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 Copyright © February 2003

The Prayer of Jabez:  Revisited...

There's More Here than Meets the Eye...

~written from the common sense perspective of The Winds of the Soul~

by Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.)

 
to the book

The book is a brief description of an even smaller account of an Old Testament fellow by the name of Jabez (I Chronicles 4:9-11) who prayed a simple prayer consisting of a minimum of words to be blessed by the Lord. 

Most of us are aware of a marvelous little book called the "Prayer of Jabez," written by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson,  that has captured the fascination of many across the world.  The book is a brief description of an even smaller account of an Old Testament fellow by the name of Jabez (I Chronicles 4:9-11) who prayed a simple prayer consisting of a minimum of words to be blessed by the Lord. 

I greatly appreciated Dr. Wilkinson's testimony about this prayer, and the fact that he has made "Jabez" so widely known.  I have enjoyed his insights as to why the prayer is so powerful, and how it should be used in all our lives, at least the Principles that we should all be consciously aware of in our own prayers.  Within this prayer can be found true gold!  In examining Dr. Wilkinson's text, though, I have had a few insights of my own that complement and extend his understanding that I would humbly like to add, ones that discover more about the underlying Principles than has been perhaps first offered, and gives us new insight as to its true significance.  If you are one that has already read the book, I hope you'll find this months newsletter very beneficial....  If you haven't read the "Prayer of Jabez" yet, do so..., it will only take you a short time; it's less than 100 pages, large type, and small enough to fit into your pocket. 

Copyright © 2002 Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.).  All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, including but not limited to all forms of media print, audio, electronic and video reproduction,  without the prior express and specific written content of the author, except in cases of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

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But I feel even more personal direction can be gleaned if we just think about the story in another way, and perhaps, use some of the more correct Hebrew derivations of the text as help in getting there... 

For those of your who aren't readily familiar with the prayer itself or haven't (KJV) 1Chronicle 4:9-10 handy, here it is for your convenience: 

 

4:9. "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow [pain].
 

4:10. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying,

(1) Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed,

(2) and enlarge my coast [borders, territory],

(3) and that thine hand might be with me,

(4) and that thou wouldest keep me from evil,

(5) that it [I] may not grieve me [cause pain]!

 

And God granted him that which he requested."

 

Dr. Wilkinson's account, drawn from the [NKJV], shows how we should all be "gimpers" for God, a people who should always do a little more than is expected, and shows how the Biblical character of Jabez is a fine example of someone who called on God's help to do more, and was granted his request.  This is good, of course, and should be a part of our thoughts and feelings as well.  God is often only limited to give us increase by the fact that we ask for so little, and that we ask amiss!  So how do we learn to ask correctly?  Jabez's example gives us great direction, as Dr. Wilkinson points out. 

But I feel even more personal direction can be gleaned if we just think about the story in another way, and perhaps, use some of the more correct Hebrew derivations of the text as help in getting there...  What I am attempting to offer is in no way a criticism of Dr. Wilkinson's work, rather a plausible extension and more focused understanding of why Jabez's prayer proved so acceptable to the Lord. 

Unlike Wilkinson's interpretation of believing that Jabez is making only four requests (see 1-4 above), I think it is clear that he is, in fact, making five (5), and that makes all the difference in the world in how we come to understand his prayer and the reason why God listened... because the fifth request gives the prayer a completely different tenor and reason for petitioning the Lord in the first place, and hopefully will more correctly direct us in our subsequent prayers than what has been previously offered.

The Fifth request is quite simply that Jabez desired that he would not cause anybody (including himself) any further sorrow or pain in life.  Concerning his affairs among men, he was more concerned about this than anything else. This mind-set drove all other interests.  This is the root cause of his prayer, as well as an acknowledgement of his basic need.  It's also the most loving request he made, for, like Solomon who instead of praying for his own wealth, prayed for wisdom so that his justice would be righteous and not harm the innocent, it considers the welfare of others before his own. Such an priority brings a whole new perspective to  Jabez's prayer.  Subsequently, all his other requests (1-4) can only be interpreted correctly in this light. Unfortunately, it is a request that we don't often hear from the "pulpits" of today, a conscious realization that our actions can offend, hurt, and cause pain to others...which I believe should be primary in driving the interpretation, meaning, and actions of everything else we may engage in life. 

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In any event, Jabez was raised with the unenviable name of one "who caused sorrow/pain," pain that others had to bare because of him, a "handle" which likely did not open many doors for him, and possibly felt the sting of loneliness and persecution because of it. 

So, let's see how this interpretation is derived.  First of all, let's consider the fact that Jabez name really means "sorrow" (as more correctly derived from the Hebrew) as the kind of "pain" we're really talking about.  Such immediately brings to mind the process of deep introspection, self-awareness and self-accounting.  Thus, Jabez's mother was possibly baring her son in a sense of sorrow, not just a physical pain that caused hurt, as in the "hurt" and discomfort of childbirth, but a pain that began to surface in her awareness as one now sorrow-filled, one that impressed her spirit and affected her psychology. We know that today, much of what the personality of the child to be born is at times impressed upon the mother's awareness even before the child draws breath, if she chooses to become so aware.  It's plausible, for our interpretation, that Jabez's spirit was moving within his mother, causing the sorrow that she reported.   She was recorded to have thus called her son's name "Jabez" after the process of sorrow/pain she bore. 

In any event, Jabez was raised with the unenviable name of one "who caused sorrow/pain," pain that others had to bare because of him, a "handle" which likely did not open many doors for him, and possibly felt the sting of loneliness and persecution because of it.  Perhaps this sensitized him to the possible repercussions of his actions, more so than his brethern.  Perhaps, too,  because of his being "labeled" he learned to be more introspective than others from an early age, having to bear a name of some ill-repute.  Yet, it is possible as well that his personality and natural spiritual proclivity was one of introspection and the needs to naturally look inward for self-examination, being inclined to be concerned for the welfare of others.  But, for whatever the reason of the derivation of his sensitivity, he was no doubt more sensitized to the probability that his actions could cause others pain.  At least he was likely raised with that possibility always in his mind, since his very name called out to consider this possibility every time he heard it spoken. 

He was found to be more "honorable" than his brethern, which again, would fit such a profile of one who was continuously aware of themselves possibly affecting others.  He would not, therefore, be one to run or hide from conscionable action and responsibility.  He would find it difficult to become worldly, perhaps more so than his brethern, finding the light within him bright enough to lead him from dishonor.  Similarly, such a position consciously, would correspondingly mean that he was more aware of his limitations and the consequences of his actions, and that vanity was more controlled than not. 

Why this may be so important to us is that it suggests that if we are to be so blest by the Lord, then, we too, will need to find a similar position to come from in our prayers.  It suggests a much deeper meaning for us, and not the "quick-fix," the magic prayer, that some mistakenly imagine it to be.

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To grieve this deeply necessitates an awareness that is not born from light-mindedness or from being carefree. It's one that can only come from ongoing self-examination led by the Spirit of God.  In fact, in order for such an awareness to come to be, I believe Jabez had already pursued the enlightening but painful path of introspection, where he became aware of certain things that needed changing and repair. 

From the primary consideration of his not wanting to be the source of another's sorrow, the first line of his prayer takes on a new significant meaning.  "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed...,"  suggests that this was a man who recognized that he was not just in a little need, but in dire need that his intentions of not causing pain would be heard on high.  This was not just a passing thought.  It was in the bottom of his heart. The use of the Hebrew word for "indeed" or "exceedingly," calls for not just a little but an overflowing of a plea that rends the heart, coming from a man that deeply grieves. 

To grieve this deeply necessitates an awareness that is not born from light-mindedness or from being carefree. It's one that can only come from ongoing, prayerful self-examination led by the Spirit of God.  In fact, in order for such an awareness to come to be, I believe Jabez had already pursued the enlightening but painful path of introspection, where he became aware of certain things that needed changing and repair. 

And this path was like a habit to him---not something only occasionally engaged in (again, he was honorable).  Like restoring an old house, he became aware of the extent of disrepair there was just lurking beneath the surface.  The more he got into it and the more he looked, the more be became aware of the amount of work that was really needed to bring things up to "code," and most importantly, the amount of help that it would require.  He was made aware of how much God needed to be further involved in the rebuilding of his house! This is an important place to start in prayer.

Again, this suggests the accumulation of a lot of accurate self-knowledge, a lot of time in correctly assessing his own human condition, and the need to look at himself honestly.  This was not a self-deluded individual who would run himself down when he wanted to play the martyr, filled with self-incriminating, self-debasing, and depressive thought.  But one that came from a realistic view that had over time become confirmed in his own mind.  This view is not negating nor demeaning, nor self-destructive, but proactively constructive and correcting. 

 He looked within the mirror and saw himself in state of disrepair, of being undone, not just needing a little help, but a lot of help.  He was drowning, not in self-pity (for he was honorable), but in the realization of his fallen nature, of witnessing his own life and his own failings and false starts, knowing how hard it was simply to keep his poor head above the water! 

He needed to be blessed, and blessed a lot because, according to his perception, he was really coming from behind!  Again, he was saying, "I don't just need your help a little, but I need your help a lot, in all these areas of my life that I have failed in not harming others, that I have failed in being sensitive to their needs, in all that I do, or try to do....I am deficient in wisdom and understanding....  I need your blessing, exceedingly, because by myself, I am as nothing... and I don't want to be the hand that brings others harm any longer because of my ignorance"  He wasn't just saying that he wanted to be blessed and be added to, not knowing what he was already, not knowing the condition of his foundation up to that point.  He knew where he was, knew how he himself was held in the balance and found wanting.

This means to me that he was previously aware of his many failings, seeing himself as a man in deficit of the very things that he most valued and most wished constituted his life.  He needed help to become wiser so as not to hurt others or cause them pain.  He needed increases in intelligence, sensitivity, and the wherewithal to stop whatever he was ignorantly doing to make sure that he "first did no harm." 

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But not Jabez....  For him, having the best of intentions was not good enough if that meant it couldn't stop his own ignorance from bringing another harm.  He saw himself more accurately, and appropriately worried over the fact that his actions have adversely affected others despite his best intentions, and prayed to God for help...., help in making his actions not just excusable, not just acceptable, not just better intended, but so "good" so that they would be a "blessing" to others, and not a curse of pain.  This is the increase "indeed" he sought!

No doubt, He saw himself fall short of the very things he valued in God, and saw that he needed help.  We may assume that he was not likely an individual who was "satisfied" with himself----or at least found it easier to go along with the world in these things, being like his brethern who likely thought themselves good enough and self-justified enough so that they took pride in their accomplishments to date, not caring too much about how their actions impacted others. 

He was, nonetheless, a man of "sorrow," baring the name of "pain" itself, and saw correctly, as most do when listening to the Spirit, that all that he did was not always right, that his actions can cause himself, and most importantly, others, pain!  But he knew there was help available for such as would humbly admit to their condition.... 

If only we all could have such a balanced perspective, instead of building our self esteem on the accolades of this world.  We so readily gravitate to anything that says we're "okay," or that suggests that we don't cause others pain, that all our actions have no negative rippling effect upon the lives of others.  We so want to ignore the possibility that we hurt others, that our actions can't possible be responsible for interfering with others lives.  And yet, no matter what we do, we all make waves..., and as unintentional as they may be, they still come from the hands upon the oars within our boat.  Yet, most of us want to turn a blind eye to these realities, comfortable in our worlds, egocentrically believing that we are better than we are, defensively insisting upon the appropriateness of our intentions so as to excuse the harm others may feel from our hands....  That we don't cause others pain, is a fantasy of enormous self-deceiving proportion.

But not Jabez....  For him, having the best of intentions was not good enough if that meant it couldn't stop his own ignorance from bringing another harm.  He saw himself more accurately, and appropriately worried over the fact that his actions have adversely affected others despite his best intentions, and prayed to God for help...., help in making his actions not just excusable, not just acceptable, not just better intended, but so "good" so that they would be a "blessing" to others, and not a curse of pain.  Like Solomon and other wise men, this is the increase "indeed" he sought!

But note the implicit and very real priority here.... He first requested help for his own condition, a condition which he had not just a cursory knowledge about (like most of us who admit we're "sinners" but fail to cite the specifics).  His conclusions after self-examination was that he needed, help, and a lot of it!  This was not a blind request!  He was specifically asking for something about which he had personal knowledge, i.e., his own limitations, revealed to him through the arduous task of continuing honest self-examination. 

He prayed that he would first be "increased," or "enlarged," in fact, "made better or make repair," and that in itself necessitated that the Lord must be with him to make that possible, i.e., "that thine hand might be with me..."   He asked first for help to sort out and put in him the proper order of things so as to then "increase" or "enlarge" his 'coast,' his 'borders,' his foundation, from which he could have better, and more goodly influence. Indeed, he wished the confines of his life to be expanded, much like that of a wish from those who have the courage to recognize the need to be set free from the prison walls of their "undone-ness."  Release me from the confines/borders and limiting territories of my own sins, oh Lord, set me free indeed...Set me upon your foundation!

In comparison, how many times do we ask for more when we haven't yet sorted out that which we have already been given, or even given it a thought as to our state of preparation?  How many times do we ask for more when we haven't even secured or examined the foundation upon which we stand, or even wondered if it has been the source of pain in another's life, wrongly thinking that our foundation is of sufficient strength and purity to hold the additional weight?  But, Jabez was wise---he knew to ask for his own foundation to be cleansed and shored-up first before asking the Lord to give him more... to be released from his previous confines.... this was the only way in which he could confidently know that his "increase" would not do further harm to others. 

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Don't you believe that God would want to listen to somebody like that?  At least, more so than one who simply wants to do a "great" work in God's Name, but has yet to come close to the depth of self-examination required by God's Hand before the feasibility of that work can even be considered. 

Most importantly, he then asked for this work to occur within him so as to ensure that "that thou wouldest keep me from evil..," from the evil of hurting/grieving others and himself, that his works would not bring him or others any pain or sorrow, that "it [I] may not grieve me [cause pain]!"--coming full circle!  Again, he knew from his self-examinations and honest inspections (remember, he was honorable...) that unless he had the Lord's directions, he would continually fail in advancing the cause of Goodness, continually slip into the ways of evil (even unintentionally), and continually be the cause of pain in his and others' lives because of building on a false foundation without proper direction.  Again, he had determined through the periods of his own sorrowing that he did not want to be the cause of grief and sorrow (pain) in anybody else's life.... Now, aren't these the priorities that we should all have....?  Should not this be the basis of our prayers for "increase"...? 

Don't you believe that God would want to listen to somebody like that?  At least, more so than one who simply wants to do a "great" work in God's Name, but has yet to come close to the depth of self-examination required by God's Hand before the feasibility of that work can even be considered?  These are the personal priorities and humble perceptions that should first be established within us all!  Nevertheless, most of us do not go to such trouble, feeling that somebody else will take care of it, or more commonly, that such direction constitutes us becoming overly familiar with our own psychologies and dynamics, and that just isn't needed....  I disagree, and apparently, so do the Heavens.  Jabez request was granted, as was Solomon's....  How many of our prayers are so granted?

Now, it's good to know that we all should increase our prayer-requests to God, that He has more in store for us than we can possibly imagine, and would like to give us more if we would only ask for it, no matter how improbable the request is.  Of course, God will grant us our righteous requests, and those that are in line with His Will regarding our life.  But let's not be naive, nor crass in the asking.... We must learn to not ask amiss..., meaning, we must learn to ask according to the manner of Jabez, like Solomon, who, like the prophet Isaiah, was intimately aware of his own spiritual needs and "undone-ness." 

This is a great key for us to use if we wish the ear of the Lord.  Indeed, it is from a foundation of humility and honesty, forged not from wishful thinking but determined self-examination and introspection, that we are to ask.  As Jabez, we too will feel the sorrow, and likely, we will become slowly aware of the others associated within our lives that bare our pain, awakening to yet other levels of sensitivities and possibilities of justice.  We will, nonetheless, be better prepared thereafter to see what it is we really need from the Lord, how our own building is need of His repair, and how we should be asking for it. 

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About the Author:  Dr. Gregory C.D. Young, Ph.D.(Oxon.) is a Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist having been educated abroad where he completed his postgraduate studies at King’s College, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and then graduated and received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. He has been in private clinical practice and medical research for over 25 years, being active as an author, popular radio and TV personality, public speaker, and biomedical researcher. An expert in a number of fields including Forensic/Criminal Psychology, Child and Family/Relationship Psychology, and Neuropsychology.  He has also served as an expert scientific advisor, product innovator and formulator, and professional consultant to the Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries. He is the author of The Winds of the Soul~Heaven’s First Voice To Us, as well as numerous other scholarly papers and works.

Without such insight, I'm afraid our requests will not be "honorable," but sound like they come more from the "name it and claim it" crowd, who overly simplify the entire process of prayer in a carnival like atmosphere, thinking that it's acceptable in leaving an honest mirrored image of who they really are "outside" their prayer.

Jabez knew otherwise, that going to the Lord with his honest failings in hand was the key; he then knew how to ask for help, and what it really was in his heart that he was asking for.  Such honest humility allows us to ask for abundances that we would normally not even allow ourselves to think about.  For Jabez, the help would be given to add wisdom and understanding to his spiritual stature, to give increase in his territory and his influence, to keep his hand from evil, and bless him so that he and his increases would not cause others pain, or himself grief. He asked the right way....coming from the right enlightened place within himself.  Starting from the right place, makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?  I invite you to reread the Prayer of Jabez with this in mind and see if this doesn't improve our understanding of things.... and especially our own prayers!

 

 

Why don’t you take a moment and become part of the discussion. Share with me your perspective, questions, and comments; tell me what you think of all this by emailing me at: DrYoung@WindsoftheSoul.com.


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