“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV).
Until about 20 years ago, no one really knew who Jabez was. For millennia, his name and story have remained tucked away in the pages of one of the least read chapters of the Bible. But as obscure as Jabez once was, in these last days God has brought him into the mainstream – not because of anything notable that he did, but because of his famous prayer.
The Prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles, buried within nine straight chapters of genealogical lists, among 500 individuals' names that we have likely never heard of and couldn't pronounce anyway. But if we were to trudge through the seemingly endless data dump of this Old Covenant historical book, we'd find a short and succinct prayer that jumps off the page and captures our attention. And it is significant, because it is a prayer of blessing... and God said yes.
Isn’t it good to know that God thinks it's okay to ask for a blessing? For as Jesus pointed out, if we know how to give good things to our children, how much more does our Father in heaven want to give good things to us who are His children (Matthew 7:11)!
God, I want to be blessed big time! Not a "just barely getting by" blessing, but a blessing with an exclamation point! God don’t hold back! Pour it out like an overflowing flood. Draw me closer to You, grow my faith, deepen my walk, and make me spiritually strong! Heal me, prosper me, open doors of opportunity, give me peace and joy. Restore the years that have been stolen. Bless me, indeed!
It seems there is something that the people who have received God's blessing all have in common. Take a look at how they prayed:
- David : “As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after thee.”
- Mary: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word.”
- Solomon: “He asked God to give him wisdom to rule His people Israel.”
- Jacob: “I will not let You go until You bless me.”
- John the Baptist: “I must decrease so He can increase.”
- Apostle Paul: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.”
- Isaiah: “Here I am Lord, send me.”
- Jeremiah: “He is the potter, and I am the clay.”
They each prayed for blessing, but not for the sake of being blessed, but for the sake of God Himself, to fulfill His will and purpose in the earth. It’s also a desire to be blessed in order to be a blessing to others. Although these individuals were all very different, they clearly had an understanding of three things about God's blessing that are foreign to most people.
1. It All Begins with God
In the ancient culture that Jabez was born into, it was customary that a person's name have a significant meaning. It often described the circumstances surrounding the birth of the baby. What's shocking and sad about Jabez is that the name Jabez means pain, affliction or sorrow. Evidently, the circumstances which surrounded Jabez birth were extremely difficult. But we are not told what they were: a breach birth, illegitimacy, an unintended, unwanted mouth to feed, or even a product of abuse. Whatever the reason, his mother gave him a name which became a constant curse in his life.
But biblical names didn’t just describe the circumstances surrounding a child’s birth; they often described the destiny the parents foresaw for the child's future.
- Jacob means grabber, supplanter—and this became a one-word biography of Jacob’s life
- Abraham means father of many nations—and Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers all trace their spiritual heritage to him
- Joseph means dreamer—and his dream interpretation gift elevated him to prominence over Egypt
- Solomon means peace—and he became the first king of Israel to reign without waging war
Biblical names could define and limit a person's future, and with a name like causer of pain, Jabez’s future didn’t look bright. Each time someone called his name, they were declaring his present character, and more importantly, his future... you will be the causer of pain.
Everyone expected that Jabez would cause pain to others; Jabez probably expected this of himself as well. If you grew up in an environment where everyone said this is what you are and will always be, you would eventually believe it too. Imagine the emotional torment he must have experienced growing up, looking forward to a lifetime of pain.
But somehow Jabez was able to reject the cursed name, and believed he had a choice: He could either shrug his shoulders and accept a life of bitterness, anger, addiction and crime, or he could turn to God, Who could turn it all around.
And we know – “Jabez called on the God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
Jabez remembered that Israel was the new name that God gave to Abraham's grandson, Jacob (grabber, supplanter), when he finally decided to take his pain to God.
Jacob also had a rough start in life. Growing up, he lived in the shadow of his brother Esau, the first born and favored son of his father. Esau was in line for the blessings of the firstborn, which was a double portion of inheritance from his parents' estate. He was expected to carry on the family name, and to take over the family business from his father, Isaac.
So young Jacob lived in Esau's shadow. It apparently bothered him so much, he eventually fulfilled the prophecy of his name; he deceived his family and stole his brother’s birthright and blessing! And then Jacob the grabber, the supplanter, lived the next several decades of his life on the run far away from his family.
That is, until one day, he decided he must go home and reconcile with his brother. On his way to what appeared to be a fatal meeting with Esau, he met and wrestled with God, all night, and famously said to Him “I won’t let you go, until You bless me!”
Another prayer of blessing. And God said yes.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Zinkevych
2. God's Blessing Is Different
God’s blessing is different than the blessing we give ourselves, either by hard work or deceitful practices. “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich and adds no sorrow” (Proverbs 10:22).
He answered; “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel” (Genesis 32:28). You shall no longer be known as a supplanter, but now you will be known as a Prince with God!
Jabez called on the God of Israel: the God who took a man of pain and turned him into a Prince, the patriarch Israel. If You can do it for Jacob, you can do it for me! He called on God, believing God still answers the prayers of the pain-filled and sorrowful. Jabez understood that the way to go from pain to promise, from mess to miracle, from broken to blessed, is to turn to God, because blessing begins with God.
In the ancient culture of the Bible, when someone asked for a blessing, it was a serious affair. They believed if someone in authority spoke things over their lives it was a prophetic certainty to happen. Moreover, they believed it was irrevocable.
Remember, Esau begged for his father's blessing after Jacob stole it first:
“Isaac answered, ‘I have already made him master over you, and I have made all his relatives his slaves. I have given him grain and wine. Now there is nothing that I can do for you, son!’” (Genesis 27:37).
Knowing this, Jabez went to God, the ultimate authority over everything and everyone, and said, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, so that I may not cause pain.” One word of God's blessing would override any other word that had been spoken over him, and could override the circumstances and the devil's assignment against him.
God, declare your divine purposes over my life, as the highest ranking authority in heaven and on earth! Your word is higher than what my parents named me, higher than what everyone called me, or believed about me. It's higher even than what I thought of me!
God bless me...God, speak over me! Declare a new and bright future for me, and change the course of my life from a pain causer, to what You desire for my life.
And if God says it, that settles it. He will not alter the word that goes out of His lips, and it will accomplish that which He sends it to do. So if God blesses you, no devil or power on earth can curse you!
3. His Provision Is Good, but His Presence Is Even Better
...and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me...
Provision is good but His presence is even better, because provision without presence equals problems! In my own life, I noticed that when I had provision, without His presence...
- I forgot how much I needed Him
- I believed what I had was because of my own hard work
- I looked for the blessing apart from the Blessor
- I made my own decisions, based on my own plans
- Stuff I didn't want in my life began to creep in
- I began a spiritual drift away from God
If you don't believe me, just ask the prodigal son. We really are like children. We need more than just what is in His hands, we need His hand to keep and lead us, uphold and protect us, help and heal us. We don’t just need a house, a car, a vacation or a bank account. We need the hand that holds the universe, to hold us together as well.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Terry Vine
4. And Protect Us from Evil
….that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!
One way to read this is that Jabez asked God to protect him from the evil plans, traps and schemes of Satan. Of course, that is a protection we need—especially if our life is blessed and being lived out for God’s purposes!
But it seems this prayer is more directly focused on the greater danger which is the evil existing in his own heart. Protect me from the enemy within me, so that I may not cause pain to other people!
We all know there are things in us that still require sanctification: tugs, desires, and impulses that could lead us down a bad path if we let them. Even the great Apostle Paul acknowledged it in himself:
“The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:14-15 NLT).
So how do we have a blessed life? Ask God for His blessing, and realize His yes answer means being filled with Jesus, more and more. It means not only receiving His provision, but His presence, which brings change and transformation in order to accomplish His will on earth. His yes answer is Jesus protecting us from the enemy on the outside, but especially, protecting us from the enemy on the inside.
God... bless me indeed.
What a prayer.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/ipopba
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Finding Christ in Crisis: Lessons We Learned From Covid. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.