Prayer to Increase Our Boundaries
When I first began to consider the matter of prayer 12 years ago, the runaway best-selling book on every chart was a little 96-page volume entitled The Prayer Of Jabez. Written by Bruce Wilkinson, it is a meditation on the two-verse historical record of a man named Jabez, whose life story is encapsulated in 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.
To be sure, Jabez was born into a difficult situation. His “story” is tucked in the middle of the genealogies of Chronicles, and the first thing that sets him apart is that his mother named him. This indicates that she was probably a single mom, either widowed before his birth, or perhaps even an unwed mother. In the Middle Eastern culture of that day, this would have been among the worst possible scenarios.
Jabez’ name means “to cause pain.” Now there’s a heritage for you! Beset by pain, Jabez is spoken of in the biblical text as being “more noble than his brothers,” since he calls out to God to increase the boundaries of his life so that he will be blessed and not cause pain in the lives of others.
The beauty of this prayer is that it begins to touch the desire of God’s heart to bless His children, particularly those who realize the brokenness of their lives. This passion in the heart of God for the well-being of His people is the right motivation for prayer, and I have personally been blessed and encouraged by the use of this prayer. There are individuals who pray the prayer of Jabez over my life daily, and I am tremendously grateful. I want to explore this deep desire in God’s heart to bless His own more fully in the paragraphs to come.
The prayer of Jabez, however, quickly can become just a newer version of the “bless me” theology that has degenerated into selfishness over the years, with God becoming no more than the cosmic Santa Claus. The good news about this little prayer is that millions more are praying because of it. The danger is in staying focused on our own blessing instead of having our eyes filled with the wonder and majesty of the Person of Jesus as we entrust ourselves to His generous care and provision. Once again the focus of prayer becomes the changing of our circumstances, rather than having our hearts ravished with the beauty and majesty of God.
The desire of God’s heart is to have a relationship of loving intimacy with human beings. Our role in that relationship is the one we must grapple with as we continue to explore the question of why we pray.
(Please visit http://internationalhouseofprayernorthwest.org/lang/en/res/shop/ to take advantage of special prices on Gary Wiens's books)
The Prayer Of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson. Copyright 2000, Multnomah Publishers, Inc.