By: Maynard H. Belt
“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.” I Chronicles 4:9-10
Well, friend, what went through your mind when you read the title of the Barnabas File this time? If like me, oh, no, not another “Prayer of Jabez” message.
I discovered this rather inconspicuous prayer by Jabez early on in my ministry and have preached on it many times over the years, but certainly not with the same emphasis that is being promoted in the little book bearing his name that has hit the Top Ten Book List and has stayed there for some time. Please forgive me, but whenever a “Christian” book hits the Top Ten and is one of the bestsellers among all people across the nation, I get a little skeptical. On one hand it is good, but on the other hand, we well know that we are living in a society of people looking for quick fixes to all the problems of life. I wonder what Jabez, himself, would think, of such an emphasis being made over the earnest expression of His heart to God?
In looking at this text again recently, I noted that the adjective describing Jabez, honorable, in the Hebrew according to Stong’s Concordance, can mean grievous, as well as rich or highly respected. It could mean to be heavy in a bad sense (burdensome), or heavy in a good sense (honorable). The text seems to eulogize Jabez for his sincere and fervent piety, a very humble spirit, desiring simply that his life might not continue as it had begun. Interestingly, Jewish writers affirm that he was an imminent doctor in the law, whose reputation drew so many scribes around him that a town was called by his name ( I Chron. 2:55). One thing for sure, he was a praying man who placed his faith and trust in the Lord. My personal reflection is that the emphasis should not be so much on “how” he prayed, but “that” he prayed, and that when our hearts are right before the Lord, He will answer in accordance with His will ! (Psa. 66:18).
I see no reason why we cannot pray and ask for some of the same things as did Jabez, but only to be sure that it is according to God’s will. John Newton was given a position at Olney, Buckinghamshire, and became an intimate friend and adviser of William Cowper. Together they produced many hymns which were sung in their church services and eventually became known as The Olney Hymns. I have many of them in my personal collection. One written by Newton was entitled, The Prayer of Jabez, one which I think even Jabez would sympathize with, and one in which I can relate:
Jesus, who bought us with His blood, and makes our souls His care;
Was known of old as Israel’s GOD, and answered Jabez’ prayer.
Jabez! a child of grief! The name befits poor sinners well;
For Jesus bore the cross and shame, to save our souls from hell.
Teach us, O Lord, like him, to plead for mercies from above;
O come, and bless our souls indeed, with light, and joy, and love.
The gospel’s promised land is wide, we fain would enter in;
But we are pressed, on every side, with unbelief and sin.
Arise, O LORD, enlarge our coast, let us possess the whole;
That Satan may no longer boast he can Thy work control.
Oh, may Thine hand be with us still, our Guide and Guardian be;
To keep us safe from every ill, till death shall set us free.
Help us on Thee to cast our care, and on Thy Word to rest;
That Israel’s God, who heareth prayer, will grant us our request.
© Maynard H. Belt
Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches
From THE BARNABAS FILE
Volume 2 Number 30 10/18/02
Reprinted with permission