Before Bruce Wilkinson’s best selling book, The Prayer of Jabez, had any one else remembered Jabez? God remembered him, so did the writer of 1 Chronicles. Amidst a list of endless names comes 2 verses about Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, 9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
It’s one of the few names in the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles with a story. Even more amazing it’s the only time Jabez is mentioned in the Bible. I’ll admit until Wilkinson’s book, the 20 times or so I had read through 1 Chronicles I zipped through his story without a thought.
But in 2000, Wilkinson and Jabez became a best seller. One that people either loved or hated. Of the 572 reviews of the book on Amazon, 262 people give it 5 stars, 151 give it 1 stars.
The better book on Jabez I thought was Wilkinson’s follow up book, “The Prayer of Jabez Devotional“. Less press, more impact. I found the 31 day devotional tool a good reminder to pray to God, not for material benefit, but ministry impact. Only 26 people reviewed it on Amazon, 15 gave it 5 stars, 7 gave it 1 star.
I developed my version of the Jabez prayer. Wilkinson has 4 petitions, I have 5. Must be my competitive nature. His is a best seller, mine has become a daily practice again in the last year.
1. Jabez prays: “Oh, that you would bless me“. I pray, “Dear God, pour your blessings into my life (into my church, into Your world).” At first it seemed selfish to pray for God’s blessing. But if the options are blessing or curse, blessing is what I’ll ask for. Jabez reminds me to seek God’s blessing not for my gain, but God’s glory. The goal is not to be selfish, but to serve. So what is God blessing in your life?
2. Jabez prays: “and enlarge my territory!” I pray, “Increase my ministry.” God blesses us, not that we have more, but that we give more. In 2001, I did a series of 5 messages on the Prayer of Jabez. This emphasis on increase my/our ministry led us to short-term mission trips that continue to enlarge 1o years later. So what door is God opening for you to go through?
3. Jabez prays: “Let your hand be with me.” I pray, “Without Your grace and guidance, I can do nothing of my own.” I’m a grace guy. Without God’s grace, no hope. I also have learned when God increases ministry, “enlarges territory”, I find a greater need to lean into His grace and seek/follow His guidance. Where do you need a special measure of His grace at work in you / through you?
4. Jabez prays: “And keep me from harm.” I pray, “Protect me from the evil one.” Satan is always on the prowl. Whether it’s going after God’s blessing or His enlarging territory, Satan seeks to disrupt and destroy. When blessing comes, pride is one of Satan’s popular weapons of choice. His favorite phrase being, “Look at what you have done.” Build in this response, “Look at what God has done.” The goal of the prayer is not to see how great we are, but for others to know how great God is. Where is Satan attacking?
5. Jabez prays: “So that I will be free from pain.” I pray, “Give me a new name, a new beginning in You.” Jabez name means “Pain.” His mother’s pain in childbirth becomes his name in life. When Jabez prays, “so that I will be from pain,” he is praying, “so that I will be free from Jabez.” He’s looking for a new name and God granted his request. Isn’t that so God? He specializes in new beginnings. Unlike Jabez, we have the Jesus advantage. Jesus pain and death set us free from pain and death. Where do you need a new beginning? What name, what pain, do you need to be set free from?
The Prayer of Jabez may not be your thing. That’s okay. Find a prayer pattern that works for you. When I start my day over the last year, it’s one of 4 verses I start with (perhaps a blog for another day). It’s a reminder to seek to be God’s blessing in the world and to make a difference for Him. That’s why I’m still praying that Prayer of Jabez.
How about you? What’s your prayer to start the day?