This Friday, we are reading from the Old Testament, the Book of 1 Chronicles, Chapter 4, Verses 9 and 10. It is called the Prayer of Jabez and says, “Jabez was honored more than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez, saying,’ Because I bore him in pain.’ Jabez called on 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 evil that might hurt or harm me.’ And God granted what he asked.” It may sound like a strange prayer, but let me explain it hopefully, so you will understand it and make it your prayer too.
First, we don’t know much about this man named Jabez. In fact, the first time Jabez is mentioned, it is a town in Judah, so we think Jabez was a person from the tribe of Judah. His name meant “pain, sorrow, or grief.” How would you like to be named Pain or Sorrow or even Grief by your parents? I bet Jabez was teased a lot about his name. The verses say he was more honored that his brothers, so evidently, Jabez chose to live a better life than his siblings. But Jabez prayed a special and unique prayer to God that we have recorded in the Bible here. He prayed specifically for four things.
He asked God to bless him. At first, this may seem like being selfish, but I think, Jabez is asking God not just for “stuff,” but to bless him, so he can be a blessing to others. We should always try to be a blessing to others in whatever ways we are able. Then he asks to enlarge my border. Again, this seems selfish too, but Jabez doesn’t want more land. He wants more influence, so he can be the blessing to others that he just asked for above. He wants the ability, wisdom, and resources to reach and influence others for God. We too should ask our Lord for the things we need to reach our friends and neighbors for God. Then he asks for God’s hand to be with him. We always need God to be with us, so we can know what to do, say, and think the way we should. And finally, he pleads with God to keep him from evil that might hurt or harm him or even others. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We ask that we might stay out of trouble by doing what is right for ourselves and our friends, so we don’t hurt anyone, including ourselves, by our sins.
There, you have it. A special prayer prayed by a special man in the Old Testament. May we ask God for the same things: to give us everything we need to be a blessing to others we meet, to never leave or forsake us, and to help us to always do what is right and just for ourselves and others we know. Let’s remember Jabez and how he rose above what his name meant to live for God and want to help others live for God too.
Let’s say a prayer. Father God, help us to be like Jabez, so we can be good examples to You and others we meet. Keep us from getting into trouble by reminding us of what we should be doing to be nice and kind. Thank You for giving us this prayer to help us remember these things. In Your name we pray. Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church.