Prayer of Jabez

Part 3 of 4

Adapted from exhortation preached at PCC Prayer Meeting on 13 Dec 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).

We are in the midst of a mini-study on the Prayer of Jabez. The Prayer of Jabez is not a comprehensive rule of prayer like the Lord’s Prayer. But it is an effectual prayer, for we are told that the Lord granted Jabez that which he requested. And it is also an important prayer for it is recorded where we are most unlikely to find any prayer.

The Prayer of Jabez, you will recall is recorded in the midst of nine chapters which is otherwise purely a genealogical record. Indeed, Jabez is not even mentioned in the genealogy. His biography and more particularly his prayer is recorded, but not his genealogy!

All we are told is that Jabez was more honourable than his brothers; and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow.

Everything else we know about Jabez is his prayer. So we know that this prayer must have some special significance.

This prayer has 4 petitions:

a. Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed,

b. Enlarge my coast,

c. Let thine hand be with me,

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

We have already considered the first two petitions.

The 1st petition is "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed." We saw that God would bless us, but He would have us ask a blessing. We saw also that what we may deem to be blessings are not necessarily God’s blessings, and so we must learn to ask that God would bless us truly. Our eyes therefore must be set on Christ and upon heavenly treasures even as we ask the Lord to bless us in our present life.

The 2nd petition is "Enlarge my coast." We saw that this is a prayer to enlarge our hearts as well as to enlarge our talents and opportunities that we may glorify and enjoy God.

The 3rd petition is in the words ‘that thine hand might be with me.’ So the petition is, "Let thine hand be with me."

Jabez is asking that the hand of God would be with him. What does he mean?

The hand of God refers simply to the power and presence of God.

So Jabez is asking the Lord to be with him, to work powerfully in him and to manifest His power through him.

He is pleading with the Lord: "Lord, be with me; manifest Thy power through me; and work powerfully in me." These three sub-petitions are closely related, but it is instructive for us to look at them separately.

1. Lord, Be with Me

What does it mean to ask the Lord to be with us? Isn’t the Lord omnipresent?

Yes, the Lord is omnipresent, so when we ask the Lord to be with us, it must be to ask the Lord to bless us and to manifest His power to us.

When Jacob was fleeing from Esau, he met the Lord in a vision at Bethel, and then he vowed a vow. Look at what he says in his vow (Gen 28:20):

"20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Gen 28:20-22).

What is Jacob saying when he speaks of his desire that God would be with him? He is hoping,—is he not,—that God would lead him, and watch over him and bless him in whatever he does? He does not wish to walk alone. He knows that if he walks alone, he may never go back to his father’s house. He desires that God would hold his hand and lead him.

Now, Caleb also prayed that the Lord would be with him, but in a different context. Turn to Joshua 14:12. It was the days of conquest and Caleb wanted Hebron for his inheritance. He says—

"Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said" (Josh 14:12).

Like Jacob, Caleb desired that God would go with him, or to lead him, to protect and to bless his endeavours. He knew that only if the Lord was with him would he drive out the Anakims.

What was true in the days of Jacob, Caleb and Jabez is still true today. Therefore let us seek to have the same mind as these our fathers in the faith.

Let us pray "Let thine hand be with me," desiring that God lead us, watch over us and bless us in all that we do. Let us not assume that anything will turn out well unless the Lord be with us.

Ezra puts it beautifully when he says

"The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him" (Ezra 8:22).

So let us pray: Lord, be with me as I go for the interview. Be with me as I sit for the exam. Lord, unless thou go with me, I will not go.

But the prayer, "Let thine hand be with me" is also the prayer…

2. Lord, Manifest Thy Power through Me.

Caleb, in speaking about his desire that the Lord would be with him is speaking also of his desire that the Lord would fight for him. That is, he not only desired that God would lead him, he desired that the Lord would strengthen him and his fighters to enable them to win the battle.

Thus, when we are facing any crisis or event, which can be described as a battle in anyway, we can and should cry unto the Lord to help us and to manifest His power through us.

But let us not restrict ourselves to praying this prayer only in crisis situations. We ought to desire that the hand of the Lord be upon us in all that we do, that we may do it well and do it in a way that will glorify His name.

Nicodemus told the Lord Jesus:

"Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (Jn 3:2).

Nicodemus recognised the power of God in the miracles which the Lord did.

In the same way, we ought to be conscious that we cannot do anything which would redound to the glory of God in the eyes of the world, except God’s hand be with us. "Without me, ye can do nothing, says the Lord" (Jn 15:5).

Read the book of Ezra and Nehemiah and you cannot fail to notice how often the hand of the Lord is mentioned.

There is a tacit recognition in these books that the great work of rebuilding the temple and the wall could not have been carried out except that God manifested His power through His servants.

Let us learn to acknowledge God’s hand and crave that God’s hand will be with us to bless the labours of our hands that His power may be manifested.

Let us pray this as a church: Lord, may thy power be seen through the preaching of gospel. Would thou show thyself through the mighty fruits of conversion?

And let us pray like Nehemiah: "O God, strengthen my hands" (Neh 6:9). Let me, O Lord, be an instrument to manifest Thy glory.

But finally, let Thine hands be with me is also the prayer…

3. Lord, Work Powerfully in Me.

The LORD promises through Isaiah:

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa 41:10)

The Psalmist says:

"Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts" (Ps 119:173).

So when we pray: "Let thine hand be with me," we are also praying, Lord, help us! Help us to live a holy life for thy glory. Sanctify us and make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Or using the prayer of Paul on behalf of the Ephesians—

(1) Strengthen us with might by thy Spirit in our inner man, (2) that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, (3) that we being rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height of the love of Christ (Eph 3:16-19).

Let Thine hands be with me is therefore: Lord, be with me to lead me, manifest thy power through me and work powerfully in me.

Amen. W