Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blessed Indeed!

Since my children were babies, one of my daily prayers for them and for myself is that God would keep us from evil and keep the evil one from us. Several years ago, a little book about this fairly obscure section of scripture became a huge success in the Christian publishing world. The sometimes controversial Prayer of Jabez was about a man whose prayerful plea interrupts the continuing genealogies of 1 Chronicles chapters 3 through 5.

In chapter 4, amidst the many other names listed in the passage, this fellow Jabez (whose name was given to him apparently because he caused his mother great pain during his birth) was singled out as one who was more honorable than his brothers.

The mention of this man says nothing of any great military accomplishments or extraordinary wisdom. There is no reference to his having been exceptionally talented in any unique way or of his possessing superior physical strength or stature. His renown comes by virtue of the fact that he was honorable--and apparently prayerful. So what did he pray for exactly?

First, he prayed for God's "blessing indeed". I looked up the definition for the word indeed and found that it means without any question; undeniably; and as a matter of fact.

Jabez went a step beyond just asking to be blessed, he asked to be undeniably, factually, without any doubt or question blessed--and therein lies a significant aspect of his prayer--he wasn't half-hearted in the asking, and he was quite specific.

Second, he asked that his territory would be enlarged. Bible commentator Matthew Poole says that when Jabez called on God to enlarge his territory, it was for the purpose of "driving out the wicked and cursed Canaanites". In other words, it is assumed that Jabez wasn't praying selfishly here. Essentially, he was asking God to do something for him that would further God's purpose on earth by paving the way for righteousness to expand and godlessness to diminish.

I think it's important to mention that the temptation to pray selfishly is one to be carefully avoided. If our heart's desire is anything less than making God's glory known (he must increase, we must decrease) then we need to check our motives.

Next, Jabez asked that God's hand would be with him.

And finally, he prayed for God to keep him from evil and pain, an interesting prayer request for someone whose name apparently referred to the causing of pain. According to some scholars, the translation here likely means that Jabez did not want to cause pain (or grief) to anyone.

Scripture records that God granted Jabez's requests. Could it be that close communion with Him (by way of relationship with Christ) and an understanding of His heart, promises, and purposes, would serve to improve the effectiveness of our prayers, too? As we ask for God's blessings indeed, our prayer's priority must always be that God is honored in all that we say and do.

Father, please be honored by my life and the lives of my loved ones so that as we ask you to bless us indeed, enlarge our territory for your kingdom's sake, keep us from evil and keep the evil one from us, and hear from heaven and grant our request, we can trust that you will answer our pleas. You alone are the giver of all good things and I praise you in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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