The Power of a Prayer (of Jabez)
INTRODUCTION: I Chronicles 4:9-10
We are going to be looking at the POWER OF A PRAYER! Did you hear that? The Power of “a” Prayer. Now, I didn’t say we were going to study about the power of prayer, although we could spend our time talking about that. Because all of God’s successful servants in the Bible were really men of prayer. But we are speaking in this study about the power of a specific prayer. I want you to notice what your Bible says in 1 Chron. 4:9-10,
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.”
Now, I want you to notice why this is such an important prayer.
First, it is important because of where it is placed.
I don’t know if you have ever studied the book of First Chronicles or not. The first nine chapters are pretty boring. At least it is to me. You say, “Well, Wayne, are you saying the Bible is boring?” Well, it is in this section because I can’t read it. All those names I can’t even pronounce. I usually just skip over all of that. I say, “Hickey”, “What’s his name,” “Whatmacallit,” and such like. It’s really tough. (The entire Bible is equally inspired…but not equally inspiring.) But right in the middle of all these names it just changes gears and says, “Now Jabez was more honorable…” and then tells us of a prayer he prays. The writer was right in the middle of a role call about this guy and this guy and this guy and then all the sudden he inserts this prayer by a guy we’ve never heard of…before or since! And so it is an important prayer because of the place where it is in the Bible…sort of “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.
The second thing I want you to notice is that it is an important prayer because of the person who prayed.
Not only is it important because of the place, but it important also because of the person. Notice in verse 9, “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain’.” Now the word Jabez means, “pain.” How would you like to have a name like that? (Now this is a true story: When I was in High School we had an English teacher whose name was Mr. Pain. And brother, he was! Of course, he spelled his name “Payne,” but to us he was a pain. He was a tough teacher.) His mother gave Jabez this name evidently because he caused her some extraordinary pain at birth and/or maybe she thought he would be the type to cause pain throughout his life. In the Bible they named people like that. For example, if you where to study the book of Ruth chapter one, Elimelech and Naomi named their two sons Mahlon and Chilion. Now Mahlon means “sickly” and Chilion means “wasting away.” How would you like to have a name like that? Imagine they are standing around and someone says, “Come here, Sickly, and you too, “Wasting Away.” I don’t know whether that had any affect on them or not, but both those guys died at an early age. Jabez, he had a name you love to hate. (Johnny Cash had a song about a boy named, “Sue.” My first name is “Belma”). He had a name that meant pain. His mother evidently didn’t think he had a very good chance in life. She may have thought that he would go through life causing pain…who knows?
The third thing I want you to notice is not only the place where this prayer is found, and the person who prayed it, but notice also the principles in the prayer.
This is just a little simple prayer. Just four little requests. Look at them in verse 10.
Number one, I want You to bless me indeed.
Number two, enlarge my territory.
Number three, I want Your hand to be with me.
Number four, I want You to keep me from evil so that I will not cause pain.
Just four simple requests.
But not only was it a simple prayer, it is a sincere prayer. The Bible says that “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” Honorable people pray honorable prayers. It must have been a sincere prayer because the last line in verse 10 says, “So God granted him what he requested.”
It was also a scriptural prayer. He prayed like God wanted him to pray. This is the reason God answered the prayer. The Bible says, “He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). So this guy prayed a scriptural prayer. God heard him!
And finally, it was a successful prayer. Why? Look at verse 10. The last line says, “So God granted him what he requested.” This is a powerful prayer! That is what I want us to us to consider in the rest of this article about the prayer of Jabez. I want you to notice what he prayed for.
I. He prayed for PROSPERITY.
He prayed for blessings. Now, he left exactly how God was going to bless him up to God. He didn’t tell God when to bless him or how to bless him or with what to bless him. He just said, “I want you to bless me.” God is interested in us prospering. When we think about prospering I am not necessarily talking about financially. But I am talking about prospering as Christians and prospering as people. In fact, in Psalm 1:1-3 the Bible says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”
In III John verse 2 John said, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” And while Jabez did not tell God how to bless him, he did say this, “I want you to bless me.” He didn’t tell how to bless but he told him who to bless. BLESS ME! You know, we don’t pray like that in our prayers. We might pray like David did in Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy on me, O God.” We might pray like the publican in Luke 18:13 when he said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” We might pray like the apostles did in Acts 4:29 when they said, “Grant Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.” Or we might pray like Paul in Second Corinthians 12 when he had this thorn in the flesh and he prayed that God would remove it. But how many times do we simply say, “Lord, I want you to bless me. I want you give whatever blessing you want me to have. I am not going to tell you what it is. I just want it. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what the blessing is. I just want you to bless me.” Did you know that there are some blessings you are not going to get from God if you do not ask? Now there are some blessings you are going to get whether you ask or not. For example, the Bible says in Matthew 5 that he sends rain on the just and the unjust. So you are probably going to get the blessing of rain and sunshine whether you ask him or not. The Bible says in Act 17:27 that, “He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” You are going to get that whether you ask for it or not if you live. But there are some blessings you will not get unless you ask! There is not telling how many blessings He has stored up in heaven that He would have already given us if we would just ask. But we don’t ask. Look at James chapter 4:2, “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” There are some blessings you are not going to get if you do not ask for them. But Jabez said, “Lord, I want you to bless me and I don’t care what it is, I just want you to bless me.” And then I want you notice also what he said in verse nine. He said I want to bless me INDEED. In other words, Jabez was sort of like this. He said,
* “Lord, if You are going to bless me with bread, I don’t want only bread to eat, I want steak and lobster and Hardies biscuits.”
* “If You are going to bless me financially, I don’t want just enough to get by, I want you to open up the windows of heaven and pour it out abundantly.”
* “If You are going to bless me with health, if that is what You have decided, I don’t want to just be free from disease, I want to feel great!”
* “If You are going to bless me with strength, I want to be one of the strongest around.”
* “And if you are going to give me the Holy Spirit, I want you fill me with the Spirit.”
You see, he said, “I want all the blessings that you will possibly give to me.” And do you know one of the reasons why WE don’t have those blessings? It is because we ask for the wrong reason. Look at James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” You ask for the wrong reason. You ask because you want to consume it on your lust. You are just worried about you. That is the reason your prayer is not heard. That is the reason I don’t give you what you want. You see, somebody says, “I wish God would bless me financially.” Do I think it is right to pray for that? SURE! That may be what He has in mind, I don’t know. If I needed some financial help I would not mind asking for it. But the question is, “Why am I asking for it?”
Somebody says, “I’m going to ask Him to help me financially, because I have all these credit cards and they are all maxed out. My wife has been to Wal-Mart and K-Mart…and Penny’s and Sears.” And American express is calling me everyday saying, “Wayne, please leave home without it.” And Visa’s calling me all the time saying, “It’s everywhere you want to be!” (But I want to be out of debt and Visa hasn’t put me there.) And then someone called me the other day and wanted to give me a Discover Card. Man, I don’t need a Discover Card, I need a “recover” card. Because I have already discovered how to get into debt now I need to recover.
But why do you want to get out of debt? Someone says, “Oh, I want to get out of debt so I won’t owe anything, then I can buy me a house out on the lake and I can live the American dream.” Maybe that is why you don’t get what you ask for. Consume it on your lust.
Suppose you had this attitude. “Lord, I fooled around here and I have gotten myself in a bind and I can’t give to You like I would like to and I am not giving to the Church like I would like to. I wonder, would You bless me so that I could give you more?” Or maybe, you are praying about health. Why do you want to be healthier? “Oh, well, I want to feel good. I want to “run, and jump and skin the cat…do anything…just look at that.” But let’s suppose you were to pray, “Lord, I don’t even feel like worshipping and studying and praying and doing those things that I know I need to do. I would like for You to help me with my health so that I can serve you better.” It makes all the difference in the world. Suppose you have all these family problems and you say, “Lord I need your help, my kids are driving me crazy and everything is in turmoil. Our family is just falling apart.” Well, why do want those problems straightened out. “Oh, I just want to be able to take it easy and lay out in the shade and sleep good at night.” But just suppose that you were to pray, “Lord I have all these family problems and I can’t concentrate on praying and I can’t concentrate on Jesus and it is hard for me to study the Bible when I am thinking about all the things that are happening to me. I would like for you to help me out on this so that I can concentrate on Jesus more.” You see, we ask a lot of times and we don’t receive a lot of times because we ask “amiss.” We are only concerned about us. Me, myself, and I. God and His will is not the focus in our prayers.
Jabez said, “I want you to bless me and I want you to bless me indeed.” I want you to bless me a lot. And I think that is a really good way for us to pray. “Lord, I am not telling you how to bless me; When to bless me; Or where to bless me; I just want all that you will give to me that I can serve you better.”
II. He prayed for POSSIBILITIES.
Look again at I Chronicles 4:9, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” I think maybe he is probably thinking of more here than just real estate, but rather opportunities and possibilities. Since I have learned this prayer, when I pray I say, “Lord I want you to enlarge my territory.” I am asking Him to open some doors of opportunity for me to expand His kingdom. I didn’t know Jabez’s prayer back in the 70’s. I was baptized in 1970. And I didn’t know about the prayer back then that we are studying about today. I didn’t know about the power in that prayer. I just remember the desire that I had. I wanted to be used in His service. I know this as well, whenever I have prayed sincerely. When ever I have sincerely asked God to use me, He has always opened up some door of opportunity to serve. I would not have ever thought that He would ever us me to speak, or lead a prayer, or become a preacher, or serve as an elder. All you do is ask, “Lord, expand my opportunities. And mean it! “Lord increase my territory.” And he will do it. Most of us believe in a God who does not exist. We believe in a God who is more or less out of the picture. Let me tell you something. Our God still works supernaturally in this world today and always has. You see, all miracles are supernatural acts of power, but all supernatural acts of power are not necessarily miracles. Somebody says, “Well, Wayne, I would rather call it providence.” I don’t care what you call it just so you believe God is doing it! And that He is active in your life personally. You see, Jabez said, “Lord enlarge MY territory.” When you pray, pray, “Lord open up some opportunities for ME.” And when you mean that sincerely and WATCH HIM! Just watch Him!
III. He also prayed about POWER.
Look at verse 10 again. “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that Your hand might be with me,” Now, when we talk about the hand being with him, he was talking about God’s power being with him. You know we do that sometime. We will be lifting something and someone will be standing near by when you are straining any you will say, “Hey, give me a hand.” You see, that is what we want. We want their strength and their power to help us. That is what it means when he talks about the hand of God. I remember in the book of Exodus 3:20 it talks about the hand of the Lord was against the Egyptians. I remember reading in Acts 11:21 “And the hand of the Lord was with them” when talking about the church. That is what Jabez is praying for. “I want the hand of the Lord.” “I want your power to be with me.” We need to pray for that. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” In Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Then in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Did you hear that? Listen! He can do exceeding. Not just exceeding, but exceeding, abundantly. And not just exceeding, abundantly, but above. And not just exceeding, abundantly above, but exceeding, abundantly, above all. And not just exceeding, abundantly, above, all, but exceeding, abundantly, above, all that we ask. But not just exceeding, abundantly, above, all that we ask, but the Bible says He can do exceeding, abundantly, above, all, that we ask or think. He can do more than you can think because of His power! But the problem is that we do not ask! Someone will say, “Wayne I heard what you said a while ago. And I realize that my prayers and my motives have not been right. And I wish I could pray that I could give more and mean it. I wish I could pray that I would feel better so that I could study more and be more involved in the Lords work and really mean it. I wish I could pray about these family problems and really mean that I want to serve HIm and that is the reason that I am praying about it. But I am not able to do that. Or I haven’t been.” Don’t you think that maybe you need the hand of the Lord to help you. Ask Him to help you with that. You see that Bible says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” He can not only help you do it, He can help you will to do it. And a lot of times we might need to pray, “Lord I know that my motives may not be right.” Maybe I need to ask Him to bless me so that my motives are right. Ask him to help you, and then watch Him. Well someone might say, “Well, I don’t trust Him enough to ask Him.” Then ask Him to help you trust Him. “Well, I just can’t pray.” Well, ask Him to help you pray. You see, we want not only the provisions of God and the possibilities of God, we want the power of God to help us. In fact in Hebrews 13:21 says that God is, “working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight.”
IV. He prayed for PROTECTION.
Not only is this a prayer for prosperity, possibilities, and power, but it is also a prayer for protection. Look at verse 10 again “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil,” Now if you are going to pray this prayer, add that for sure. Because, do you know what happens a lot of times? He blesses us and He blesses us indeed. He enlarges our opportunities. And His power is with us. And then we fool around and get the big head or we fool around and enjoy the blessings and forget about the one who gave them to us. Israel did that. In Deuteronomy 6:10-12 God said “So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant; when you have eaten and are full; then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” Beware, because after you have received all these blessings you will forget me. And lo and behold when you read about the dark ages of the history of Israel in Judges 3:7, the Bible says they “forgot the Lord.” The one thing I don’t like about preaching this sermon is this part. Because I have done exactly that. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have everything going my way. Doors opened, prayers answered, power given, and it is so easy to loose our focus. It is so easy to concentrate on other things. I am not going to forget this part of that prayer, “Keep me from evil.” So I want to pray for protection. It is a lot easier to stay out of danger than it is to get out of it once we’re into it. And that is what he prayed for. He said, “You keep me from evil, because I don’t want to cause any pain.”
This is a prayer that has power. Oh, if we could just pray this prayer and mean it. There is no telling what God can and would do for us. And you know, we have such an advantage over Jabez! Jabez didn’t have the New Testament when he prayed that prayer. He didn’t know about Jesus. He didn’t know what I know. He didn’t know who I know. You see, God did not give Jabez this New Testament that tells us all about Jesus. Jabez didn’t know Him like you can know Him. Jabez didn’t have the relationship with God that you and I can have by being “in Christ.” One of the privileges of being a Christian is the ability to pray a powerful prayer. Bless me and bless me a lot. Enlarge my territory. Let your hand be with me. And keep me from evil. And may God grant us what is requested. Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).