Little Man, Big Prayer (the Prayer of Jabez)

Series:  When Men Pray



In 2000, a little book by Bruce Wilkinson called “The Prayer Of Jabez” was published.  It sold over nine million copies and received multiple awards.  It spawned a number of other books as well as a line of merchandise.  It’s popularity started a movement that drew much criticism.

Wikipedia states that the Prayer of Jabez became very popular to where some were using it in a repetitive manner.

Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT)7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Some took it to excess, using the prayer in an almost superstitious way, believing it to be a sign of health, wealth and prosperity.

It’s no surprise that many people had never heard of Jabez or his prayer before the book came out. The first nine chapters of 1st Chronicles are mainly a genealogy and historical account of Judah. In the first nine chapters there is a list of 500 names.  But when you get to chapter four, in this unexciting list of names we find a golden nugget. When the writer gets to Jabez he pauses to provide more than just his name. Let’s look at the prayer of Jabez.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)

9     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.

  1. Jabez made a NAME for himself.
  2. Jabez means PAIN
  3. No one knows why she named him “Pain”
  4. Only God knows for sure what caused this mother’s “pain.”
  5. Naming a child on personal associations was somewhat common.
  6. Jabez’ name lacks PROMISE
  7. A name was often taken as a wish for or prophecy about the child’s future
  8. Perhaps every time he appeared on the scene, someone would say. . .you are a “pain” in the. . .
  9. He had a name that any boy would love to hate!
  10. Jabez was not going to accept the stigma his name carried.
  11. He wasn’t going to allow it to discredit his hopefulness.
  12. Jabez allowed himself the PRIVILEGE of hoping for a better future.
  13. He wasn’t going to settle for how things looked.
  14. He was not going to use his name or his circumstances to define his character.
  15. Instead he was going to allow himself the privilege of hoping for a better future!
  16. He cries out to the God of his fathers!

II.  The Prayer of Jabez

The prayer at first glance appears to be selfish.  He uses the words me, mine and I five times in just one verse.  But he is actually praying for things God wants him to have. 

Jabez’ prayer was. . .

  • Short
  • Simple
  • Sincere
  • Specific
  •  It was an Earnest prayer – “Oh, that you would

Luke 22:44  (KJV) –  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

James 5:16 (KJV) – . . . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:17 (KJV) – Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

Hebrews 5:7 (ESV) – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

  • It was a prayer for Definite Blessing – “Bless Me Indeed
  • Not only was his prayer earnest, but it was also urgent!                        

Genesis 32:26 (ESV) – Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

  • He needed a blessing and knew who he could turn to and receive a blessing!
  • Blessings are pictured as gifts in the Bible and often pictured as rain. Ezekiel voiced that “there will be showers of blessings”

Ezekiel 34:26 (NLT) – I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.

  • This was a prayer of importunity and intensity
  • His cry was:
  • Unceremonious
  • Unfeigned
  • Unsophisticated
  • Urgent

The urgency of his prayer was obvious, evidenced by the verb cried,  This is praying intensely.  This is the type of praying you do when a job possibility blows up in your face, a friend or relative is doing drugs, when your child got involved in the wrong crowd, when a love one is lying at the point of death.  There is little you can do except plead with God. 

Point to Ponder:  When we pray for God to bless us or someone else we are asking God to pour out divine, supernatural power into our lives. When we ask God for a blessing or we really ready for it?

Point to Ponder:  We need to be responsible enough to handle the blessing correctly.  Do you agree?  But. . .how are we irresponsible and do not handle the blessing correctly?

  • Noticed that he left the blessing entirely up to God decide what the blessings would be and where, when and how Jabez would receive them.
  • Jabez wants what God wants him to want! 
  • Our desire should be no more, no less than what God wants for us.

Proverbs 10:22 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) – It is the Lord’s blessing that makes a person rich, and hard work adds nothing to it.

  • It was a prayer for Enlarged Possessions – “Enlarge my territory.”

Too many times we feel that he is praying for property. He is not saying “I want more.”

  • God will  give us more when our motive is to do more for Him.
  • God granted his request because He knew Jabez’s heart!
  • God knew that Jabez’s desire to expand was to be able to do more for God.
  • We should be like Jabez and request to be more. . .
  • Involved in ministry
  • Influence in our community
  • Instrumental in service
  • Intentional in evangelism
  • Incentive to do more
  • Increase our ability to do more
  • God will give us more if our motive is to do more for Him!

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (GW) – 10 God gives seed to the farmer and food to those who need to eat. God will also give you seed and multiply it. In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval. 11 God will make you rich enough so that you can always be generous. Your generosity will produce thanksgiving to God because of us.

  • It was a prayer for Power and Guidance – “Let  your hand be with me”
  • The “hand of the LORD” is a biblical term for God’s presence and power in a person’s life.

Psalm 119:173 (GW) – Let your hand help me because I have chosen to follow your guiding principles.

Joshua 4:24 (ESV) – so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Acts 11:21 (ESV) – And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

  • Jabez asking God to expand his territory means he is ready for God to move him outside his “comfort zone” and conquer new territories. 
  • If you are going to pray for God to increase your territory and your influence you better pray for his hand to be with you!
  • If God’s hand is not with him (us) then he (we) would not be successful!
  • Let your hand. . .
  • Guide me
  • Provide for me
  • Chastise me
  • Uphold me
  • Bless me
  • Be with me in the affairs of my life
  • Be with me to bring success in my ministerial endeavors.
  • God does things differently – instead of rising to power we descend to power. 
  • To go up we must go down!  To rise up in our ministry we have to go down in prayer!
  • Therefore, we HAVE to pray that God’s hand be on us. . .God keep us from anything that would hinder us.

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV) – 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

  • It was a prayer for Protection from evil – “and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
  • Whenever we dare to get serious about doing great things for God we are poking the bear with a stick!
  • When we are a threat to Satan’s goals we can be sure that he will be coming after us.
  • When Jabez asked that his boundaries be widened he knew that he needed God’s hand of protection!
  • KJV says “keep me from evil” and in the “Lord’s Prayer” Jesus says to pray “deliver us from evil.”
  • Somehow we don’t think to ask God simply to keep us away from temptation and keep the devil at bay in our lives.
  • Success brings with it greater opportunities for failure and for the leader to fall into temptation. That is really when we need God to keep evil and harm at bay!
  • When Jabez asked that his territory be enlarged he knew that he needed two things. . .
  • God’s hand guiding him
  • God’s hand protecting him
  • He knew that getting caught-up in sin would impede the work and blessings he asked God to give him.
  • He didn’t want to work against himself and did not want to dishonor God so he asked to be protected from harm’s way; he asked to be delivered from evil!

2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV) – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. . .

Jude 24 (ESV) – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Psalm 121 (ESV) – 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

III.  God made a better life for Jabez – God granted his request

  • That doesn’t mean that God just handed him a blessing and he did not have to do his part!
  • It’s not that He can’t bless us without our help but when we ask Him to bless us we should be ready to do our part.
  • We can’t do what God does and God won’t do what we can do!
  • Answers to prayers commonly involve a combination of God doing his part and we doing ours.
  • When God blesses us it does not mean that we will not have trouble in our life.  To the contrary, we can expect Trouble (with a capital T)!
  • However, we MUST remember that our requests have to be in line with God’s will for our lives!

1 John 5:14-15 (ESV) – 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

John 16:23-24 (NLT) – 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

PRAYER PRINCIPLE:                     Thank God for the pain, promises and privileges we receive as a result of a relationship with a loving God.

SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE:       Empower and encourage others to prepare to receive their blessing.

EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE:            Let others know how our territory was enlarged when Christ died on the cross saving us from the penalty of a stifled life.

STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE:            Giving consistently enables others to be equipped.

DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE:            To feel comfortable with our territory being enlarged means letting go of some thoughts and ideals that keep us confined; keep the prayer lines open for engagement and empowerment.

NEXT WEEK’S TITLE:    Is Your All on the Altar

SERIES:             When Men Pray

NEXT WEEK’S READING ASSIGNMENT:  1 Kings 18:17-46; Romans 12:1; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Exodus 20:25; Matthew 6:33; 1 Peter 5:5; Psalms 51:17; Acts 6:4;

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