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FIRST-PERSON: Life’s limitless reach, Old Testament prayer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Much has been said about the tiny prayer out of 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, otherwise known as the “Prayer of Jabez.” The first thing that I want to mention is that my family loves the “Prayer of Jabez.” We believe that when followers of Christ pray Scripture [whether Old or New Testaments, mind you] we stand on solid ground. But what kind of prayer is this? Some have denigrated it into a “selfish prayer.”

Some have elevated it as a mystical “formula for prosperity and wealth.” I believe that if we study closely the Word of God, we will find that the Prayer of Jabez reminds us of this truth: as our families rely on the Lord for help in every facet of our lives-for direction, for help, for protection, for strength-God answers with an affirmative “yes!”

Most who study this passage first look at Jabez’ request. I want to do something a little different. I want us to look at his name. In the context of this passage, we need to understand the weight of Jabez’ name: his name means “sorrow,” or “pain.” The power of a name is huge in the Old Testament. In Genesis, when we talk of Jacob, whose name means “heel-grabber” or “supplanter,” we realize that Jacob lives up to his namesake. When we think of Abraham, whose name means “father of many nations,” we realize that he lives up to his namesake. When we think of the prophet Isaiah, whose name means “The Lord has saved,” we see that he lives up to his name: he is a prophet who talks about God’s salvation.

But what about Jabez? If his name means “sorrow” or “pain,” will Jabez live up to his namesake? Will his life be one of pain and sorrow? Realizing this perspective, Scripture highlights a man who asked God for help, and God answered his request. Jabez needed help to overcome his name, the label that was put on him. And you know what? God helped him-God answered his request. Jabez’ name turns on its head when in verse 9, the text reads, “And Jabez [pain/sorrow] was more honorable than all of his brothers.” How can a man named “pain” and “sorrow” receive honor? Well, very simply, Jabez asked God for help. He requested that God would bless him. He requested that God would increase his territory. He requested that God would put his hand upon him, and he requested that God would keep him from evil, so that he might not cause pain. You see, the key to the prayer lay in who was asking and who was answering. The text suggests that Jabez leaned on God for help to overcome his name, and God answered his request.

What a picture for our families. Labels and negative titles have been plastered on the family. Even as the divorce rate skyrockets, even as families are at war with themselves, even as we face difficulties and fronts that threaten our homes everyday, we have hope. What is our hope of overcoming these negative forces? Our hope is the Father. When we go to Him and lean on His strength, we will find that we will experience God’s hand on our families. We can ask Him to move us beyond the statistics, move us beyond the difficulties, and move us closer to Him. When we rely on him, He answers us with an affirmative “yes.”

Is the “Prayer of Jabez” a selfish prayer? I don’t think so. Is it a mystical formula for wealth and prosperity? I don’t think so. I believe that the “Prayer of Jabez” is one more passage out of the Scriptures that reminds us this truth: God responds to hearts that rely on His strength rather than their own. So when you come across 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, remember this: God loves hearts that trust, rely, and live for Him.
For more of Dr. Thomas’ resources, visit Lifepoints, at www.firstonthe.net.

    About the Author

  • Dr. Claude Thomas