Prayer of Jabez

Part 4 of 4

Adapted from exhortation preached at PCC Prayer Meeting on 20 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).

The Prayer 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 of what is otherwise a purely genealogical record. Indeed, Jabez is not even mentioned in the genealogy. 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:

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,—we saw,—is asking the Lord to lead him and guide him; to work powerfully in him and to manifest His power through him.

Now, the 4th petition is in the words, "that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!"

This petition, you will realise is very similar to the 6th petition of the Lord’s Prayer—"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

But there is a slight difference. In the Lord’s Prayer, the petition is a request to be kept from sin and temptations. In the prayer of Jabez, it is a petition to be kept from all evil.

What is ‘evil’? Evil can be understood absolutely or relatively. Evil in the absolute sense of the word is what is contrary to the Law of God. So evil is sin.

But evil in the relative sense is anything that grieves us. Now, Jabez, appears to be speaking of evil in the relative sense of the word since he desired to be kept from evil that it might not grieve him. His name means ‘grief’ or ‘sorrow’; but he desired that he might not be grieved or sorrowed. And the LORD granted him his request.

Now there are three things that particularly grieve the children of God.

First, troubles grieve us. It may be a disaster, or an accident, or the loss of a loved one, or a failure.

Secondly, all relationship strains grieve us.

Thirdly, sin grieves us—whether our own sin, or the sin of others.

So what Jabez is requesting is that he may be kept from evil—whether the evil of trouble, or the evil of relationship strains, or the evil of sin whether his own or that of others.

Let’s consider briefly his request.

First, Jabez desired to be kept from the…

1. Evil of Trouble

There are some who say we should not be concerned about troubles in our lives. We should not pray to be delivered from them, but to be delivered in them, they say.

Well, I find this rather unnatural. Of course when we are in the thick of a trial, whether illness or some calamity, we ought to pray to be preserved through the difficulties, and that good will come out of the trial.

But is it wrong to desire to be delivered from the trial? Is it wrong to ask to be kept from evil? It is evident that the Scripture does not regard it to be wrong, for Jabez asked to be kept from evil and the Lord gave him the desire of his heart.

And not only Jabez, but our Lord Himself prayed this prayer when He says: "If it be possible, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but thine be done."

Now, of course, in the case of our Lord, the bitter cup was not taken from Him. He had to drink it to its dregs—which teaches us that it does not mean that so long as we pray, then God will keep us from evil. Our heavenly Father knows best and He will answer our prayers according to what is best for us and for His glory.

Jabez prayed to be spared evil, and the Lord granted him his desire. He was spared the grief of having to deal with many troubles in his life. This is the way that the Lord blessed him.

Of course, the Lord can bless us even in troubles. But shall we not rather be spared from troubles if we help it. Well, in a certain sense we can help it. Our life is in the hands of the Lord. We must not think of our life as fated. Nothing is fated. Everything is in the hands of the Lord. And the Lord is pleased to deliver us from evil upon our request.

Shall we not learn to pray, therefore, as Jabez did?

Shall we not pray for ourselves? Shall we not pray for our nation? Shall we not pray for our church, our families, and for each other? Is there something you fear will happen? Will you not commit the matter to the Lord, asking Him to keep you from evil? Do you fear losing your job? Pray that the Lord will keep you from the evil of losing your job. Do you fear losing your wife? Pray that the Lord will keep you from the evil of losing your wife.

But secondly, Jabez in asking to be kept from evil, would also be desiring to be kept from the…

2. Evil of Relationship Strains

This is closely related to the evil of trouble, but it has to do with relationships. Much of our troubles in life are not due to accidents, or illness or deaths. Much of our troubles have to do with relationships.

Of course, if we were all without sin, we would have no relationship strains. There will be no problems in heaven! But today we are all sinners and when sinners get together, we can expect trouble. Our sin makes us like porcupines so we will poke one another without trying.

This happens even in the church. Today we are all rough edges. And God has put us together in order that we may sharpen one another. Now, when two rough surfaces rub against each other too hard, heat will be generated and sparks will fly.

Recognising that this will happen, what shall we do? Shall we not specifically ask the Lord to keep us from evil that comes from this direction?

What will happen when we pray this prayer? Well, God will surely hear our prayers!

How? Well, I suppose, in the first place, He will keep us from talking to the wrong person at the wrong time so that we might be spared from unnecessary quarrels. For is it not true that very often we get into misunderstandings because we say something at the wrong time? If we had said the same thing on another occasion, things might be different, but we said it then, and a row exploded.

In the second place, will He not give us wisdom to relate to others in a way that will not produce unhappiness? We are all made differently. It is foolish to think that we can relate to everyone in the same way.

To one person, we may be able to give a slap in the back and say, ‘Come out of it, brother!’ To another person, we may have to be much gentler. When we ask the Lord to deliver us from relationship strains, I think one of the things the Lord does is to give us the wisdom to discern.

In the third place, I believe when we ask the Lord to deliver us from evil due to relationship strains, the Lord will teach us to be less sensitive so that we may not be so easily hurt by others.

You see, we tend to be very idealistic when we are in the midst of other believers. But if we recognise the pitfalls that sin has dug in the paths of relationship, so that we ask the Lord to deliver us from such evil, then would we not be more careful and would we not be more forgiving should we be dragged into one of these pits?

But now thirdly, the petition, keep me from evil is also a prayer to be kept from the…

3. Evil of Sin

This is the principal part of this prayer and it is the part that our Lord emphasises in the Lord’s Prayer.

The other day, my younger son, suddenly declared during dinner: ‘All the bad things that happen to us happen because of Satan’. ‘Satan makes us fight and quarrel and disobey,’ he says. I was rather taken aback by the comment and for a moment did not know how best to respond.

Well, it is true that Satan and his cohorts do cast fiery darts at us. But let us beware of attributing every sin to Satan, for in ourselves there is enough wickedness to set the whole forest on fire.

Every one of us is carrying a tank of kerosene on our back. We are all ready to explode given the right conditions. Indeed, were it not for the grace of God, would we not have exploded many times over?

Shall we not recognise this and ask the Lord to cover us with His wings that we may be kept from evil—whether of our own sin or the sin of others.

Lord, keep me from temptations. Remove those tempting thoughts from my mind. Keep Satan and his cohorts at bay; and restrain me from any sinful acts that I may be tempted to engage in.

Keep me from being dragged into the sin of others. Keep me from being influenced or hurt by the sin of my boss or my colleagues.

Help me to do that which is right. Help me to seek forgiveness and help me to forgive. Cause that love may cover a multitude of sins.


Jabez prayed: ‘Keep me from evil that it may not grieve me.’ Shall we not learn to pray the same? May the Lord hear our cries and spare us from troubles, relationship strains and sins that grieve us and hinder our testimony for His name’s sake.

But let us learn to pray not only this petition, but let us learn to pray as Jabez did in his four petitions—

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!

May the Lord grant us that we may learn the principles and gain some ideas on what we should pray for from this beautiful prayer. Amen. W