The Prayer of Jabez

Nestled among a list of genealogies at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, we find this odd break in the list where the chronicler highlights a man and his prayer. While it seems out of place, the chronicler is intentional. The chronicler often inserts narrative within the genealogies to highlight an important theme. Prayer is one of those themes. Each theme is meant to remind God’s people that, though He may seem absent, He has not left them, and He’s worth seeking with all their hearts. The Prayer of Jabez is one of those important reminders.

This little prayer we find is situated in the book of 1 Chronicles. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are often overlooked because they re-tell the story of the kings and the Kingdom of God’s people. Chronicles was written during the final period of the Old Testament- long after Israel’s heyday as a mighty Kingdom, the split of this kingdom, their exile, and subsequent return from exile. They are no longer the great nation they once were and are not experiencing the blessing of the promised land and, most of all, the blessing of God’s powerful presence and rule. In the midst of this pain and longing, Chronicles was meant to keep their hope alive that, though their true King, the Messiah, had not yet come, God is faithful to His promise, so keep waiting, keep looking, and keep hoping for His arrival.

Now, if you’ve been in Christian circles over the last couple of decades, you probably have some familiarity- good or bad- with a book by the same name. But my guess is most of us have probably never come across this prayer.

So, what was his prayer?

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 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. – 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 

Things to note that help us recapture and reclaim this prayer:

  • Jabez is a royal son of Judah. The Israelites would’ve known that blessing (Gen. 49:9-12)
  • Jabez is fatherless. In a genealogy listing fathers and sons, Jabez has neither.
  • When it says “more honorable than his brothers,” it refers to the other men of Judah. Some who, in fact, forfeit their land and possessions due to their evil choices- Onan (1 Chron. 2:3), Achan (2:7), Hezron, and Jair (2:21-22) This detail is super important as a premise to Jabez’s prayer. It speaks to his character.
  • A Bible Commentary explains something very important about this random man mentioned only once in the Bible:

“Jabez means “pain,” and though we don’t know the cause of his (mother’s) pain, we know he’s without a father—a profoundly painful situation in ancient Israel (or anywhere for that matter). Living at the time of the Judges, a time renowned for its chaotic anarchy, Jabez’s father may have been killed or his mother raped. Regardless, his plight stands in stark contrast to the father-son pattern found in 1 Chronicles 4.” -Great Commission Commentary

There are some important takeaways that will help us understand God and the relationship He wants to have with us.

  1. We can come to God in prayer with our pain
  2. God desires to bless us
  3. We can pray for influence
  4. We can ask God for protection
  5. Our prayers find significance ONLY in His presence

We’re not meant to see this prayer as a magical mantra to get God to do what we want; instead, what this prayer demonstrates is that God hears the prayers of those who seek Him; it is a reminder to God’s people (and to us) to not give up praying during difficult circumstances. Finally, it’s a call away from self-sufficiency to dependence on God. He wants to be asked. He wants us to bring our needs and concerns to Him and trust that He will answer according to His perfect will.

Jabez prayed, “Let your hand be with me…”

God’s presence in your life as you walk with Him and trust Him, no matter the results, will bring a humility that ultimately He is in control.

He gives and takes away. His presence will allow us to trust his heart, even when we don’t understand

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Speaker: Eric Bryant