Scripture: Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 ESV
Observation: In Ancient Israel, like Yahweh, one’s name represented their character and even their destiny. Here, Jabez prayed that God would transform his name’s meaning to that of a blessing (see Genesis 38:15). Two of his four petitions focus on physical circumstances (expanded territory and freedom from pain), and the others address his relationship to God (blessing and protection). Moreover, this interluding text is a preview of an overarching theme for the two books of Chronicles: the efficacy of prayer. According to theologian A. E. Hill, “The Chronicler seeks to remind his audience that God’s responsiveness to prayer in the past is an invitation to offer prayers addressing present needs and concerns.”
Takeaway: This one little nugget among nine tedious chapters of tribal lineage was intriguing enough for Bruce Wilkinson to write a book about it: “The Prayer of Jabez.” According to Wilkinson, like Jabez, all of us “can release God’s miraculous power and experience the blessings God longs to give each of us.” Jesus indeed emphasized that nothing is impossible in God’s economy when we base our prayers on unwavering faith (Matthew 17:20). Still, as his half-brother James cautioned, we would do well to check our motives because God will not grant our prayer requests (enlarge our territory) if our reasons are self-indulgent (James 4;3). So if we ask God to expand our domain of influence, we better be prepared to give more of our time and talents. Because, unlike Jabez, we will likely encounter growing pains.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you hear our prayers and delight in answering them. Would you please help us submit to your Holy Spirit’s direction that we might prudently pray according to your will, having counted the cost? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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