Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Monday Morning Meditation #37: The Prayer of Jabez

I moved forward into I Chronicles this week and immediately became somewhat bogged down in the copious genealogy there until I came across the two-verse description of Jabez made famous by Bruce Wilkerson in various publications, e.g., The Prayer of Jabez (Bruce Wilkerson with David Kopp):
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.

Reading I Chronicles 4:9

Meditation: I almost hesitate to provide any thoughtful consideration of these verses, given how wildly popular Wilkerson has made the prayer of Jabez. So, what I would like to do is throw out some ideas for consideration to readers and ask for your interpretation.

Q1. Can we take Jabez's prayer out of the context in which it was prayed? Jabez was "more honorable" than his brothers; that seems to be the reason he is mentioned in more detail than the others listed in the genealogy and that may be the reason his prayer was answered. It was a prayer that he would not experience a life that matched the meaning of his name, "pain." We are told that God granted that prayer. I wonder if we can assume, then, that God will answer the prayer of any "honorable" person. There is a thought in the back of my mind that says that this prayer was prayed by this particular person for a particular reason and that God likely answered the plea of this particular person for reasons that He alone know. So, we know that when an honorable man prays, his prayer avails much. Does it make sense to expand beyond this and say that when anyone prays this same prayer, it will avail as much?

Q2. A related question is can we generalize the contents of Jabez's prayer? Jabez asked for a blessing; certainly, I think we can generalize the request for a blessing -- we do it all the time. After that, though, Jabez wants more territory, and in those old days that likely meant land. I wonder if it is really possible, as Wilkerson suggests, to extrapolate from that our right to ask for greater opportunities, power, riches or whatever else we would like to have.

Q3. Does anyone else see something rather selfish in this prayer once it is generalized to the situations of today? At least, as it is presented in much of the popular literature, Jabez's prayer is seen as a good way to "get" something from God. Or am I misunderstanding what Wilkerson is saying? Wilkerson aside, the prayer is all about the self, what Jabez wants, and, if we extrapolate to ourselves, what each "I" wants. It is not about what the group needs or about God's will being done or anything much that would indicate that this prayer is anything more than Jabez wanting to escape a limited future, one filled with pain, based on his name. If Jabez was an honorable man, there were probably many other prayers he said as well, ones less concerned with his own self-interests.

Q4. If God thought that this was the ideal prayer for us to use, why did Jesus give us the "Our Father" prayer to use? The Lord's Prayer is quite different from the prayer of Jabez. It focuses on all of us as a body; it looks to seeing God's will done; it asks for basic survival but we also promise a few things that would make us "honorable," such as forgiving those who trespass against us.

So, then those are my questions to you, which is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I must retire to a different kind of prayer, the only kind I am comfortable praying, to ask God to guide me in becoming "honorable," to thank Him for all that I have, to praise Him for the wonderful gifts He gives to all of us, including, at times, miracles, and to repent for those times that I may have been selfish in my prayers. After that, I will spend as much time as I can in contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.

I will now leave you to your prayer and contemplation, but first, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I hope you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts.

For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs that follow the enumeration of Monday Morning Meditations on the sidebar of this blog and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.


  1. "Jabez was more honorable," so he would more rightly focus the use of the land on God's purposes, not his own.

    I think that it would be a HUGE assumption to say that everyone choosing to rely on "The Prayer of Jabez" is honorable, and is seeking wealth or goodness for God's purposes.