Sometimes life’s hard knocks can knock us down.
Sometimes we can begin to let ourselves be defined by those hard places.
And sometimes we decide that we won’t be.
Right smack dab in the middle of a family reunion of sorts, tracing the nation of Israel in a massive genealogy found at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, suddenly Jabez, man of mystery, appears on the scene. Just a couple of sentences tucked near the beginning of chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, and all because he prayed.
I have wondered about this prayer of Jabez and was not satisfied with the information I found. So I asked God for more insight this morning and was blown away.
The chips were stacked against him. Ever felt that way? Jabez can relate. And yet He prayed. Boldly.
❁ His name meant pain. Literally.
His own momma was a bit bitter from the pain his birth brought to her, so she gave him a name to remind her and everyone else that he had caused pain.
Not a strong start, right? But he did not let his name or his past hold him back. He did not allow shame to be his heritage.
He prayed, anyway. But what is intriguing about his prayer is that at first blush it seems self-serving. He asked for:
❁ Blessing – “Oh that you would bless me!”
Jabez had passion and he had faith. He did not rotely pray these words. He meant them. He was not asking for blessing from a place of entitlement, but from a place of need. God hears us when we cry out to him. Sometimes the very sources of pain for us can drive us out of apathy, wake us up and fill us with passion.
❁ Provision – “And expand my territory”.
Jabez’ request for more territory is interesting. He did not ask for riches, though more land could achieve that. He was asking for influence. At times in this life, we will feel minimized—like our lives are not significant. I imagine Jabez shared this sentiment, but the boldness to ask for an increase in territory was a step of faith. More responsibility. He did not want to live an ordinary life of comfort.
❁ God’s presence – “Please be with me in all I do”.
Do you feel the passion in the simple word, “please”? He ached for God’s presence. He knew He needed Him. This reveals that he did not just want these things from God, but wanted God Himself. He craved God’s presence. He depended on God.
❁ Pain and Trouble Avoidance – “And keep me from all trouble and pain!”
Man, do I get this prayer, I have spent most off my life worrying about potential pain and being afraid of the “what if’s”. Finally, the LORD revealed to me that worrying about the future was not trusting that His grace would be there for me in that space and time. He is my portion. He is enough for whatever I face. But here is Jabez echoing the words my heart has longed for—No pain. No sorrow. No troubles. Oh how much I feel this prayer deep in my soul.
But Jabez’ words here are not merely self-serving. They were words bathed in trust and relationship. He had known pain. He looked to God for His comfort. And he boldly asked for God to keep him from ALL trouble and pain. I think such a prayer is also an understanding that God keeps us fro all pain because He is with us. He is our Strength, our Refuge. Our Hiding Place.
And God answered his prayer.
Perhaps tucked in this simple prayer there are some truths we need to discover for ourselves.
Sometimes we can be afraid to pray such a prayer as Jabez because we think our faith might be hurt if we don’t get what we ask. Jabez did not hesitate. He did not appear to doubt, either. He was “the one who prayed”. And he knew God was the only One who could grant what He asked.
Jabez was born in pain, but he did not let that define him. We don’t have to let life’s dramas or other people define us, either. Rather, we can choose to be defined as one who sought God in and through it all.
This is telling. He knew where to go and he went. He drew near to God and he asked for things that mattered in his life. Already humbled by his background, he leaned on God and not self for his portion and well-being.
God invites us into a relationship with Him and so often we run to Him to get things. People can try to use Jabez’ prayer as a formula, but if we don’t have the heart of Jabez, the prayer is mere words.
Don’t give up, friend. No matter how hard things get, the school of hard knocks teaches us how to pray with passion and boldness just like Jabez did.
𝐖𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐲 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐦𝐞?
God, please help us to be unafraid to draw near to You. Reveal what holds us back from a child-like faith and help us to passionately and boldly ask what is on our hearts.
Move in our lives for Your glory.
Bless us and increase our influence that others might know You!
Please be with us, oh God in all that we do and say.
And protect us, sweet Savior, keeping us from all trouble and pain!