The Prayer of Jabez Revisited

1 Chron. 4:9-10  And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me (NKJV says “that I might not cause pain”)! And God granted him that which he requested.

There was a book written by Bruce Wilkinson several years ago on the prayer of Jabez. However, I would like to revisit this passage.

First of all, I want to focus on his name – Jabez. The name Jabez means “he makes sorrowful”. We are not told why his mother named him this; it may have been because she had a very difficult labor or possibly there was some great sorrow that she was going through at the time of his birth. But, whatever the reason was, can you imagine having a name that means ‘he makes sorrowful’?

In those days, the meaning of a person’s name was very important – much more so than today. I read a commentary which said that in Biblical times, names carry power over that person. In other words, their names were not chosen by how they ‘sound’ like we often choose them today, they were chosen by what the name ‘meant’. It was very significant because your name was, in essence, a description of you.

With that said, every time Jabez’s mother called him, to him it must have sounded like, “Sorrow, come to supper!” Or, “Wash your face, you who cause me such sorrow!”

Talk about self-image issues – Jabez must have had some. I can only imagine that he had tried to outlive the connotation of that name all of his life. You can detect the humility or possibly even shame in his prayer when he said, “keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain” (according to the New KJV).

We can all remember how hurtful it was growing up when other children called us names. We had a saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Words do hurt – especially as children. They shape our lives; they shape our self-image; it is very possible and probable that they determine our future and destiny.

Let’s really look at the prayer that Jabez prayed, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me (NKJV “that I might not cause pain”)!”

Could this not be a prayer for God to change his outcome – to change his destiny? “Enlarge my coast” – might that be translated as “help me to live beyond my prophesied destiny to cause pain and sorrow? Help me to live beyond the boundaries and limits that others have placed on me by what they have said about me and what I have been called all my life. Keep me from the evil curse that has been put upon me by my mother’s words – let me outlive my name that I might not cause pain.”

We know very little about Jabez, but the first thing the Bible tells us about him is what his name meant and I believe he was very grieved by it. And he humbly asked God to remove that stigma – this was not a selfish prayer, it was quite the opposite. He wanted to live an honorable life and he knew that the only way he would be able to break free from the curse of what he had been programmed to believe about himself was to call upon the God of Israel for help.

And God answered his prayer!

You may have been labeled in a negative way by someone in your life. It may or may not be the words that they spoke over you – it may be an ‘unspoken’ message of rejection. That significant person in your life may not have realized that they were even ‘sending’ the message, but their lack of attention and interest communicated much toward how you may view yourself today.

I remember my Mother telling me once that my Grandmother always told her, “You can’t do that!” whenever she attempted to do something. Mom said that she never overcame that ‘idea’ that she couldn’t anything. I’m convinced that my Grandmother was one of the sweetest people to ever grace this earth and would never intentionally hurt anyone – much less her daughter. She did not realize how Mom would carry those words with her for the rest of her life.

Often, we don’t realize how our words affect others. Just like my Grandmother, most people do not ‘intend’ to hurt us. But words are very powerful and we should use them wisely.

This passage tells us that God answered Jabez’s prayer. The point that I want to make is that God does not want us to wear negative labels or be boxed in and limited to what others have said about us either through words or actions (sometimes actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes).

He wants to reprogram those negative tapes playing over and over in our thought-lives. “Jabez, you are destined to cause sorrow and pain.” “Joe, why can’t you be more like your brother?” “Kaye, you will never be an ‘A’ student.”

What are the voices you are hearing that are limiting you and drawing boundaries in your life? God wants to help us reprogram the negative messages that play in our minds.

Pray the prayer of Jabez, but make it yours (substitute his issues with yours as you pray it). Then, begin to read the Word and learn who you really are in Christ Jesus; the Bible is our mirror that shows us who we are in Him. In Him, we can live beyond the labels that others have placed on us because we are ‘not’ just us anymore – we are us plus Him! And we need to realize what that means.

For instance, my Mother was no longer that little girl that couldn’t do anything; she was well able to do ALL things through Christ (Phil. 4:13). In Him, she was an overcomer (1 John 5:4-5). In Him, she no longer had the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). She was greatly loved and completely accepted (Eph. 1:6). She was uniquely created by God (Psalm 139:13-14). And in Christ, we can be all what we were intended to be and He has great aspirations for each one of us.

Every time you hear those negative voices from your past, just ask yourself, “What would my Father say about that?” And believe THAT! Then say it – each time you say and confess your belief in what God says about you, you are removing the borders others have placed on you.

Our boundaries are as limitless as our God is infinite.

Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs