The Prayer of Jabez Revisited
The Prayer of Jabez

Do you remember hearing about the prayer of Jabez?

When Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Prayer of Jabez, was published almost 20 years ago, it took the Christian community by storm. Quickly propelled to the bestseller lists, it encouraged Christians to daily pray the prayer of an obscure man found in I Chronicles 4:9-10. In fact, that’s the only place in the Bible where this man—or his prayer—is mentioned:

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ 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” (ESV).

I had been praying my personalized version of this prayer daily since I first learned of it. But I’ve recently revised how I pray this for two reasons:

  • I realized I was asking for things God was already doing
  • I was ignoring the importance of my own obedience for each request

So these days my prayer is revised to reflect those two concerns. Here’s the original post with the updates in bold italics:

Heavenly Father, I ask for today:

Your blessing as You define it

Some Christians today limit focus their definition of blessing on material provisions. I hear Christians say things such as:

Of course, God is not against wealth. But nowhere in the Bible is material wealth His priority for His children. If anything, material comforts often get in the way of His process to conform us to the image of Christ. God is more concerned with wealth that will last for eternity. Spiritual growth. The fruit of the Spirit. And of course, the most valuable provision He has already given me is the gift of salvation—a restored relationship with Him.

So when it comes to asking for blessing, I’d rather leave the definition to Him.

Now I’m asking for the ability to recognize those blessings as God defines them. To take the blinders off and to stop being influenced by what I want rather than what I need. And to call them blessings even if they don’t initially appear that way.

Your use as You decide it

Jabez prayed for victory to expand his territory. I don’t know what territory God has for me. Is it to be a greater influence in my family, church, or social circles? Is it to teach His Word? To publish books?

While I have hopes and dreams regarding how God might use me in the future, I never want those desires to prevent me from recognizing how God wants to use me today. Whatever He decides is fine by me!

Now I’m specifically asking for a spirit of contentment with what God has decided. To be content if God doesn’t use me in accordance with my own agenda. For contentment if He has chosen a new direction for me.

Your leading as You provide it

Over the years, I’ve watched many Christian leaders shipwreck themselves on the rocks of their own grand plans for larger ministries and media empires. God’s plan for them might have been to toil in obscurity, but that wasn’t their plan for themselves.

I can strategize and I can plan. But without the Lord’s leading, my ideas may not be His plans for me. I need to trust Him to direct me onto a straight path (Proverbs 3:6). The Bible often speaks of our “walk” with God. Walking with someone requires that we move in the same direction and at the same pace. I don’t ever want to run ahead of God or lag behind Him!

Now I’m specifically praying for immediate obedience to His leading. Because I know delayed obedience is ultimately disobedience!

And that You would keep me from both giving and receiving pain.

Jabez prayed for protection from harm and pain. Some scholars believe that verse can also be translated to mean that he was asking to be kept from giving pain to others.

I know, from experience, the pain caused by other people. Betrayal. Insensitivity. Negligence. Temptation. But I also know I’ve caused pain, too. How can I pray for protection from pain if I’m not willing to pray that God would keep me from causing it?

Now I’m asking for increased sensitivity to how I might be causing pain for others. It’s a cop out for me to excuse my behavior as “this is who I am.” I need to ask the Holy Spirit to take who I am and make me more like Christ. But for that to happen, I need to surrender to the Holy Spirit, not just day by day, but minute by minute!

So, my personalized prayer of Jabez is:

Heavenly Father, I ask for today:

  • To recognize Your blessing as You define it,
  • To be content with Your use as You decide it,
  • To obey Your leading as You provide it,
  • And to be sensitive to how I might be giving pain, harm, and temptation to others even as I ask for God’s protection from those things for myself.

The change in the way I pray has had a significant impact on the way I approach the events of each day.

How about you? What are your thoughts about the prayer of Jabez?

Dandelion Prayer

Dandelions—the bane of many homeowners who strive for manicured lawns. Adults see them as an irritation. A nuisance.

But children see dandelions as a source of unlimited potential. Wishes, hopes, and dreams wrapped up in the seeds of a wild flower.

When you were a child, did you ever pluck a dandelion puff to make a wish? Carefully, of course, because you didn’t want to waste even one feathery seed. After all, the one seed that dropped prematurely might have been the one to carry your wish to heaven.

Then we grow up and face reality…or do we?

dandelion prayerHow often do we, as adults, view prayer the way children view dandelion puffs? We close our eyes tight, carefully pick the “right” words, and fling them to heaven, wishing and hoping God will say yes to our request.

Is that how prayer works?

Not according to the Bible.

Most of us have grown up with a definition of prayer that is incomplete. How many times have we defined prayer as “talking to God”? But prayer is more than just presenting our requests and wishes to God. We don’t just talk to Him, we have conversation with Him.

This means we talk…and we listen. We listen as God speaks to us through His Word. We listen as the Holy Spirit prompts us to act according to His leading.

Prayer is more than just presenting our desires to God. It’s about aligning our thoughts with His thoughts. Our heart with His heart. Our will with His will.

The ultimate goal is not to change God’s mind, but to change ours.

So as summer moves into fall, are you watching the wishes, hopes, and dreams of the summer drift away on passing autumn breezes? Does it seem as if the heavens are made of brass, causing your prayers to hit the ceiling and drop back to earth in mockery of your desires?

Biblical guidance for prayer

Unlike dandelion puffs which depend on the whims of the wind, prayer is never futile. But God does give us some guidance for effective prayer…

A – Jesus tells us to abide in Him and have His words abide in us (John 15:7).

B – Believe when we pray (Mark 11:24).

C – Come with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).

D – Don’t doubt (James 1:6).

E – Don’t use empty phrases (Matthew 6:7).

F – Focus on who God is, not on your circumstances (Isaiah 26:3).

G – Expect God to show you great things (Jeremiah 33:3).

H – Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your prayer (Jude 1:20).

I – Intercede for others (I Timothy 2:1-2).

J – Ask in Jesus’ name—would Jesus ask for what you’re asking for? (John 14:13).

K – If possible, kneel, letting your physical position reflect your heart (Ephesians 3:14).

L – Listen for the Lord’s call (I Samuel 3:4).

M – Ask with right motives (James 4:3).

N – Know that the Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

O – Before we pray, are we obeying what we already know? (I John 3:22).

P – Persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1-8).

Q – Pray without quarreling with brothers in Christ (1 Timothy 2:8).

R – Rejoice regardless of our circumstances (I Thess. 5:16).

S – Seek His presence (I Chronicles 16:11).

T – Pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7).

U – Pray in unity with other believers (Acts 1:14).

V – ?

W – Know where your help comes from (Psalm 121:1).

X – EXamine your heart (Psalm 66:18).

Y – ?

Z – ?

Which of these verses is God speaking to your heart about today?

Here’s a challenge for you…
Can you find a relevant verse for the letters V, Y, and Z?  😊

Benefits of Intercessory Prayer

Most people I know would not decline an offer to be prayed for. Even if they’re not convinced of the power of prayer, at the very least, they figure that much like chicken soup, it can’t hurt!Intercessory Prayer

But have you ever wondered about the benefits for the one doing the praying?

That’s a question I recently came to consider…and at least two results surprised me.

My prayer list includes a variety of requests from other people. And I’ve organized them according to need, including salvation, health, relationships, comfort, and ministry. A few years ago I heard a speaker challenge his listeners to thank God for answers for at least as long as the request had been prayed for, so I added a “Thank You” category, too.

As I considered my prayer time, the first surprise was the degree of hope generated by the “thank you” list. With each specific expression of gratitude, my spirit is encouraged as I rehearse God’s mercy in granting healing, restoration, or provision.

But the second surprise was especially unexpected.

Many of the requests echoed my own needs…some I had verbalized, but some I had not even thought to articulate until I prayed them for someone else. Of course, there are requests for salvation for loved ones and physical healing. But then there are others:

  • Removal of a critical spirit
  • Consuming desire for intimacy with the Lord
  • Every motive to be rooted in love
  • Christ to be the center and followed unselfishly
  • A heart to shepherd the ladies in my ministry
  • Stewardship of my time
  • Use of gifts to glorify God
  • God’s timing, leading, and use in ministry

Oh, how moved I’ve been as I’ve prayed these requests for others. How often I added my own name to each request. How convicted I am as I ask why I didn’t think to express these requests for myself. And how grateful I am that I can pray them now.

Yes, intercessory prayer helps the person I’m praying for. But praying for others also helps me.

What has been your experience with intercessory prayer?

Prayer – War or Magic?

A recently-released movie has brought the subject of prayer front-and-center. Yet even on the topic of prayer, Christians don’t seem to agree.

War Room has exceeded all box-office expectations. Many Christians view it as a much-needed call for believers to get serious about prayer. Individual lives, families, communities—even our nation and our world—are in dire need of divine intervention.

But some Christians believe the movie handled the subject of prayer in an unrealistic way. They are concerned that this particular movie appears to portray God as a cosmic Santa Claus or genie-in-the-bottle who magically responds to our every request if we are fervent enough in asking. Marriages restored, families healed, legal consequences skirted…all because someone made an impassioned plea to God.

That wasn’t my impression after seeing War Room. The main characters (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it yet) were clearly willing to trust God regardless of the legal outcome. Which leads us to the biblical focus of prayer…

As the characters in this movie demonstrated, prayer does more than change our circumstances. Prayer changes us. Oswald Chambers once said, “We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”Sadly, I confess there have been too many occasions when I have spent time in prayer for the purpose of getting something from God, rather than getting to know God.

I’ve wanted Him to change my circumstances instead of changing me.
I’ve asked Him to bless my agenda instead of seeking His plans.
I’ve sought His hand instead of His heart.

The result? I’ve grieved His heart and missed His best for me.

Regardless of your opinion of War Room, I’m grateful for the reminder that prayer is not to be taken lightly. I must make it a priority. I have to be intentional about seeking God’s heart…and changing mine.

There’s nothing magical about prayer. But who needs magic when we have access to the Father’s throne room through the Son’s redemption by the Holy Spirit’s leading? Not me.

How about you?

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