying on the cross, we are invited to sit at the King's table.  Dare we accept the invitation?  Paul declares, "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)   And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesian 2:5-6). At the King's table, we also have access to all the promises of God (II Corinthians 1:20).

    I also believe that Jabez just didn't ask to be blessed to heap it all upon himself, but he asked that he might be a blessing to others.  We can't give to others what we don't have.  In Genesis 12, God promised to bless Abram that he and his seed, that is you and me by faith, might be a blessing to others. "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed"  (Genesis 12:3).   In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus told the parable concerning how to pray.  There was a man who had a friend come by his house, but he had no bread to set before him.  So, he went to his neighbor's house at midnight and knocked on the door asking for bread that he might share it with his friend.  In the conclusion, Jesus says, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13).   We are to go to Heaven's door and knock and keep on knocking, and ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking for the power of the Holy Spirit that we may share the bread of life, Jesus, with those who are just sojourning though life.  Hebrew 11:6 declares, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

    Another factor that we can see in the prayer of Jabez was that he left the door open as to how and when God was to bless him. Sometimes we try to put God in a box and become disappointed, depressed, and angry when He doesn't fit. We should pray in faith according to the Word, and by the Holy Spirit, but leave the results in God's hands.  When my family and I were living in Ft. Worth, Texas, I had partitioned off part of the single car garage in the house that we were renting just to have another small room.  I began to pray for a larger house to live in.  I thought that God would surely provide a pastorate for me and a parsonage for us to live in.  God indeed provided a new house almost twice the size we had, but not in the way or in the timing that I expected.  In fact, instead of living in a house that was owned by a church, God just gave us a new house less than one year old.  We should follow the model prayer that Jesus gave, "Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

    Next, Jabez asked God to increase his borders.  This implied that he would not only have greater possessions and authority, but also greater responsibility.  I remember on one occasion that I prayed all day as I was traveling on the highway asking God to increase my ministry.  Before the day was over God opened the door for me to show Christian movies at the Eden Detention Center.  However, I didn't realize at the time that it would become a weekly ministry that would continue for several years.  We, at times, want the position or ministry, but fail to take the responsibility.  Jabez recognized that with greater authority comes greater responsibility.  Sometimes we get upset at God when He doesn't give us the position that we desire, but we must first be faithful over the little things before He can trust us with the larger things.  In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the master, who represents God, gave to each servant according to his ability.  Then it became the servants' responsibility as to how they cared for that which was entrusted to them.

    Jabez also asked that God's hand would be with him.  God's hand represents God's guidance, strength, and ability.  When God's hand was upon someone, they could do things that they could not do otherwise.  Jabez recognized that he could not handle the task alone.  He needed God.  Pride says, "I can do it myself, thank you."  Humility say, "I recognize my limitations and know that I must depend upon God to accomplish what He has set before me.  Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).   There are three D's here: destitution, detachment from self, and dependence upon God.  When we walk through these three D's we enter into kingdom living.  Paul declared, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:10).

    Jabez also recognized that with a greater responsibility there would be greater temptations; therefore, he requested that God would keep him from evil and the consequences of evil.  With a greater authority or position there is a temptation to disregard superiors, assume authority we don't have, and become the final authority ourselves.  There is also a temptation to be judgmental of others and not to show kindness, mercy, and grace.  Jesus gave us the model prayer saying, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one)" (Matthew 6:13a).  There is a temptation to think that because of the position we have that we can fight the devil without God's help and the support of others.  All too soon, we may forget that it is only by God's grace that we are in the position that God gave us.  We need God's protection from evil and the consequences of evil.

    Yes, Jabez was more honorable than his brethren "And God granted him that which he requested."  Now here is the challenge, "Are you responsible enough to pray Jabez's prayer and have God grant your request?"  When I think of praying the prayer of Jabez, I do so in fear and trembling, realizing that if God grants my requests that there will lie ahead greater responsibilities, a need for a greater dependence upon God, and greater temptations.  God help!