************ Sermon on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached May 2001
1 Chronicles 4:9-10
"The Prayer of Jabez"
Meditation for National Day of Prayer
About one week ago Rev. Vink let me know I was out of touch. I was missing out on the latest and greatest thing making the round of churches. Pastors everywhere are preaching on this. Church leaders are reading books on this. He wasn't sure, but he even supposed there would be a bunch of stuff on the Internet.
Now that he had me hooked he said, "I want you to do a meditation on the prayer of Jabez at the National Day of Prayer service." "Huhh," I said. "What are you talking about? The prayer of what?" "You don't know the prayer of Jabez?" he asked. "You will find it in 1 Chronicles 10." We looked but did not find. "Maybe 1 Chronicles 14." Again no find. "1 Chronicles 24." Nope. Finally, he had it: "1 Chronicles 4:9-10." Obviously the Rev. Vink was missing out on the latest fad as well.
I invite you to turn to the passage with me. Hear the word of the Lord:
(1Chr 4:9-10) Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." (10) 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.
What is this passage all about, anyway? What does it teach us on this National Day of Prayer?
I What the Prayer Asks For
A Let's start off by admitting ignorance. The two verses in front of us contain the only information to be found in the Bible about Jabez.
What we do know is that he did not have a good beginning to his life. His mother called him Jabez, meaning "I gave birth to him in pain." Imagine if you went through life being called a pain. Imagine your own mother thinking of pain every time she called you or said your name. It must have been a long and difficult delivery that preceded his arrival in this world.
We also know that Jabez prayed a prayer – an unusual, one-sentence prayer that the Spirit of God saw fit to include in the Bible. We have that prayer in the passage in front of us.
And, we know that though things started badly for Jabez they seemed to have ended very well for him – God's answer to his prayer changed his life forever.
B When I did a search on the Internet for the Prayer of Jabez, I came up with all sorts of hits. I read a bunch of them. I listened to a number of them. Rev. Vink is right – I am out of touch with the latest theological fad sweeping across the Christian landscape.
Based upon the Prayer of Jabez, pastors are preaching and people are saying that if we want a life of blessing and health and strength and prosperity, then all we have to do is pray about it. One pastor goes so far as to say he has made the Prayer of Jabez his own personal prayer for the last 30 years of his life.
C In his prayer, Jabez makes four requests of God. First, "Oh, that you would bless me." "To bless" means to ask for God's favor. We need God's favor or blessing upon all that we do and say and think. And, if we don't have His blessing then we are spinning our wheels and wasting our time.
Second, Jabez prays, "Enlarge my territory." In that time and place he was asking for riches – having more lands and flocks and herds.
Third, Jabez prays, "Let your hand be with me." God's hand represents His power and His strength. He is asking for God's power to be made real in him and through him.
Fourth, Jabez prays, "Keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." He is asking for safety and protection.
II Should This be our Prayer?
A On this National Day of Prayer there are two things the Prayer of Jabez teaches us.
First, the Prayer of Jabez teaches us that Christians need to pray because God gives His gifts only to those who ask for them.
But let's not misunderstand this. Many of those today talking about the Prayer of Jabez are guilty of binding God. They treat God like a genie in a bottle. Prayer releases the genie so that God gives us what we want.
We know better than that. We believe that God is sovereign. He is "free." He is not bound by our prayers. Nobody can "make Him" do or give anything. Yet, He has ordained that we must pray before we can receive. When we ask in faith, He will give; when we seek, we shall find; and when we knock, He will open the door (Mt 7:7-8). When we lack anything in this life, the most logical explanation is that we did not ask. "You do not have," says James, "because you do not ask God" (James 4:2). And, in another place he says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God" (James 1:5).
Prayer is the avenue through which we receive what God promises us. And, unless we ask, we will not receive.
Second, the Prayer of Jabez gives God the credit for all blessings. When we ask and receive we cannot help but give the credit to God. The Bible tells us that God blesses both the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45). But only those who pray to God for those blessings give credit to God when those blessings come. And that is a good thing. God wants to be acknowledged as the giver of every good and perfect gift.
B As I already mentioned, there is a pastor who prays the Prayer of Jabez every single day. I would not recommend that. And, I have three reasons for saying this.
First, there is another prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: The Lord's Prayer. No where does Jesus teach us to pray the Prayer of Jabez. But He does command us to pray The Lord's Prayer.
Second, the Prayer of Jabez did catch God's attention. But probably because Jabez was "more honorable than his brothers." In other words, it was the person and not the prayer that God was paying attention to.
Third, compare the Prayer of Jabez to The Lord's Prayer. The Prayer of Jabez is all about me. Bless me, help me, save me, heal me, guard me, protect me, prosper me. The Lord's Prayer, by way of contrast, begins and ends with God: His name, kingdom, will; His kingdom, power, and glory. The Prayer of Jabez makes me think of myself whereas the Lord's Prayer makes me think more about God. The more I pray The Lord's Prayer the more my mind and heart bend away from me and toward God.
On this National Day of Prayer we are gathered together to pray for God's blessing. Hopefully, we will pray as righteous or honorable men and women. We will pray knowing that God wants us to ask Him for His blessing. We will pray giving Him credit for His blessings. And, we will pray thinking first about God and then about ourselves.
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