Do you remember hearing about the prayer of Jabez?
When Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Prayer of Jabez, was published 17 years ago, it took the Christian community by storm. Quickly propelled to the bestseller lists, it encouraged Christians to daily pray the prayer of an obscure man found in I Chronicles 4:9-10. In fact, that’s the only place in the Bible where this man—or his prayer—is mentioned:
“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” (ESV).
I’ve been praying my version of this prayer daily since I first learned of it by personalizing Jabez’s words. Here’s what I ask my heavenly Father for each day:
Your blessing as You define it…
Some Christians today limit focus their definition of blessing on material provisions. I hear Christians say things such as:
- The Bible says God wants us to prosper (III John 1:2).
- God wants His children to have an abundant life (John 10:10). He doesn’t want His children to be poor.”
- “Though He was rich He became poor so that we might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).
Of course, God is not against wealth. But nowhere in the Bible is material wealth His priority for His children. If anything, material comforts often get in the way of His process to conform us to the image of Christ. God is more concerned with wealth that will last for eternity. Spiritual growth. The fruit of the Spirit. And the most valuable provision He has already given us is the gift of salvation—a restored relationship with Him.
So when it comes to asking for blessing, I’d rather leave the definition to Him.
Your use as You decide it…
Jabez prayed for victory to expand his territory. I don’t know what territory God has for me. Is it to be a greater influence in my family, church, or social circles? Is it to teach His Word? To publish books?
Of course, I have hopes and dreams regarding how God might use me in the future. But I never want those desires to prevent me from recognizing how God wants to use me today. Whatever He decides is fine by me!
Your leading as You provide it…
Over the years, I’ve watched many Christian leaders shipwreck themselves on the rocks of their own grand plans for larger ministries and media empires. God’s plan for them might have been to toil in obscurity, but that wasn’t their plan for themselves.
I can strategize and I can plan. But without the Lord’s leading, my ideas may not be His plans for me. I need to trust Him to direct me onto a straight path (Proverbs 3:6). The Bible often speaks of our “walk” with God. Walking with someone requires that we move in the same direction and at the same pace. I don’t ever want to run ahead of God or lag behind Him!
And that You would keep me from both giving and receiving pain.
Jabez prayed for protection from harm and pain. Some scholars believe this verse can also be translated to mean that he was asking to be kept from giving pain to others.
I know, from experience, the pain caused by other people. Betrayal. Insensitivity. Negligence. Temptation. But I also know that I’ve caused pain, too. How can I pray for protection from pain if I’m not willing to pray that God would keep me from causing it?
So, my personalized prayer of Jabez is:
Heavenly Father, I ask for today:
Your blessing as You define it,
Your use as You decide it,
Your leading as You provide it,
And that You would keep me from both giving and receiving pain, harm, and temptation.
The results have been amazing as I “lean not on my own understanding” but instead acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty in every area of life!
What are your thoughts about the prayer of Jabez?
As you know, I am going through some life-changing experiences which will lead to, in one way or another, life changing decisions. I woke up with feelings of anxiety this morning, which were almost over-whelming. The sense of peace took a little while to achieve even after prayer and bible study, but it came. Sometimes praying feels like a delicate balance. I want to give plenty of praise, but then I feel like I might be asking for too much help. This interpretation seems so appropriate for what I was trying to say.
Oh, Mary, isn’t it a comfort to know that when we pray, we’re not just speaking to the Creator of the universe, but we’re also speaking to the One who told us to call Him Father/Papa? Come to Him in praise AND with your requests. His arms are open wide for you!
This past few months have been very trying, I found and still find myself, as my trying time isn’t over yet, on my knees asking God for strength to persevere at this time. For patience, for courage and most of all, not to grieve the Holy Spirit by reacting to the things and words that come my way. And like Jabez’s prayer, I pray that God will keep me from receiving and giving pain.
Jennifer, I echo your prayer!
Ava, you do know that I am trying to fit into my new normal life and this prayer will help me each day to feel God’s hand in all I do. He is guiding and I will follow!!
Thank you for this wonderful perspective and beautiful prayer!!!
The last time I read this passage I noticed the footnote ..Jabez sounds like the Hebrew word for pain. I can relate to how he must have felt growing up, every time he heard his name (particularly from his mother) he was reminded that he was a “pain”. I personalized this prayer that God would free me from the “labels” assigned to me and that He would enlarge my territory..that I will become all that He has created to be and to be free from the pain that “labels and hurtful words” have caused.
I like that, Michelle. So many of us have been hurt by labels…or hurt others with labels.