In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, a man named Jabez prays a prayer and God answers it. It is a prayer of humility, it is a prayer of faith.
Here is the passage in its entirety:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 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.
That’s the whole passage. It’s reminiscent of Enoch from Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took Him.” Jabez just flies in out of nowhere, prays his prayer and leaves. We never hear from him again. This is definitely a passage that should cause us to think deeply. And it begs the question of why God would want us to read it. In other words, “What should we learn from Jabez?”
His mother gives us a clue. She bore him in pain and so she names him “Jabez” which means “pain”. This is a common occurrence in Scripture. A person is named because of who they are and what they are like. For example, Esau was called “Edom” which means “red” because he was covered in red hair. Jabez is named “pain” because he was a painful delivery. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be known for the pain I caused my mother during childbirth.
With this knowledge in mind, think again about his prayer. He is asking for abundant spiritual and physical blessings “so that it might not bring (him) pain (v. 10).” He is praying that his name would not define him. He is praying that the way that he was born would not shape his life. He is praying for blessings that overshadow the pain into which he was born.
He is praying for satisfaction.
He is praying for protection.
He is praying for salvation.
Ten years ago, when the book, The Prayer of Jabez was released, I remember an overwhelming emphasis placed on the physical blessings that Jabez prayer for (the “enlarge my borders” section), but the reality is that Jabez is not simply praying for more land and an easy life. He is praying the prayer of a broken humble heart that longs to find sustenance and satisfaction in God.
We were born in pain, stained and tainted by sin from the womb, and without any hope of rising above our sinful, pain-filled beginnings. But God sent Jesus to provide a way out of that death and into life, so that when we come humbly before him like Jabez, in humility and faith, we will not receive the consequences of a life born in pain, but the rewards of a life lived in joy and love. God does indeed bless us. In fact, He has already blessed those who are in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We have borders that go on forever, and we will live a life eternally free from harm.