Summary: This exploration of Jabez’s prayer is an invitation to deeper Christian discipleship, beginning with a prayer for the Lord to draw us closer.
Luanne Oleas presented the following story in Reader’s Digest:
When the 1960s ended, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district reverted to high rent, and many hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children and got married, too, though in no particular sequence. But they didn’t name their children Melissa or Brett. People in the mountains around Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time Warp or Spring Fever. And eventually Moonbeam, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in public school.
That’s when the kindergarten teachers first met Fruit Stand. Every fall, according to tradition, parents bravely apply name tags to their children, kiss them good-bye and send them off to school on the bus. So it was for Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy’s name was odd, but they tried to make the best of it.
"Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?" they offered. And later, "Fruit Stand, how about a snack?" He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn’t seem much odder than Heather’s or Sun Ray’s.
At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. "Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?"
He didn’t answer. That wasn’t strange. He hadn’t answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn’t matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the names of their children’s bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word "Anthony."
Names are curious things. We pick them so carefully for our children. Or at least I hope we do. Well, some of us do.
Our Bible story is about a man named Jabez. In Bible times, names were very important. Biblical names indicated what would happen or become of a person, or indicated their character.
Abraham means “father of many.”
Jacob means “he deceives.”
Reuben means “Look, a son!”
Moses means “I drew him out of the water.”
And sometimes a person’s name was changed when a major event changed the whole life of a person.
Jacob, whose name meant “he deceives,” had his name changed by the angel of the Lord to Israel, which means “struggle with God.”
Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock,” and on this “rock” Jesus began his church.
So biblical names were significant.
Well, Jabez’s name means “pain.”
What a name to have. His mother named him “pain” because his birth was a painful one. Apparently more so than usual, because his mother commemorated the fact in his name.
Identified in such a way, he was meant to be a born looser. His crime appears to be that he had been born, and through no fault of his own, had caused his mother great pain.
With such a name, his life should not have been a success. Jabez had been identified as someone who would be unsuccessful. Jabez was identified as...well, as a pain.
Ironically, Jabez has been a pretty famous guy of late. Perhaps you are familiar with the book written about him by Bruce Wilkinson. Now let me tell you, I have not read the book. If what I have heard is correct, Wilkinson first became intrigued by Jabez, because his short narrative interrupts a long strain of genealogy here in the first book of Chronicles. That the author of Chronicles felt Jabez’s life was noteworthy to interrupt his record of detail to insert this brief look at Jabez’ life is noteworthy to Wilkinson.
I’m not sure if my exploration of Jabez’s short tale will echo Wilkinson’s or not, since as I said, I have not read his book. But I thought we would take a look at this infamous character and his prayer life, as we look at our commitment to prayer.
When I reflect on Jabez, I am first drawn to how his name and situation parallels our own.
We too are born into a world of pain. The world seems to have set us up for failure. We are all “born losers” and we have a great knack for making a mess of things.
But it is not Jabez’s short comings that are so remarkable to our author.
What is most notable about Jabez, is that he was more honorable and distinguished than his brothers. Now why is this? Well his life which appeared to have no future became a success story. What changed his situation?
Well here’s what he didn’t do:
He could have turned bitter and angry towards his name and situation. He could have blamed his mother and perhaps the world his assigned lowly place.
Or he could have blamed himself. He could have given up and accepted his fate.