His name appears but once in all of Scripture, though it seems an ancient town in Israel may have been named for him. We would pay him no notice but for the fact that Scripture says of him, “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain’” (1 Chronicles 4:9 NKJV 1975).
But what made him more honorable than his brothers that God should take notice of him? Verse ten discloses it was his resort to prayer, and what he prayed for reveals him to be a person whose life was a blessing and not a grief or disappointment to God or to the mother who bore him.
Jabez was a descendant of Judah and it is believed, that he was an ancestor of King David. So, he lived in the days of conquest that began under Joshua and continued until the days of Samuel the prophet, the last judge over God’s people, who anointed David as Israel’s king.
But what made him a man whom God honored and blessed? The short answer. It was his devotion to prayer. The long answer. It was for the four things he begged of God. It is sometimes thought that his prayer was self-centered. What would you make of it?
“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”(1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV 1975).
Let’s take a closer look and see what he desired of God.
First, he prayed: “That You would bless me.” It is impossible to live the kind of life God would have us live for His glory unless His favor rests upon us. This is not a request for material wealth, but for the smile of God’s face as we live and work for His glory in this wicked and evil world. It is knowing the joy of His presence. Isn’t that the approval we ultimately seek? As the old hymn has it, “May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek the lost to win.” That is the blessing we like Jabez ought to desire.
Second, he asked: “And enlarge my territory.” The will of God for Israel as she entered the Promised Land was to occupy all the land God measured out to the twelve tribes by Joshua. Jabez sought to occupy all that God had appointed for him. And, he asked for more, not for selfish gain, but for the enlargement of God’s kingdom. You and I are not appointed to enlarge real estate for God in this age, but we are called to enlarge the Kingdom of Heaven by fulfilling our mission to make disciples of all nations. Are we like Jabez seeking the enlargement of His Kingdom by reaching out to others for Christ?
Third, he pled: “That Your hand would be with me.” Without the enabling support and power of God, Jabez would not be equal to the task to which God had called Him, let alone to accomplish the enlargement of the Kingdom beyond his allotted borders. So, too we are in desperate need of God’s power, His resurrection power, to fulfill the mission Christ gave to us. What is the strength you lack that you know you must trust God to supply? Shall we not plead God for it?
And fourth, he begged: “That You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” The birth of Jabez caused great pain to his mother. She survived it but named her son “Grief” or “Pain” for that is the meaning of Jabez. But Jabez did not want to be remembered as a “Grief” to God. He wanted to be remembered as a faithful servant who did not embarrass or bring shame to the Lord he served. I fear sometimes, that I might be a “Grief” to God. Do you? We do not have to be a thorn in the Savior’s side. Our Savior did all the suffering that needed to be done at Calvary. His resurrection means that He lives to help us live lives transformed into His likeness. Yes, it is not ultimately about our joy, though our joy is in it, but it is about our desire to see His smile, His favor, and His pleasure at work in us.
One thought on “The Prayer That Made an Unremarkable Man Remarkable to God”
After reading your post I was convicted. When a man gets his eyes off “Thy kingdom come” and onto “my kingdom come” the eternal and contextual substance of Jabez’s prayer can be quickly subverted by the flesh. I must admit so many of my Jabez-related prayers have been wrapped in a desire for my glorification rather than God’s, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.”
The first question in the Westminster Catechism is What is the chief end of man?
The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Your message conveys a true God-focused perspective. Thanks for correcting my misguided self-centered perspective regarding Jabez’s prayer.