The Jabez Remix: When & How to Pray for Blessing

In 1 Chronicles 4:10, there’s a passing reference to a guy named Jabez. Years ago a book about Jabez launched this obscure character onto the radar of lots of Christians. And in some circles, there was considerable debate about how much we should, or shouldn’t, use Jabez’s prayer as a template for our lives.

If you’re not familiar with the prayer, it goes like this:

“Oh, that you would bless me
and expand my territory! 
Please be with me in all that I do, 
and keep me from all trouble and pain!” 
And God granted him his request.

Some people choke on the idea of asking for blessing. 
The concept here is that if we’re:
and breathing
and literate
and relatively healthy
and free…
Then we are already blessed.

If we're spiritually redeemed, physically fed and financially stable, then yes, we are truly blessed.
To keep pressing God for more blessing then, can feel ungrateful at best, and greedy at worst.

To ask God for his presence feels right.
But to ask God to be delivered from all trouble and every source of pain? 
Is Jabez faith-filled or delusional?
Is he asking for the perfect life? 
And are we to assume that God really paved the runway for Jabez? 
That he got a life of unlimited and unhindered success?

I don’t know. 
I’m not even sure why the writer included this story in a chapter that’s supposed to be a genealogy.

Here’s what I know when I read the whole Bible.
God does bless people and, like any good Father, He loves to bless them for His purposes.
Here’s the wrinkle: God gets to decide what shape the blessing takes, what His presence looks like in any given situation, what troubles He prevents and what pain He allows, then redeems, for His glory.

I just read John 11 today. In this account, Jesus is visiting Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus. Mary confronts Jesus and, his (at least in her view) failure to show up for their family in the moment of crisis.

“When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”

If you read the rest of the story, you’ll find Jesus does the impossible: He brings Lazarus back from the dead. No, Jesus didn’t spare or protect Lazarus from trouble or his family from pain. He allowed him to die and then brought him back again. And years later, we’re not sure when or how, Lazarus dies again. But I can only imagine the second time Lazarus dies was different, for him and his sisters. They know that even when trouble comes, Jesus can and will redeem every hardship for our good and his glory.

So no, don’t stop praying for God to bless you, expand your reach, walk with you and protect you. Just make sure you’re letting God define the terms of what the blessing is and when and how it comes.

Craig Custance