“Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
When searching for God’s direction, we can turn to the prayer of Jabez. In it, we find an example of faithful prayer in action.
The Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles is a genealogical record written by Ezra after the Babylonian exile of God’s people. Jabez, in a single phrase added to his lineage, demonstrated how to pray God’s will over our lives.
It “relates to the covenant promises to Israel that find their fulfillment in Christ.” For the rebellious tribe of Judah returning from exile, Jabez’s story was significant. “Despite his hard luck beginning, he was honored because of his relationship with God. This was a valuable lesson for a people struggling with their own identity.” (NIV Quest Study Bible)
Who is Jabez?
“…the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez:” (1 Chronicles 2:55)
Jabez’s inheritance was by faith over heritage. God blessed Jabez, not with prosperity in return for his prayers, but with provision for the will God wished to execute through his life.
With Jabez, we must not read his prayer as a request for private blessing, but as a cry for God to bless him as a part of God’s covenant people.
His name, ironically, means pain and sorrow.
“He seems to have lived in dread that his name would be prophetic…so he prayed about it and God granted his request.” (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters)
Jabez diligently studied and obeyed the law and prayerfully trusted God to direct his life. In fact, the city where the scribes lived was named after Jabez due to his knowledge of the law. His legacy lasted permeably onto Ezra’s pen because of the many disciples he left behind.
In the Old Testament, there were rules to be followed in order to approach God’s presence, and sacrifices to be made for confession and thanksgiving.
Jabez isn’t like us. He doesn’t live amid our modern materialism. And his prayer can’t be directly applied to us without seeing how it relates to his own situation first and then to Jesus Christ.
God promises us provision, not prosperity, as some mistakenly believe. Christ promises we will have trouble in this life. Jabez lived in a time where God had promised destruction as a consequence for rebellion. He had much to fear. From his perspective, provision was prosperity.
The aim is for God to transform our hearts to be like His so we can endure the trials of this life. Important to remember when studying Jabez is that God answers the prayers of the people by His will, not our wishes.
What Does it Mean to Pray Like Jabez in Our Daily Lives?
To pray like Jabez is to submit our lives to God as a blank canvas. John Piper writes, "Lay hold on God for some great biblical vision for your life on this earth and don't let go until you have it from His merciful hand."
It’s whole-hearted devotion to lay our desires and needs at His feet, knowing unequivocally that He will set us on the right path. We are to pray faithfully, through our personal relationship with Jesus, for a godly perspective of our purpose on this earth.
Through Jabez, God teaches the importance of relationship with Him.
“He discovered that ordinary, personal everyday needs can be brought to God: he 'cried out' and God granted his request” (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters).
We are to establish and maintain prayer without end in our daily lives. Jabez was not using prayer as a formula to get something from God; rather, He was calling upon God to help him accomplish the promises of God.
How We Can Pray Like Jabez
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20).
Jabez prayed for four things:
1. That God would bless him
2. That God would enlarge his territory
3. That God’s hand might be with him
4. That God would keep him from evil
For a proper interpretation of his prayer, it should be read through a spiritually sound lens, not one of materialism.
God’s blessings are the real things that produce real effects. We can but wish a blessing: He commands it.
The enlargement of territory Jabez prayed for was deeply connected to the landscape of his heart. He left many disciples behind, not possessions. The territory of his heart expanded and overflowed to those around him.
“That God would enlarge our hearts,” wrote Matthew Henry, “is to be our desire and prayer.”
Jabez prayed for God to be with him. He also prayed God would protect him from being a Jabez! There is an allusion to his name in the original text! “That he would keep him from evil, the evil of sin, the evil of trouble, and all the evil designs of his enemies, that they might not hurt him, nor grieve him, nor make him a Jabez indeed, a man of sorrow.”
Jabez’s Old Testament prayer can be aligned with the way Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:5-15). “They think that they will be heard for their many words,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:7-8. "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
We can not only pray like Jabez but also expound upon his prayer. The Spirit of God lives in us and translates our prayers and mutterings to God in heaven!
Christ taught us how to pray: "Pray then like this: our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).
James reminds us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). A disciplined life of biblical prayer keeps us in constant touch with God and reliant on Him more than our own grasp to solve and achieve.
5 Tips to Pray like Jabez
“God is the God of the whole earth and all the nations and all of history and all of life and culture and all the universe from one end of the galaxies to the other. Each of us was created to have a significant place in that great scheme. What is it? What do you pray for day in and day out about how you fit into that?” (John Piper)
- Praise God for who He is. Remember specific answers to prayer, list virtues of His character, and ask to for Him to reveal more.
- Ask God to give us a heart like Jesus and increase the use of our lives to spread the gospel.
- Acknowledge God’s power and reign. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in our daily lives.
- Pray for God to guard our hearts and for His protection from every evil, both seen and unseen.
- Pray everything in Jesus’ name. Express the desire to align every intention with God’s will.
A Sample Prayer Like Jabez’s
You are God of the universe, and my Creator. All creation, and all I am, exist to honor You. Thank You for delivering me from evil, and restoratively setting my feet on the firm foundation of Your truth. Mold in me a heart like Jesus’—compassionate and forgiving. With the gifts, talents, and tasks you have set upon my shoulders, may my diligent work spread the truth of Christ to many who live without hope. Use my life to serve Your purposes. By the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, may I properly reflect the love of my Lord, Jesus. Protect me from evil and deliver me from temptation, forgive me for my continual sin and heal me completely. Bless my life with Your provision and protection.
In Jesus’ Name,
Click here to watch a short 4 minute video, “Teach us to Pray.”
6 Verses to Help Us Pray with God’s Perspective of Prosperity
-“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
-“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).
-“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
-“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
-“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
-“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).
The Prayer of Jabez is a faithful submission to the firm establishment of God’s will in our lives. "The way to be truly great is to be truly good and to pray much." When we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him. He will faithfully guide us to and through His plan for our lives—the good and the suffering.
We are never alone, and that makes us blessed and prosperous. The mighty Sprit of God lives in us, in spite of us!
Photo Credit: GettyImages/pamela_d_mcadams