Summary: This is the first of a three part series on the Prayer of Jabez as an example for praying for God to bless the local Church in effective outreach for His Kingdom.
Jabez, a Role Model for Prayer, Part II
I Chronicles 4:9-10, OT, pg 363: “Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, I gave birth to him in pain. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted his request.” (NIV)
Last Sunday we saw that 80 to 85 percent of all U. S. Churches are either “plateaued or declining.” Every mainline denomination in our Country has basically been declining since 1965, and as of 1991 70 percent of all Southern Baptist Churches were either “plateaued or declining.” [--http://www.christianitytoday.com/bcl/areas/shepherding/articles/061907.html].
In taking an honest inventory of our own spiritual condition at Trinity United Methodist Church, we must confess that our local congregation is included in that 80-85 percent of plateaued or declining churches. God wants to turn all that around. Many declining churches can and are becoming “Comeback Churches,” but local congregations only become comeback churches when the people in the pews and in the pulpit earnestly, intensely plead with God daily to grant us His favor, help, and protection. Decline is only reversed as God’s people pray fervently for Him to bless their Church.
God can and wants to turn things around at Trinity United Methodist Church as each one of us daily commits ourselves to making Jabez our Role Model for Prayer. We saw that Jabez teaches us that we must be disciples of integrity before God can honor our prayers. We can not allow sin in our lives to go unconfessed and refuse to repent. We have to be honest as David was in Psalm 66:18-20:
If I had nursed evil in my heart,
The Lord would not have heard me,
But in truth God has heard me,
He has heeded the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
Nor withheld his loving mercy from me.
God does not reject our prayers or withhold His grace from us when we are genuine disciples of integrity, for David again testifies in Psalm 84:11:
For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
He will give grace and glory;
No good thing shall the Lord withhold
From those who walk with integrity.
“God granted Jabez’s request because he was more honourable than his brothers.” He was a righteous, holy, God fearing man who made God the top priority and Lord of His life. His request was granted because he was a disciple of integrity.
Jabez teaches us to pray, “Oh, Lord, bless Trinity United Methodist Church.” We wrestle with God in prayer like Jacob, who after wrestling with God all night boldly told Him, “I will not let you God unless you bless me.” However, departing at this point from Jacob, “we never want to let Him go.”
God wants to bless His Church, to help all His congregations who are disciples of integrity, by enlarging their territory.” In Jabez’s case enlarging his territory meant God increased the amount of land he owned.
The Church that asks God to “enlarge our territory” is praying for extended outreach and influence among the unchurched people in their neighborhood and community. This is like what happened as a result of Pentecost. Acts Chapter Two closes with this testimony: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In asking the Lord to increase our territory, we are asking Him to empower us to have a dynamic witness for Jesus that will bring the lost into His Kingdom. This is not merely adding numbers to the Church rolls or just filling empty pews. We are seeking for the Holy Spirit to change lives and add those whose lives have been changed to our fellowship. Always remember “salvation is more important than membership.” [Source: David F. Nixon, LEADING THE COMEBACK CHURCH: Help Your Church Rebound from Decline (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2004), 21.]
When we petition God, “Lord, increase our territory,” we are embracing a dual ministry that includes prayer and outreach to the lost, the unchurched. Dr. David F. Nixon, author of LEADING THE COMEBACK CHURCH: Help Your Church Rebound from Decline, is currently the District Superintendent of the Southern Florida District of the Church of the Nazarene. Six times in his ministry he led comeback Churches including what originally was Lakeview Church of the Nazarene and now is Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dr. Nixon shows in his book that the ministries of prayer and outreach complement each other.
God began to “increase Lakeview’s territory” when the Church “mobilized prayer partners.” A prayer partner ministry was created and organized. Dr. Nixon invited people to become His personal prayer partners. Forty-six responded to his invitation. Prayer partners anointed and prayed for Pastor Nixon prior to the beginning of worship. I had personal prayer partners to do the same with me at Decatur Central, and that’s what I miss most here at Trinity today. I am thirsty for such ministry at Trinity. During Sunday worship two prayer partners of Dr. Nixon remained in his study praying for God to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the service. They followed the order of worship in the bulletin and prayed over every act of worship as it was taking place.