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The Prayer of Jabez


1 Chronicles 4:9-10


Jim Davis


What is the well-spring of your life; what is your life’s source? The source of your life is the force of your life. From the Christian’s viewpoint God is the source of all life—plant and animal. But not everyone is connected to the true source of life. The depth of our lives depends upon the source of our lives, for the source of our lives always becomes the focus of our lives.


Whatever we accept as the source of our lives will shape our lives. This world seeks to be the source of our lives, but you don’t have to accept the world as the source of your life. The ancients gave their children names with significant meanings. Jacob’s name meant cheat, or someone who tripped others up. Jacob was given the name “Jacob,” which literally means heal grabber, because he grabbed his twin brothers heal as they were given birth. He spent most of his life tripping people up until an angel changed his name. Can you imagine your parents giving you a name they expect you to live up to because of some fluke at birth?


If we are not careful we will spend our days living up to the image the world has stamped upon our hearts. However, Jacob came to a point in his life when by God’s help he overcame the image the world stamped upon him.


God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Do you know why his name was changed? He rose above—overcame the stigma his birth had placed upon him. The angel spoke to Jacob saying, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome" (Gen 32:28 NIV).


Our modern world continues to practice some very ancient beliefs. I have heard mothers make remarks about difficult children saying, “I knew the child was always going to be difficult because I had so much trouble giving the child birth.” How ever you have been marked by this world's view of you, you can rise above it.


A Born Loser


I would like for you to look at a passage of Scripture with me.


1 Chronicles 4:9-10

9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." 10 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 from pain." And God granted his request. NIV


These verses are found in the midst of a long Jewish genealogical record. In the midst of scurrying past a list of names, the writer stops and gives us these verses about Jabez.


All we know about Jabez is found in these verses. The name “Jabez,” means to grieve or to be sorrowful. The difficulty in child labor prompted Jabez’s mother to name her child Jabez. Can you imagine a mother having such a hard delivery of a baby that she would give the child a name equivalent to “a pain in the rear?” The name was a memorial to the difficult child labor, but it also was to mark the kind of life Jabez was to lead—a sorrowful painful life full of evil.


In the eyes of the world Jabez was a born loser. His name was forever to be a reminder of how he entered the world. In the eyes of the world he was marked for life. How could a man with such a dogged name rise above it.


If you read through the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 4:1-10, you notice Jabez’s name rises above all the other names. He rose above the world’s view of him. He rose to a place of honor. The Bible doesn’t say he did it without difficulty. The writer wants us to know that he rose to a place of honor in spite of his difficulty.


Jabez’s life became a contradiction of his name as God enlarged his life.


Robert L. Stevenson said, “Life does not consist of having a good hand at cards, but of learning how to play a poor hand well.” Have you ever been dealt a perfect hand of cards? All you have to do to win is lay your cards on the table. Some would like to stack the cards so they would be dealt a perfect hand each time they play. But the challenge to become a good card player is learning how to play a bad hand well.


Thy Kingdom Come


Jabez no doubt felt the weight of this name while he was growing up. For his prayer was equivalent to saying, “God grant that the grief implied in my name may not come upon me” (Barnes Notes).


Jabez prayed for God to overrule his life for good. You only have two choices when the world proclaims you a born loser. You either succumb or overcome. Sadly we have a tendency to do what the world expects us to do. Jabez chose to focus his life on God—he chose to put God in the driver’s seat.


Do your remember Jesus’ model prayer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 NIV). Essentially this is the prayer Jabez prayed. Jabez saw himself surrounded by the evil one, and he prayed that God would keep him from the evil one, so that he might not experience the pain.


To become a Christian you must commit your circumstances to God in faith. The key is seeking God’s rule for your life. When Jabez prayed not to be overtaken by evil, he was essentially praying for God to rule his life. He was praying For God’s rule to be established in his heart. Before God can enlarge the territory of your life, he must enlarge you’re his territory in your heart.


If suffering is our lot in life we must do it in accordance with the will of God. Peter writes, “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19 NIV). Coming to God doesn’t persuade God to deal us another hand, but it places God in a position to help you play the hand you were dealt. You may go through the very same circumstances in life whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian. But the Christian goes through his/her circumstances with God. The Christian entrusts the outcome to God.


Psalms 34:18-22

18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,

And saves such as have a contrite spirit.


19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

20 He guards all his bones;

Not one of them is broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,

And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.

22 The LORD redeems the soul of His servants,

And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. NKJV


People of the world are controlled by their past. Their past defines their present, but Christians are controlled by their future. Jabez refused to allow the implication of his name to become the focal point of his life. It probably didn’t change the circumstances of his life that much, but it made him victorious over the circumstances with God’s help.


Jeremiah was in Jerusalem when the Babylonian army marched into Jerusalem. Jeremiah was thrown into prison by King Zedekiah because Jeremiah told him he would not win against the Babylonians. In fact, they would be taken captive to foreign countries. At that time, the Babylonian army occupied the land and was taking Jerusalem by storm. They were going to lead the captives back to their perspective countries as prisoners. Some would be taken to Egypt, and some to Babylon. Jeremiah was led captive to Egypt. But Jeremiah told them that they would return to Jerusalem by the hand of God. No one believed him on either accounts.


However, Jeremiah continued to prophesy as he as he sat in jail. No one believed him. Jeremiah was forced to put his money where his mouth was. Jeremiah's cousin, Hanamel, gave Jeremiah an option to purchase the family land which was now occupied by enemy soldiers. The prophet was asked to "put his money where His mouth is." And he did it! As an act of faith, he purchased the land and became, no doubt, the laughingstock of the people in Jerusalem. But God honored his faith because Jeremiah lived according to the Word that he preached. He returned to live on the family farm.


Israel was being punished for their sins, but Jeremiah refused to allow the past or the present to control his future. Jeremiah and Jabez chose to put their faith in God. They continued to face trying circumstances but they put God in control of their circumstances.


Philippians 3:10-21

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.


12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.


15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.


17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. NIV


Paul, like Jeremiah was sitting in prison as he penned these verses. He was fellowshipping in the sufferings of Christ, but he was depending upon the same power--the power of Jesus resurrection to bring victory. This gave him courage to focus his life on Christ.


The key to experiencing the resurrection power of Christ for living is our willingness to forget the past as we look to the future. Paul writes, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” A mature Christian accepts Christ as the worthy goal for life. This doesn’t mean that you have a clear picture of what God is going to do in every step you take. It just means that your goal is to discover God’s will in every step you take. Your focus in on the future.


God clears the way as we go forward. Paul further says, “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Too many want to see their way clear through every circumstance from the beginning to the end. It’s impossible. The key is knowing God is there in every step you take. God will make things clearer as you seek him. There are times you may play the wrong card, but remember God is in charge of how others play their hand in the game of life.


Paul further writes, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” The key is seeking to live up to what you already know. Life is static. We may make our plans. We may believe we are going in the right direction, but be headed in the wrong direction. How we play the cards in our hands sometimes totally depends on how others play their hand. The key to living faithfully is seeking God. God reveals himself as we seek him. The important thing to remember is that God’s sovereign will rules.


Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). When we discover the freedom to seek God in each circumstance we discover that God transforms our lives according to his will. 


Remember God came to set you free:


Luke 4:18-19

18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 

19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."  NKJV





Are you going to live under the dread and fear the world seeks to impose upon your life? Nothing is more enslaving than fear. The world drives many of our kids through fear—the fear of not measuring up—the fear of not being good enough—the fear of not being smart enough—the fear of not being strong enough—the fear of their ancestral heritage.


When I was a child the older people always told ghost stories. They seemed to always tell them just before bedtime. When all the kids went to bed, we always covered our heads with the blankets. We would leave just a single opening around our nose and mouth so we could breathe fresh air. Chaining us in our bed wouldn’t have been any more effective in keeping us in bed than tell us ghost stories. I think they were telling us those stories to keep us in bed. Fear kept us locked under those covers until first light.


Fear haunts, enslaves and drives us. I grew up in an age where we were raised on fear and disciplined with guilt. Too many lives continue to be driven by guilt and fear. We find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by the painful memories of our past failures. The major Bible characters faced their traumatic experiences, their abusive childhoods, the world’s unrealistic expectations and even their genetic depositions with the help of God.


Isaiah 26:3

3 You will keep in perfect peace

him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the LORD forever,

for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. NIV


The key is trusting God through prayer. Many use prayer as an opportunity to inform God of their plans as they seek his help in fulfilling them. When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done," we are praying for God to work out his plan in our lives. This means relinquishing control of your own life, so God can promote your life in whatever way he desires.


The kind of prayer Jabez prayed can be difficult because we tend to be preoccupied with ourselves. But concentrate on submitting your life to God's purposes.





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