The Expository Files

 The Prayer of Jabez

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

"Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, 'Because I bore him in pain.' And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested" (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Who was Jabez? There is no mention of him anywhere else in the scriptures. From the context, it does appear that he was of the tribe of Judah, and some think that he was a son of Koz (cf. v. 8). There are other theories as to who and what he was, but our purpose here is simply to see what lessons we can learn fromthis passage of scripture.

First, consider the attitude of Jabez. He was honorable. Why he was more honorable than his brothers we are not told, but it may have to do with the nature of his prayer. There are two characteristics that are needed for one to be honorable in prayer. One of them is being earnest, which means intense, zealous, sincere, and determined. We are told that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). The second of these characteristics is humility. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter5:6-7). The earnest, fervent prayer that is prayed in true humility ishonorable before God.

Another aspect of the attitude of Jabez is that he directed his prayer to God. Because we are to worship the Lord our God and serve Him alone, Jesus taught us to address our prayers, saying, "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name" (Matthew 4:10, 6:9). To direct such a prayer to God demonstrates that one is trusting in and thus dependent on Him for everything that is needed. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).

Second, consider the character of Jabez's petition. He requested a personal blessing. To ask God's blessing is to ask Him to bestow divine favor. There is nothing wrong with requesting God to bless us specifically. The Psalmist did. He prayed, "Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance; shepherd them also, and bear them up forever" (Psalm 28:9). Jabez also asked God to enlarge his borders. This seems to relate to material prosperity. Thus, it is certainly scriptural for us to pray that God will bless us materially (note Matthew 6:11). However, the Bible offers no "quid pro quo" promise that if we do certain specified things for God then He will materially prosper us a certain specified amount, as some who hold the "Abundant Life--Health and Wealth" gospel teach. Rather, the Lord has simply said that if we serve Him faithfully, He will provide for us (Matthew 6:33).

Then Jabez beseeched that God's hand would be with Him, no doubt to provide protection and guidance. Should we not pray with the Psalmist, "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day" (Psalm 25:5)? Finally, Jabez expressed a petition that God would keep Him from evil. Jesus also indicated that His disciples should pray for God's preservation and deliverance, as He taught them to say, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13). Of course, God's protection, guidance, preservation, and deliverance are all provided for us through the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The reason why Jabez thus prayed was so that He might not cause pain. One commentator expressed it this way: "Let me not experience the grief which my name implies, and which my sins would well produce." Another phrased it, "Grant that the grief implied in my name may not come upon me!" And likewise, it should be our prayer, "I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame!" (Psalm 119:31). Finally, consider the response of God, who granted Him what he requested. The Lord has promised us, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocksit will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8). God has said that He will hear and respond to the prayers of His people. Oh, He may not always give us what we ask for, when we ask for it, in exactly the way that we asked. But He is the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Therefore, we can trust Him to answer our prayers by providing what He knows best that we need in harmony with His will, just as He did with the prayer of Jabez.

By Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 8.11; November 2001