About 15 years ago, “The Jabez Prayer” seemed to be the new solution to life’s problems in Christian circles. Jabez was known in scripture for one prayer, and it became my mantra. In fact, I only needed to mention to friends I was praying the prayer of Jabez and their response was typically,
“Oh! Well, that changes everything! Watch out for God’s activity! You will be blee-eesed! And your borders will be expaa-aanded for sure!”
My prayer consisted of: “Lord prosper me! Give me a large piece of property – spiritually speaking of course – that everyone may know that you are good to me and may my kingdom expanded for Your glory!”
Unfortunately I did not get the same response as Jabez. In fact, I’m not exactly sure Jabez and I were praying the same prayer. Which made me wonder… what moved God to answer his prayer?
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve revisited 1 Chronicles 4:9 – 10 with fresh eyes. Rather than a prayer for prosperity, Jabez’ prayer seems more like a plea for more of a life than his apparent destiny dictated. This time I read,
“God, may the label of pain marking my entrance into this world not define me. Instead, bless me, and may your hand be with me. Keep me from harm. And if it pleases you, expand my sphere of influence for Your kingdom above and beyond the pain around me.” I Chronicles 4:9 – 10.
He seemed to be sincerely petitioning for a re-defined life which was not marked or defined by the bane of his existence, (his name Jabez literally means pain), but recognized and made significant by the blessing of someone covered by and validated by God himself. He wanted God’s stamp on his life over and above the curse. This was the prayer request that God granted to Jabez.
I think God will always answer a sincere request for re-definition, and not just for a guy who made history with two verses in the Old Testament. This season of Advent and all it represents is our do-over, our chance to redefine desires, motives and values.
The Apostle Peter reminds us,
“…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ…” 1 Peter 1:18-19
I’ve decided to now pray the intended Prayer of Jabez. I’m choosing not to schlepp last year’s mistakes into the unmarked territory of a new year. As I cross the threshold on January 1st, I am asking for a clearer understanding of the redemption I already possess. My prayer is that I will view my life from God’s perspective rather than the labels of my humanity.
I think Jabez would agree with that prayer…just living the thing.