One of the most interesting prayers in the Bible is recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10. It’s easy to overlook this little prayer because it is inconspicuously nestled in nine long chapters of genealogies. But, it’s a beautiful prayer that tells us what one man did when life pained him.
Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm that it may not pain me!”
Jabez belonged to a family from the tribe of Judah. He was probably the first-born in his family because his name is the one included in the genealogical lists of 1 Chronicles. We also know that “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9). The word “honorable” suggests that he was more “weighty” than his brothers in terms of influence. His personal piety was reflected in his personal conduct and acknowledged by others.
All children are brought forth in pain (see Genesis 3:16). However, the pain in child-bearing is usually replaced by an even greater joy after the child is born. Not so in the case of Jabez. The pain which his mother experienced while giving birth must have been so extraordinary that she felt compelled to commemorate it. So, when the time came for Jabez to be circumcised and given a name, his mother named him Jabez which means “pain.”
Poor Jabez! His name was a constant reminder that his mother “bore him with pain.” Understanding what life must have been like for Jabez can help us to understand his prayer.
“Now Jabez called on the God of Israel” | Jabez called on the covenant God who keeps His word and never forgets His people. He had a right view of God, for the one who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Jabez knew where to turn for help. He expressed his faith and confidence in God alone.
“Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed” | At first glance this appears to be a selfish request, but keep in mind that these are the words of the man named “pain.” Jabez had the courage to ask God to bless him. He refused to allow his name and the ridicule he had to endure to keep him down.
“and enlarge my border” | Jabez had the courage to pray for success in his undertakings. He was not content to let his little light shine in a little corner. He asked God for a big corner to brighten. Jabez was not content to have just a little responsibility. He asked God for greater responsibility.
“and that Thy hand might be with me” | This is a beautiful expression of Jabez’s dependence upon God. He wanted to see God’s all-powerful and all-sufficient hand at work in his life — leading, protecting, providing, and strengthening him.
“and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm” | Jabez acknowledged that God alone was capable of keeping him from harm — the harm caused by the stigma of his name as well as the harm caused by sin, trouble, and enemies. Jabez acknowledged his need for God’s protection.
“that it may not pain me!” | Jabez ended his prayer by alluding to his name. A paraphrase might read: “Dear God, grant that the pain implied in my name might not come upon me!”
“And God granted him what he requested.” | What a beautiful statement! We really don’t need any details regarding how God answered his prayer. It is enough to know that he answered it. God granted Jabez what he requested. That means that God blessed him indeed, gave him success in his undertakings, broadened the scope of his responsibilities, kept His mighty hand upon him, and kept him from harm.
Jabez teaches us what to do when life pains us.
First, we should turn to God in prayer, acknowledging our need for Him.
Second, we should not allow the painful things in life to keep us down; rather we should use them as motivators for reaching higher and doing more.
Third, we should ask God to allow us to see and understand more of the bigger picture and how that painful situation fits into the bigger scheme of things.
Fourth, we should be courageous in our praying, making our hearts fully known to God.
So, remember Jabez the next time life pains you and dare to pray with the kind of courage and confidence he demonstrated in prayer.