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Prayer of Jabez provides model for extraordinary ministry, Thomas says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–In the midst of Old Testament genealogical tables is a prayer that every succeeding generation can embrace as its own to ask God for extraordinary power, expanded influence and God’s touch and protection, said Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

Speaking to a Sept. 21 chapel audience at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee urged students to study the prayer of Jabez found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

“I am a living testimony to the power of prayer and particularly to the significance of this little prayer,” Thomas said, noting that he and his wife discovered the passage nearly three decades ago and have applied it to their lives ever since.

While the Bible provides little background about Jabez, Thomas noted from the passage that his mother “bore him in pain” and there is no evidence that her husband was present when the son was born. Beginning his life under difficult circumstances, Thomas said Jabez did not “whine and pine” but turned to God for help.

Thomas cited a book by Bruce Wilkerson on the prayer of Jabez in which Wilkerson noted that things started badly for a person no one had heard of and, after praying an unusual one-sentence prayer, things ended extraordinarily well.

“If there’s one kind of thing I’d like to leave as a legacy,” Thomas said, “it’s that things ended well.

“This prayer has changed the lives of thousands of people,” he added, encouraging the audience to “take this prayer and embrace it as your very own, praying consistently with absolute faith in the faithfulness of God.”

In Jabez’ plea for God to bless him, Thomas said, Jabez was asking to be stretched beyond that which would ordinarily be experienced. Thomas defined blessing as something that is communicated through a spoken word or active deed that is beneficial toward another person.

“If anyone ever needed to be blessed, Jabez did,” Thomas said, noting that his name even means pain. And yet Jabez lived after the time of the conquest of Canaan and knew that he could turn to the God of Israel for a blessing, Thomas said.

“Would you dare to ask God to do something extraordinary in your life?” Thomas asked his audience in Kansas City, Mo. “We talk about a grace theology so many times that we feel like we’ve got to get ourselves in a perfect position before we can plea for God to bless us. It’s not according to our nature that he blesses. It’s according to his nature.”

From the text in 1 Chronicles, Thomas said there is precedent for Christians having the prerogative of going to God to say, “Here are my circumstances, Lord, would you bless me, and would you adjust my circumstances.”

Thomas added, “Perhaps you don’t need to have your circumstances adjusted, but you need to be adjusted in the midst of your circumstances.”

And by beginning every day asking for God’s blessing, the Christian affirms dependence upon God and a desire to have him do something extraordinary in his life, Thomas said.

Jabez also asked God for expanded territory, Thomas noted in the text. In asking God for expanded opportunities to make a difference in his kingdom, the believer assumes additional responsibility, Thomas said, encouraging the seminary students to determine to make their entire lives count for God.

In receiving God’s provision of expanded opportunity, Thomas said many Christians stumble from either pride at what God has enabled them to accomplish or piety that questions whether God can use them.

“You begin to say, `God, would you enlarge my opportunity in order that people might know who I am, that I might have more recognition and more applause.’ God’s not interested in building our pride to our own destruction,” Thomas reminded.

At the other extreme is a misapplication of the apostle Paul’s admonition to learn to be content, assuming God will only provide a little, Thomas said. “There is no spirituality in thinking small in the things of God, no piety in deciding, `Just let me have my corner of the world and do my thing for God,'” he warned. Jabez already had some territory, Thomas observed, but asked God to expand what he had.

“There are people who are brilliant, talented and gifted, with every kind of imaginable quality you could dream of who are not making a difference for God,” Thomas said, adding there is “more talent on the shelf than there is in the field.”

But just as God answered Jabez’ prayer, Thomas said God will respond to a prayer for increased influence to reach more people.

He cautioned that those who receive God’s blessing enter into a realm of being uncomfortable as things begin to change, coming face to face with the reality that they are in over their heads.

Citing Wilkerson’s commentary on this phenomenon, Thomas quoted, “‘More than a few Christians have faltered at this point, receiving blessings on a scale they hadn’t imagined. Suddenly the rush under their wings starts and helpless, you start to plummet, afraid, scared, nervous, withdrawn, backed up, you pull in your horns, reign it in, you’re too far out there, this is too much, I’m nervous. I can’t do this. And rather than pray, we plummet.'”

Thomas cited Jabez’ example of asking God for his hand of protection in the midst of the overwhelming blessing. “Someone said, `If you could complete your vision alone, you’ve got too small a vision.'” Thomas said, recalling an experience of trying to build steps for a porch.

With two boards from which to construct the angled sides, Thomas said he realized after cutting one of them that it didn’t look right.

His dad cut the second board correctly and told Thomas to wait for another board to be delivered, that he was to lay against the correct pattern and cut it out.

“I was in over my head, not only in building the steps,” Thomas confessed. “If you’re going to serve God in ways beyond the ordinary, you’re going to be in over your head. You need someone to push you, be alongside you and encourage you. And that person is God.”

Thomas said Jabez also sought protection from evil so that he would not cause pain, noting the play on words with Jabez’ own name. “Jabez knew the power of temptation, weakness of his life, and how his faults hurt others,” Thomas said. “If we have the blessing of God, expanded opportunity, and the touch of God, at that point, more than ever, you need the protection of God upon your life.”

Alluding to the influence of pornography on television and the Internet, Thomas told the future ministers, “You’re only one channel click away, only one touch of the mouse away from a fall. The pull of Satan is a temptation because it has power,” he said, adding that Christians are not strong enough to resist in their own power.

“When I was young, I used to say that would never happen to me. Today my prayer is, `Oh, God, don’t let that ever happen to me.'”

Instead of praying first for the power to overcome temptation, Thomas recommended following Jabez’ example of seeking protection from evil and Jesus’ request that he not be overwhelmed by evil.

“Pray for blessing, opportunity, the touch of God and protecting power of God, and God will use you beyond the limits.”

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter