Bruce Wilkinson’s little book, “The Prayer of Jabez,” is based on this one verse in 1 Chronicles chapter four. Verse 10 says: “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!’ And God granted him what he requested.” Jabez is said to be more noble than his brothers. That seems to be reflected in his prayer. According to some Jewish historians, Jabez was an eminent doctor in the law whose reputation drew so many scribes around him that a town was called by his name.  His mother named him Jabez, which means suffering because that’s what he caused her at his birth. Yet, in his life, his mother must have been delighted by the joy he brought her as a man of God.

Wilkinson’s book is not without its critics. Some argue that it displaces the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray. That one highlights a humble spirit, wanting nothing more than daily bread and to be kept from temptation. One writer says of Wilkinson’s book, “Readers of the book may come to imagine God as a cosmic Santa Clause, merrily doling out gifts to any individual who asks. And asks. And asks. It is more edifying to read The Prayer of Jabez as a wry leavening of Scripture than as a motivational mantra or a magical success formula. Besides, the church already has a model prayer.”[1]

I appreciate the criticism, yet Jabez’s prayer is in the form of a vow. It seems to have been prayed as a preliminary to embarking on a major task that God had given him. The task may have been occupying his portion of the Land, ousting the pagan inhabitants, and setting up the worship of the one true God. He prayed, “that it may not grieve me” or “that I may have no more sorrow” may be an allusion to his name.  He prays, “Let me not experience the grief which my name implies.” The important thing to notice here is that Jabez did not look to his own strength, ability, or wisdom to live his life or accomplish a task. He trusted in God as His prayer testifies. Whether he was simply praying for God’s particular blessing on his life as a whole or for the success of a particular undertaking, Jabez enjoyed a remarkable degree of prosperity, and God, in this instance, proved that He was not only the hearer but the answerer of prayer. He still is!

[1] Sailer, William, J. Creighton Christman, David C. Greulich, Harold P. Scanlin, Stephen J. Lennox, and Phillip Guistwite. 2012. Religious and Theological Abstracts. Myerstown, PA: Religious and Theological Abstracts.