Summary: Jabez’s prayer may very well have been based on promises he’d heard about in his youth - the blessing given Abraham
OPEN: It’s reported that a preacher in Redrock, Mississippi prayed this sermon:
“Oh Lord, give Thy servant this mornin’ the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl; connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the central skies; ‘luminate his brow with the Sun of heaven; possess his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination, grease his lips with ‘possum oil, loosen his tongue with the sledge hammer of Thy power; ‘lectrify his brain with the lightnin’ of the word; put ‘petual motion on his arms; fill him plum full of the dynamite of Thy glory; ‘noint him all over with the kerosene oil of Thy salvation and SET HIM ON FIRE. Amen!”
We’d all agree, that was an unusual prayer.
APPLY: There are many unusual prayers throughout scripture, but the one we find here in I Chronicles 4 is perhaps one of the most unique. For centuries it has caught the attention of serious Bible students because - among other things - it pops up right in the middle of a text where you wouldn’t expect it: a very boring genealogy.
Vs.4-6 “Penuel was the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah…. (and then) Ashhur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah. Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni and Haahashtari.” And it goes on and on and on… Trust me, all that is important to somebody. It may not appeal to you or me –but it is important to someone.
But here, (in the midst of a very standard, very boring list), the Chronicler pauses and mentions this story about Jabez & his 2 sentence prayer.
When God does something like that (places the unusual in the midst of the commonplace) He tends to get our attention. And we realize as we read this, that God is using this contrast like a jeweler would use black velvet under a diamond to show off it’s beauty
The 2nd reason this prayer catches a Bible student’s attention is because it’s so short. It’s only 2 sentences long, and (depending on which version you read) less than 30 words. There’s not much to this prayer, but it may have been this prayer that set Jabez apart from the rest of his brothers. We’re told that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers – and this prayer is our only proof of that. AND THEN, after the prayer, we’re told - God granted his request. That’s the whole story of Jabez. Frankly, this has got to be quite a prayer to be that short and receive this much honor.
The last thing that attracts attention is the nature of the prayer: It seems so selfish. It’s all “me… me… me” "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.”
Somehow it just doesn’t seem saintly to pray such a self centered prayer… And yet (far from being offended), God’s impressed. God GRANTS Jabez’ request.
There’s a real popular book on the market just now that dwells on this prayer. In fact the author believes THE POWER OF HIS ministry has been directly tied to the fact he’s prayed it faithfully for the past 25 years or so. The author, Bruce Wilkinson has written: “This petition has radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power.”
Brad (our youth minister) and I agree with him. We are so strongly convinced that this kind of prayer has power to shake the heavens, that we’ve covenanted to pray it consistently over the next few weeks.
Today we’re going to focus on the 1st of this prayer’s 4 sections: “Oh, that you would bless me”
What does this mean?
I. It helps to know, what happens when God blesses you.
According to scholars, we’re told that Jabez lived in Israel during the time of the Judges, right after Joshua and Israel had conquered Palestine. Men like Jabez were taught from childbirth about their great ancestor – Abraham. They would have heard again and again about the covenant God made with this patriarch. And a key part of God’s covenant with Abraham was this statement:
God said to Abraham: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2
Now, there are some people who take a key verse out of scripture and make it their own. My own personal scripture has been Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I have had this scripture placed on my calling cards ever since I entered the pulpit.