Friendship Baptist Church Kansas City, Missouri
Praying from a Painful Place: The Prayer of Jabez
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1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (ESV)

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

 
We may not want to acknowledge it , but many of us struggle in prayer. That is, we struggle to pray and to do so consistently and unselfishly. We struggle with the silence that is often a part of prayer or the suffering experienced often while we are engaged in prayer. Yet we know that prayer is our lifeline and we are told that we should always pray.
 
But what are we to do with our pain? Our frustration? Our confinement and restriction? We often feel trapped, our back against the wall, bound, tied up and shackled by stuff that weigh us down. Consistent prayer seems elusive enough already. Praying out of our pain seems almost unimaginable.
 
The First Chronicles text is not only a history lesson, but a kind of encouragement and reminder of God's presence with the Hebrew people throughout every life experience. It is to be received by the post exilic community as well as you and I as a footnote to the faithfulness of God. So within the "who's who" list of kings in 1 Chronicles 4 is the odd insertion of two verses regarding a little known man by the name of Jabez.
 
His life is summed up in two verses! Amazing! The brevity of life itself. The realization that our life may be remembered not for how much we gained but by how much we gave. Not our power or position, but the people we bless along the way. We don't know Jabez, but God wants us to know a few things about him that might convince us to rethink our prayer life.
 
1. Jabez experienced distress in his life.
His name, given to him by his mother out of "her" suffering, implies a kind of negative shadowing upon the rest of his life. It means distress, pain or suffering. For the Hebrew the name has great significance. This man implicitly endures an unspecified kind of suffering and discomfort. We should all know that discomfort is a daily reality in this life. It's how we chose to face it that separates the victims from the victors and the whiners from the winners.
 
2. Jabez cries out to God for deliverance.
His prayer is offered out of the depths of his distress. It is not a selfish or greedy motive that fuels his prayer. The prayer for "enlarged territory" may well suggest that he is confined and restricted by the powers and personalities around him. He is praying for freedom. Think...what restricts, confines or seeks to inhibit your freedom? 
 
3. Jabez prayer glorifies the Giver not the gift.
So many of us have tortured this text to make it say to us what we want to hear.  How to get more! We're convinced that more is the answer. But on the basis of Jabez' prayer, we can assume that he took his relationship with God seriously. There was no magic in the words of his prayer. Rather, he knew that God is the giver of all things. Jabez was honorable, I believe, because he honored the Lord. He knew that living life without God's hand upon him was the most reckless choice he could make.
 
The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want, but to become what God wants.
 
 

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