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What Does God Say When People Pray? (part 7)
1 Chron. 4:9-10 

 

And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. [10] And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. [KJV]

Jabez is one of the obscure characters in the Bible, whose name appears in passing. Actually, this is the only place he is mentioned. All we know about him is that he was a man of honor and that God answered this prayer.

In his prayer, he asked for four things: (1) God's blessing, (2) an enlarged border (3) God's guiding hand, and (4) that God would keep Him from evil.

This wasn't an obligatory prayer, it obviously came directly from Jabez's heart and resulted from reflection. We sing of a "sweet hour of prayer" and tout men to be great spiritual giants if they pray a long time, but this prayer doesn't pass the "length" test, does it? It is short, but it is power packed with insight and foresight.

Jabez began by asking for God's blessing. There is not the anxiety in his voice when he prayed, like there was with Jacob who wrestled with the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32:26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." But Jabez still desired to live his life, walking under the umbrella of God's blessing.

Centuries later, Paul would write, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," (Ephesians 1:3)

Charles Schultz created a character that always walked around in a cloud of dust. Wherever he was, the dirt followed him. Schultz aptly named him Pigpen. As the cloud of dust always hovered over Pigpen, so God's presence abides with those he blesses. Wherever they go, whatever they do, there is a sense of God's blessings upon them.

Jabez prayed to be one of the blessed ones. Like Abraham. When God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:2 He made him this promise: "And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;"

The promise was that Abraham would be blessed, and that he would be a blessing. Blessings do not abide in those who are blessed, they flow from God through the blessed to others.

Jabez also prayed that God would enlarge his border. This is the most ambitious part of his prayer. Ambition is not necessarily bad. God gives his servants a vision that is often larger than their reality. In Isaiah 54:2, Isaiah wrote, "Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your pegs."

Aren't you grateful for people who can think big? Conquerors like Joshua who inspire people to conquer. "And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, 'You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, [18] but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong.' [18:1] Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them. [2] And there remained among the sons of Israel seven tribes who had not divided their inheritance. [3] So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, 'How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?'" (Joshua 17:17-18:3)

God gave the children of Israel the land, but they still had to rise up and conquer it. I'm sure the same thing applied to Jabez. God extended his borders, but Jabez still had work to do.

Knowing what lay before him, Jabez also requested that God's hand would be with him. The Psalmist wrote, "Let Thy hand be ready to help me, For I have chosen Thy precepts." (Psalm 119:173) Without the might of God's hand, Jabez knew he could never fulfill the vision that was on his heart.

Could any of us? Dare we attempt anything for God without His hand empowering us?

But with His hand, we have nothing to fear. In Isaiah 41:10, the Lord said, "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

God's blessing and a vision are crucial, but without God's power, Jabez could do nothing.

Luke 1:37 says, "For nothing will be impossible with God." 

Too often we settle for too little, dream too small and fail to understand what God can do. Like Jabez, we shouldn't settle for any less than God's blessings. If we have to wrestle for it like Jacob, we should do whatever it takes to get that blessing. Neither should we settle for small dreams, instead, we should pray that God will extend our borders and increase our influence. But then, we cannot settle for man's power, we must pray for God's power.

But then, when it is all said and done, we cannot throw away our blessing, vision and empowerment with evil living. Jabez also prayed that God would keep him from evil. Jesus taught us to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:13) Paul warned us to "abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thes. 5:22)

Even blessed people, with large visions and God's power can fall into Satan's snares. Think about King David. A man after God's own heart. The anointed King of Israel-a powerful, godly man, stumbled into iniquity and brought shame to his entire family.

Paul wrote, "and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; [12] so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." 1 Thes. 4:11-12 

Last Summer, while we were on vacation, I interviewed a couple of Pastors that I wanted to write about. One of them was a cutting-edge pastor doing innovative work in his community. The other was a steady-as-you-go kind of a fellow. No splash or flash, just a solid, godly pastor.

I always admired him. Fifteen years ago, we pastored near one another and played more than one round of golf together. He'd been in his present church for over ten years and had shepherded the church through an intense season of conflict. Their previous pastor had violated the church's trust and had multiple affairs. 

My friend patiently loved them through terrible conflict and survived several attempts to oust him from his pulpit. On Friday, about six weeks after the interview, I put the finishing touches on the article and emailed it to my editor. The title was simply, "He Stayed."

I was proud of him. He didn't abandon his church in their difficult days-he stayed even at a great personal cost.

The next Sunday morning, I was greeted by him with an email that said. "Jim, I know you just wrote an article about me, so I wanted to email you and let you know, this morning I am resigning from my church because of an inappropriate relationship with a woman that was not sexual in nature."

This was a good man. A man who walked with God's blessing, had a vision and ministered under God's power. But he stumbled, and when he did, he hurt others.

Pray the prayer of Jabez if you will. Pray for blessing. Pray for vision. Pray for power. But when you do, don't forget to pray for God's protection from evil.

What does God say when people pray? To Jabez, He said "Yes, I'll bless you, honor your vision, empower your ministry and protect you from evil.

For more Information on the Prayer of Jabez, go to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576737330/freshministry

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