Summary: On the face of it, the Prayer of Jabez would appear to be the kind of petition God wouldn’t answer - too selfish.
OPEN: Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs, "I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE. And I PRAY FOR A NEW NINTENDO PLAY STATION, -and I PRAY FOR A NEW VCR..."
His older brother leaned over, nudged him and said, "What are you shouting for? God isn’t deaf."
His little brother smiled and said, "No, God’s not deaf… but Gramma is!"
APPLY: I Chronicles 4:9 tells us “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."
This is one of the most unique of all the prayers of Scripture. It’s prayed by a man who is never mentioned before or again in the Bible. It’s short, less than 30 words long. And a lot of people have been offended by it’s apparent selfishness (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.”
It has had such a negative impression on some that the “Indianapolis Star” featured an editorial cartoon a month or so ago showing a fat man with his mouth wide open consuming all kinds of material blessings. And across the face of the cartoon was the phrase “The Prayer Of Jabez.” There are many people who have rejected this prayer because they believe that it is so selfish.
AND YET, I know this is not a selfish prayer. You might ask: “Jeff, how do you know this is not a selfish prayer?” (I may repeat this a couple of times until the audience actually “asks” the question). Well, I’m so glad you asked…
I know this is not a selfish prayer… (in part) because God doesn’t answer selfish prayers
James, for example, rebukes a church in his day: “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2b – 3).
In other words, God refuses to answer selfish prayers. Years ago there was a Country song: “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” And everybody who heard the song just smiled because everybody just knew that this was not the kind of prayer God answers.
So, if God doesn’t answer selfish prayers, what kind of prayer is this prayer of Jabez?
Well, it’s the best kind of prayer. It’s the kind of prayer that God wants to answer. And the reason I know that this is the kind of prayer God wants to answer is because of the part of the prayer that first caught my attention: “enlarge my territory.”
Now there are two basic kinds of prayer.
The 1st kind of prayer is the one that most people pray. It’s a prayer where folks feel like they’re imposing on God and asking Him for something He may not want to answer. This kind of prayer is akin to the boy who asks a girl out and says “you wouldn’t want to go out with me would you?”
The 2nd kind of prayer is the kind of prayer that God wants to answer.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the 1st kind of prayer. That’s the kind of prayer that is prayed by a person who is not convinced God will want to answer their petition. God does answer that type of prayer – it’s just thatthey’re not the best kind of prayers to be praying.
These kinds of prayers are like the kinds of requests my kids make when I take them to the store. Every time my kids go into a store they ask for something (candy, toy, ride on machine). And, you know what I often say to them: “No, not this time. You don’t need it; we don’t have the time; it’ll rot your teeth; I can’t afford it.” No!
BUT every once in a while, I’ll give them what they want. Why would I do that? Because I love them. Do they annoy me with their requests? SURE!– but they’re not afraid to continue to ask, because they know I won’t put them down, that I won’t reject them because of their boldness.
A lot of times we feel like we’re bothering God with our prayers (like children at store).