The Prayer of Jabez
Recently I was introduced to a small book titled "The Prayer Of Jabez." The book discusses a small passage of Scripture which tells us about Jabez, his mother, and a prayer that Jabez prayed. In fact the whole story of Jabez and his prayer only encompasses two verses included here for your reference,
9) Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him with sorrow." 10) Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my border! May your hand be with me, and may you keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" God granted him that which he requested.1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (WEB)
I was first intrigued by the book and the attention given to Jabez's prayer. The prayer of Jabez could easily be missed even by a serious Bible student. It was a reminder to us that God's word is filled with so many excellent truths and accounts of God's dealings with mankind in history. Keep reading God's word! Consider that Jabez prayed this prayer to be free from harm and pain and God was willing to grant him this request. If we think about it, we have probably prayed similar prayers and God has spared us as well. We may not have been spared from every harm, but no doubt we all have stories of how God has protected us in some situation where injury seemed inevitable. The encouraging fact here is that God did in fact grant His request. And that is the God we serve, the God who has our best interest and protection in mind.
Yet, perhaps there are those that may have been discouraged by the prayer of Jabez! Certainly God has never given us his word to discourage us, but if we consider the prayer of Jabez without due consideration to other prayers in Scripture we may in fact find ourselves discouraged. Discouraged? What about those who have wished and prayed something similar, but God has had a different answer? Does that mean that the good God is not their God also? Of course no one likes pain. And we imagine that we are not alone in wishing our lives to be free from pain. What good American wouldn't love to pray the prayer of Jabez and have God grant his request? It is the American dream to have a pain-free life! But our good God's dream for us is quite beyond the American dream. God's desire is that we would be shaped into the image of Christ in preparation for the best after-life.
There are numerous other prayers from Scripture that are interesting to compare along side the prayer of Jabez. I have selected four other prayers from Scripture to consider. Our goal is to join the saints of the Bible in setting our hope fully on serving God's purpose for this life and anticipating eternal fellowship with Him in the after-life.
A Prayer of Elijah
We read of Elijah,
1) Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2) Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I don't make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time!"
3) When he saw that, he arose, and ran for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4) But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree. Then he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough. Now, O Yahweh, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers."1 Kings 19:1-4 (WEB)
Elijah was one of the first great prophets in the nation of Israel. He never wrote a book, but he did serve the Lord without reservation. God's commitment to Elijah is measured by God's willingness to answer Elijah's prayer for fire from Heaven in a competition against the false God Baal and his prophets, and his prayer to stop the rain for three years and then start it again. Elijah's commitment to God is measured by His willingness to put hundreds of prophets of Baal to death for their false teaching. Of course God's mandate through Christ is no longer to slay false prophets, but to preach against all error with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we can still learn from Elijah. Consider the extent of His zeal for the Lord. He laid everything on the line for God to find himself praying, "take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers." God did not answer Elijah's prayer and take his life, but He did give him a new ministry at this lowest moment. God told him to get up and disciple Elisha. Likewise there is hope today for those who have given everything to God to discover it is not enough. God is the one you need to look to for your next step.
A Prayer/Psalm of David
We read of David,
1) Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness.
According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
2) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.
Cleanse me from my sin.
3) For I know my transgressions.
My sin is constantly before me.
4) Against you, and you only, I have sinned,
and done that which is evil in your sight;
that you may be proved right when you speak,
and justified when you judge.
5) Behold, I was born in iniquity.
In sin my mother conceived me.
6) Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts.
You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7) Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8) Let me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones which you have broken may rejoice.
9) Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all of my iniquities.
10) Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
11) Don't throw me from your presence,
and don't take your holy Spirit from me.
12) Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Uphold me with a willing spirit.
13) Then I will teach transgressors your ways.
Sinners shall be converted to you.Psalm 51:1-13 (WEB)
David sinned. God's punishment was the death of Bathsheba's son, the sword would never leave his house, and his own son would lie with his wives. Who could remain standing after confessing this sin and receiving this punishment from God? David could not. We read his heart poured out to God in this Psalm. David's concern could no longer be about peace and security in this lifetime. Nathan had just told him he would never have it. These difficult things lead David to understand that his sin was truly against God and that God desires that David's heart be cleansed in the deepest parts. David needed to accept his punishment like a man and place his trust fully on God for the future. And there is hope for believers today who though forgiven carry the scars of sin in their past that still cause great pain in their life today.
A Prayer of Jesus
We read of Jesus Christ,
36) Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go there and pray." 37) He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and severely troubled. 38) Then he said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch with me."39) He went forward a little, fell on his face, and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire."Matthew 26:36-39 (WEB)
Jabez prayed that his life would be free from pain. Jesus prayed that as well, but added, "nevertheless, not what I desire, but what you desire." Brother and sister in Christ, are you not glad that Jesus prayed that. God himself was willing to suffer and die so that we could be with Him forever. And should believers ever need to pray difficult prayers today, we have Christ himself who understands all our suffering interceding for us from Heaven.
A Prayer of the Disciples
We read of the disciples,
23) Being let go, they came to their own company and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24) When they heard it, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, "O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; 25) who by the mouth of your servant, David, said,
'Why do the nations rage,
and the peoples plot a vain thing?
26) The kings of the earth take a stand,
and the rulers take council together,
against the Lord, and against his Christ.'27) "For truly, in this city against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28) to do whatever your hand and your council foreordained to happen. 29) Now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30) while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus."31) When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.Acts 4:23-31 (WEB)
After Jesus ascended persecution broke out upon the disciples from those unwilling to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah, nor believe that He was raised from the dead. Peter and John were jailed, as were many other Christians. The points of their prayer recorded here may be an encouragement to you. They acknowledged that God made the world and everything in it. They point out that the raging and plotting of the nations is in vain against God. They point out that Jesus Christ was only crucified because God himself decided it should happen. Therefore they ask for boldness to preach the gospel. And they ask that God would perform miracles in Jesus name. God give his people the grace to pray like disciples.
We have only briefly looked at four prayers to lend balance to the prayer of Jabez first considered in our study. There are many many more prayers recorded in the Scripture. I hope that you will be encouraged from these in your pursuit of Christ and in your fellowship with other Christians.