Prayer of Jabez

Part 1 of 4; first preached at PCC Prayer Meeting on 12 Nov 2004.

"9 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" (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

For the next four Sabbaths, we would like to study an Old Testament prayer that has become very famous in recent years. It has become so famous that in some circles it is regarded as more important than the Lord’s Prayer. It has, in fact, become a kind of evangelical mantra.

If you want to be "extravagantly blessed by God," you must pray this prayer. "You must pray it every day," says Dr Bruce Wilkinson. God longs to give you abundant blessings, but you must ask Him to do so by using this prayer. This prayer "can release God’s favour, power, and protection. You’ll see how one daily prayer can help you leave the past behind—and break through to the life you were meant to live" says the advertising blurb at the back cover of the little book which has sold millions of copies.

I am referring, of course, to the Prayer of Jabez.

We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honourable than his brothers. He was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow.

What was the reason for her sorrow, we are not told. But the sorrow that she endured gave way to everlasting joy as the child grew, for he became an honourable man. Indeed, he became the only man to receive an honourable mention in a list of more than a thousand names in the first 9 chapters in 1 Chronicles. What is even more amazing is that his prayers should be recorded in the midst of a section of the book, which is otherwise purely a genealogical record.

It is this prayer of Jabez that we are considering. We know this prayer to be an effectual one because we are told that God granted Jabez his request. So it is a prayer we want to learn—not that we may chant it like a mantra, but that we may incorporate the principle ideas into our own prayer life.

This prayer has 4 petitions:

a. Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed,

b. Enlarge my coast,

c. That thine hand be with me,

d. That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!

Let us consider the 1st petition: "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."

1. God would have us ask for a Blessing.

One of the first things that we must learn from the prayer of Jabez is that God stands ready to bless His children.

The apostle Paul reminds us that our God is the living God "who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim 6:17). And "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).

Our God is living and true, unlike the idols of man’s imagination. He has reconciled us in Christ and adopted us as His sons and daughters. So He is not only able to bless us richly, but He is pleased to bless us.

However, God would have us ask Him for a blessing as Jabez did and as Jacob did when he wrestled with the Lord at the ford Jabbok (Gen 32:26).

The Lord Jesus Himself reminds us to ask if we are to receive:

"7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Mt 7:7-8)

And again, as He told His disciples:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:23-24).

What shall we do but to learn to ask for a blessing if we want to receive a blessing? God is pleased to bless us and He is ready to bless us, but He would have us receive His blessing through prayer.

But secondly, let us remember that…

2. What we may deem to be a blessing is not necessarily God’s blessings.

This is the main problem with the book by Dr Wilkinson. For Dr Wilkinson, blessing equals success. Blessing in ministry means increase opportunity to minister. Blessing in business means more profit. Blessing in health is to enjoy healing and long life. Blessing in examinations means good grades, etc.

But this is not what the Scripture nor does experience teach.

Riches and honour are not necessarily blessings. The rich fool thought that he was of all men most blessed, but God required his life that very night.

Having a prosperous business is not necessarily a blessing, for riches have become a curse for many. We read it in the newspaper everyday. And we read it in 1 Timothy:

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Tim 6:9)

Having long life or being spared of death is not necessarily a blessing. Moses gives a hint in this regard when he says:

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow…" (Ps 90:10)

Indeed, having our prayers answered according to our own desires is not necessarily a blessing.

The story is told about a mother who brought her dying child to her minister to ask him to pray for him. The minister prayed earnestly, but with a qualification, "if it be Thy will, restore this child." When the mother heard the qualification, she was appalled. She cried out: "I cannot bear that: I must have you pray that the child shall live. Do not put in any ifs or buts." "Woman," said the minister, "it may be that you will live to regret the day that you ever wished to set your will up against God’s will."

The child lived.

But 20 years later, this woman would have a sword pierce her heart as she watched her son being hanged for felony. Had the Lord taken his life earlier she would have been spared the tremendous suffering that she had to endure. It would have been far better for her had the child died in infancy. So having our prayers answered according to our own will is not necessarily a blessing.

The apostle Paul thought that it would be great if the thorn in the flesh be removed. Three times he prayed for it to be removed. Perhaps he thought that if the infirmity were removed, he would be a more effective servant of the Lord and his ministry would be enlarged.

But the Lord refused to grant his request. Instead at the end of the third season of prayer and fasting, He said unto Paul:

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9a).

It was then that Paul finally understood in his heart that God’s blessing is not necessarily in the way that we imagine. So he exclaims:

"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor 12:9b).

The man who receives a blessing is blessed.

Our Lord teaches us that we can be blessed even when we are persecuted for our faith.

"11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…" (Mt 5:11-12)

We can be blessed though our outward man perishes. Indeed, many have testified of how the times of their illnesses were the times they drew nearest to God and felt most blessed.

We can be blessed though we be poor. The poor widow who cast her two mites into the treasury of the temple was more blessed than the rich people who cast in their wealth.

The Scripture is clear, that what is a blessing in the eyes of man is not necessarily a blessing in the eyes of God.

When we ask God to bless, we must never ask Him to bless according to how we think He should bless. We must seek a blessing indeed.

3. We must learn to ask God’s blessing.

Jabez prayed: "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."

Notice the two words ‘thou’ and ‘indeed.’ Jabez does not want man to bless him. He does not want the world to bless him. He does not want to be blessed by anything. He wants to be blessed by the LORD alone.

And he wants to be blessed indeed. Now, the word ‘indeed’ is not found in the Hebrew. The Hebrew has a repetition of the word ‘bless.’ Jabez is saying something like: "Oh, that to bless, you would bless me." But the idea is captured in the English, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."

Jabez does not want an apparent blessing. He is not interested in temporary material blessing. He wants a blessing that is eternal and spiritual.

We must learn to pray as Jabez did. But we must bear in mind that it is God’sblessing indeed that we are looking for. We ought to pray for a blessing that is a blessing indeed in God’s eyes. We ought not to simply pray what we desire in our hearts.

But did not the Lord Jesus promise us that whatever we ask we shall receive? Well, yes, He did. But common sense should teach us that God is not promising to give us anything—even if what we ask will hurt us. Indeed our Lord makes this qualification very clear in His instructions on prayer. Turn to Luke 11:9-13—

9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Is that all He says? No; read on:

11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

What did the Lord promise that the Father will give? Do you notice His specific reference to the Holy Spirit? Now some think that the Lord is referring only to Pentecost and that He was urging the disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit. Well, it is true that the Lord did urge His disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit. In John 14 and 16, He again urges them to do so.

But I believe that our Lord is not only teaching the disciples with regard to Pentecost; He is teaching all of us to pray for the Holy Spirit. He is teaching us to pray for more of Him or for more of His influence.

He is teaching us to pray with a view to sanctification or growth in Christ-likeness.

I would submit to you that this is exactly what we should be praying for when we pray, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed." We ought in other words to desire a spiritual blessing and more faith that we may see and receive His blessings.

That is to say:

We should not pray: "Bless me with wealth." Even when we desire wealth, it must be with an eye to sanctification. So we pray as Argur did—

"Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Prov 30:8-9).

Or we should pray as Spurgeon suggests:

"My Father, you have denied me this outward and seemingly good blessing, enrich me with your love, give me the gold of your favor, truly bless me; then allot to others whatever you will. My soul will wait upon your daily will for my life; bless me with true riches and I will be content."

Likewise we should not simply pray: "Lord bless me with good health" or "Lord, heal me!" We ought to consider our physical health in tandem with our spiritual health.

If you are in good health, you should thank God for your good health and pray that God may bless you indeed by healing your spiritual diseases, by keeping you from complacency and by helping you to be a blessing to others who are less able.

But if you are in poor health, cry out to the Lord, "O, that thou wouldst bless me, indeed. I desire to be healthy that I may serve Thee, but Thou hast a purpose in my affliction. Grant that as I await Thy healing hand, I may have the grace to wait patiently and to trust that good will come out of this trial."

Or consider the blessing of the family. Some of us desire marriage; some of us desire children; some of us desire peace and harmony in the home. We must pray and not simply glide along like unbelievers. But how should we pray?

Let us learn to pray:

"O that thou wouldest bless me indeed. Thou dost know the desire of my heart. Grant O Lord, my desire. Yet not my will but Thy will be done. Give only if by this means I may better serve Thee and I may better glorify and enjoy thee."

And when we have thus prayed, let us humbly wait upon Him believing that His will for us is best for us.

Or consider, finally, the church. We desire the church to grow and to be a more effective instrument of praise and witness for the Lord.

Let us pray: "O that thou wouldest bless us indeed!"

But let us remember that a greater number in the church is not necessarily a blessing.

And while we desire that those who have left us would come back, let us also remember that it is not necessarily a blessing if they come back.

Let us therefore learn to pray: "O that thou wouldest bless us indeed! Yet, not our will, but Thine will be done."


But now as we conclude, let us remember that the blessings of God which are blessings indeed flow from Calvary’s tree and the bleeding sides of our Lord.

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).

A blessing is a blessing indeed only if it comes from the hand of Christ and draws us to Christ. As such, those who would not have Christ would have no blessing.

Draw nigh therefore to Christ and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all His blessings shall be added unto you according as you ask in His name.

Amen. W