Summary: Jabez prayed a model prayer that God would bless him, increase his territory, place his hand upon him and keep him from evil.
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NKJV).
What a pain! Has anyone ever said that about you? It was said about the person we are looking at in this scripture today. Jabez’s name in Hebrew means “pain”! His mother delivered him in great pain and she never let him forget it. She named him Pain so that he would always remember what he had done to his poor mother. I had a relative who was a lot like Jabez’s mother, because she repeated the story of how much pain her child had caused her in birth. And she always liked to tell the old, old story when there were several people around. Other parents do something similar by rehearsing all the disappointments they have felt with their children, and the pain it has caused them. You might say Jabez came from a dysfunctional family, with a controlling mother who was an expert at exacting guilt from her children. But in spite of all that, he overcame the obstacles created by his upbringing. The Bible says that he was an honorable man — more honorable than the rest of his family. Why was that?
We find Jabez buried in a long list of genealogies — so and so was the father of so and so, and so and so was the father of so and so . . . . ad infinitum. It goes on for nine chapters in the book 1Chronicles. You are so bored by the time you reach Jabez that you almost skip over him. But he is there like a shining star in this long list of anonymous characters. It is significant that what Jabez is remembered for is not some outstanding achievement, but a prayer. He did not win a great battle or erect a great building. He simply prayed a prayer. But out of all the people in this nine chapter list of characters, he alone is lifted out because of the prayer that he prayed.
What is so unusual about this prayer, and why have preachers been talking about it for centuries? Let’s look at the prayer piece by piece in order to discover why God was pleased enough with his prayer to have it forever recorded in scripture. His prayer was in four parts: 1) He prayed that God would bless him. 2) He prayed that God would enlarge his territory, or his borders. 3) He prayed that God’s hand would be upon him. 4) He prayed that God would keep him from evil.
The first point we will consider, then, is: Jabez prayed for God to bless him. He sought God’s blessing on his life. He was not worried about being selfish, he wanted God’s best and believed that God wanted to give it to him. He remembered his ancestor Abraham, when the Lord said to him: “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). Jabez sought the blessing of God that he might be a blessing to the world. The Bible tells us that our whole reason for existence is to be a blessing to God and a blessing to the world. That’s it. You are not here for you. The world does not revolve around you. Your whole purpose for existence is to be a blessing to the world.
There is nothing wrong with praying for God to bless you, if it is for the purpose of being a blessing. It is not wrong to pray for wealth, if you are wanting to bless people with your material blessings. If you want to have more so that you can give more, then that is an acceptable prayer. If you want to be able to give more to missions or an outreach program so that people will come to know Christ, then by all means pray for material prosperity. If you want wisdom so that you can help other people then pray for wisdom, for the Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). But if you just want more wealth in order to spend it on yourself, your prayer will not be answered. If you want wisdom so you can feel smarter than other people, your prayer will not be answered. If you want success, or want to be a leader, so that you can lord it over others, your prayer will not be answered. But if you want to serve others with more talents and resources, then pray for those things in order that your life may be a blessing.