I was born with a crooked foot. I wore a brace and my parents had to do exercises on my foot while my bone was still soft to help straighten it. While I don’t remember that time, I’m told I screamed long and hard when they were molding my tiny little bones. My Mom said the doctors didn’t think I would ever walk properly let alone be able to run. Later I had to wear corrective shoes for several years. I absolutely hated them and am positive that’s why I might have a gluttony issue when it comes to shoes today. But that is a story for another day.
Somewhere along the line I started playing tag with friends. I played church softball, school basketball, tennis and ran track. In recent years I have run everything from a 5k to a marathon as well as a couple of triathlons. The complications at my birth did not turn out to be my destiny.
“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free of pain. And God granted his request.” 1 Chronicles 4:10
God singles out this simple but powerful prayer in the midst of a long and tedious reading of genealogy. The prayer sparkles with bold glitter in contrast to eight chapters of the rather monotonous list of names.
There isn’t much known about Jabez. His mother named him Jabez because it meant pain. We can only wonder if it’s from physical childbirth or the way he was conceived. We do know he was more honorable than his brothers. (1 Corinthians 4:9)
This prayer gives us a glimpse of who he became though. A man bold enough to ask God for a blessing so that he could pursue the purpose God had for him. Perhaps he was thinking back to the blessing promised to Abraham when God pledged to make his descendants as numerous as the stars. (Genesis 22:17) Make no mistake though, Jabez wasn’t asking for wealth or material blessings, but the blessing of purpose for his life and how to further the kingdom of God.
This prayer also gives us the opportunity to make it our own. To make it personal we need to ask ourselves some questions.
What blessing would you ask for? That your whole family would know Jesus? That He would bless you with a ministry or peace within your community. Maybe you would ask for something completely different. The blessings I though of are a true understanding of His word, the desire to share it with others and an open heart as I listen to where others are in their spiritual walk. Really there is no limit to what we could ask for.
Jabez asked for his territory to be enlarged. Was he talking about his family, a ministry or something else?
Today that might mean growing the number of people or acres of land for a ministry. It could also mean growing hearts closer to Jesus or to know God in a mightier way. For some it might mean something as simple as finding a church where they can grow. I am choosing In the Whisper to be my territory, and would love to see growth there.
“Let your hand be with me.” Jabez knows that he needs the hand of God with him to have the presence of God’s power to lead, strengthen and protect him as well as the blessing he asked for. That certainly holds true for us today as we face busyness, technology, hobbies and so many other distractions.
“Keep me from harm so I will be free from pain.” (Keep me from harm so I will not be grieved -KJV) Jabez understands that there is a whole lot of evil that can keep him from his blessing. The evil of sin, trouble or the enemy are all potential setbacks. Jabez is asking that those things and more are kept from him so that he and his blessing aren’t hurt or grieved, or even make him a man of sorrow. A destiny he is trying to prevent.
Today I think of all the things we have in our presence that keep us from our purpose. We have a computer at our fingertips with pages of apps to fill our time and minds. We have as many as 800 channels on our televisions to choose from as well as millions of books and games to keep us occupied. Then there are sports to both play and watch, long work weeks, mandatory fun and so much more. While these things aren’t necessarily wrong let alone evil, are they keeping us from fulfilling our blessing we have asked for? Our purpose? Can they harm us?
Jabez’s story started with pain for whatever reason, but that was not his destiny. He became a man with more honor than his brothers and whatever else he did on this earth; he left the world with a precious prayer that can radiate that same light for us today that it did for him thousands of years ago. His prayer helps us define our blessing with God, letting His fingerprints touch every part of our purpose.
Let’s not forget the verse after the prayer either. “And God granted his request.”
The prayer of Jabez is a beautiful example of faith and reliance on a blessing of God. His prayer became an opportunity of grace. Grace that God kept and blessed him with so that his life did not live up to his name.
Will you take this prayer and make it your own? I challenge you to write it down and keep it close as you choose the blessing you seek from God. Read it throughout your day, reflect on it and make it yours. Then let me know what you blessing you choose and what territory you will grow so I can pray for you as you work with God to maintain it.