About 12 years ago a small book exploded into the Christian book publishing world: Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez. He taught us how to pray this simple prayer taken from the book of 1 Chronicles.
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 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.
Jabez' name means pain and the text says that he was born in pain. That pain is not a reference to childbirth pain. Jabez was born into a family marked by hurt or dysfunctional relationships. Maybe it seemed like the world was against him. Whatever his obstacles, we know that it involved some level of hurt. Jabez' father is not included in the family lineage which means that he did something dishonorable, costing his family.
Jack Hayford shares that Jabez is a picture of God bringing broken vessels back to strength. Jabez was willing to let God shape Him. He had a will to see God build up what had been torn down. God saw the tenderness of Jabez' heart and blessed him.
Instead of crumbling under the weight of his problems, Jabez (more honorable than his brothers - perhaps they were crumbling and whining in defeat) cried out to God to do four things:
1) Bless me
2) Enlarge my territory
3) Keep your hand with me
4) Keep me from harm (or more pain).
This prayer attitude invited God to come do a fresh work out of a bad situation.
Sometimes God takes us out of sorrowful times and, if we will submit to being shaped by Him instead of being crushed by the painful circumstances, He will begin to do a new work in our lives. Instead of sorrow, he gives joy and strength.
Hayford writes, We are to search our hearts for the areas in which we need God's healing and touch and then turn to Him as our source of blessings, enlargement, or defense.
Oh Lord, bless me indeed!