Prayer of Jabez


1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (New King James Version)


9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez,[a] saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “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!” So God granted him what he requested.


Only four lines long, but there is a lot we can learn from this prayer. Consider that this wonderful prayer in buried in the middle of one of the most boring books of the Old Testament. Verse after verse of 1 Chronicles is dedicated simply to recording the descendents of each tribe of Israel, a “family tree” that goes on and on and on. Nowhere else in this book does it stop and single out a descendant of a tribe and then tell a little story about him. In fact, most people read so quickly through this book of the Old Testament that they might miss these verses altogether.


First of all, let’s consider the verse leading up to the prayer: Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” This is based on a faulty reading of the Biblical text and, as a result, radically alters the basis of Christian prayer. Specifically, the book assumes that the man Jabez was "more honorable" than his brothers and, for this reason, God heard his prayer and gave him what he desired. Though many English translations use the wording "more honorable," this is in fact not an adequate treatment of the Hebrew text. The English translation that accurately reflects the Hebrew text is, "Jabez was more HONORED than his brothers." This simple mistranslation is foundational to the radical departure from the Christian teaching on prayer. The Christian tradition has clearly understood that God hears and answers prayer not on the basis of any merit on the part of the one who prays, but solely on the basis of the merit of Jesus.


Next. Let’s look at the first line of the prayer: "Oh, that you would bless me indeed …!"


Jabez had lived a life similar to what many of us are going through - a sorrowful past, the dreariness of the present, and not much hope for the future. But raising his hands to heaven, he cries out, "Father, oh, Father! Please bless me! And what I really mean is … bless me a lot!"


If that sounds selfish to you, consider the fact that we are all creatures of God’s creation, and that God expects the best from all of us. If we are successful, then God is pleased because we are successful because of Him. If we sometimes need a little help to be successful, why not ask for a little help? You are actually saying “God, help me to be everything you want me to be. I want to be successful, but I can’t do it without Your help. God is pleased because, by praying in this manner, we are acknowledging our dependence on God. If we wish to be better, we wish this in such a way as to honor God.


The next line of the prayer states: "enlarge my territory." A Christian executive might ask "Is it right for me to ask God for more business?" My response is, "Absolutely!" If you're doing your business God's way, it's not only right to ask for more, but He is waiting for you to ask. Your business is the territory God has entrusted to you.


Your “territory” is actually your mission in life. By asking for more, you are taking on a lot of extra work and responsibility. If you live your life for God, then your work honors God, and God is accomplishing great thing through you. When you do a good deed, help others do things the proper way, of give advice to a friend or co-worker on how to lead a respectable Christian life, God is working through you. By asking for more “territory,” you are saying “I can do more for You, and I am willing to do this if you give me the chance. By taking on more work, God will also give your more resources to manage this work. This might include additional income to accomplish your goals.


Jabez's third desperate plea is: "Oh, that Your hand would be with me!" With that, we release God's power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities. Notice that Jabez did not begin his prayer by asking for God’s hand to be with him. At that point, he didn’t sense the need. Things were still manageable. His risks, and the fear that go with them, were minimal. But when his boundaries got moved out, and the kingdom-sized tasks of God's agenda started coming at him, Jabez knew he needed a divine hand—and fast. Once again, we are showing our dependence on God, and God is always willing to help. A lot of people are afraid to ask God for help. Why?


The final line of the prayer, "Oh…keep me from evil," is a way of asking for a blessed life. As your spiritual “territory” increases, Satan becomes more and more interested in interfering with Godly work you are doing. Satan does not want you to increase your faith in God, and will do everything in his power to make you fail. As you become more successful, it will become too much of a challenge to fight Satan on your own, so you are asking for God is going to show up to keep you from evil and protect your spiritual investment? Jabez acted on this belief, and his life was spared from the grief and pain that evil brings.


Two things to keep in mind as we use the prayer of Jabez as a model for our own prayer requests are:


(1) Matthew 6:7-8 (New King James Version) reminds us:

7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.


The prayer is so simple, only four short lines, that we may be tempted to repeat it daily and repetitiously. Rather than going against the teachings of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 6, learn the basic concepts the prayer teaches, and then you will know what to ask when you pray, but you will put your request in your own words.


(2) Many people might look at the first two lines and consider this prayer to be selfish (bless me - enlarge my territory). When you pray, be sure that you are not asking God to meet your needs, but rather, you are asking for God to fulfill His wishes through you. Be careful that your motives are not greedy or else this prayer might backfire on you. As you pray that God uses you more to do His work, you will be blessed with all the resources necessary to accomplish what you ask for.


God bless each of you, and may you receive the same fulfillment in life that Jabez did.