1 Chronicles 4:9-10 – 9 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.
In Christian pop culture, these obscure verses are obscure no longer. I think any believer who has entered a “Christian” bookstore over the past several years has likely got a pretty good idea of who Jabez is. Besides, even if you don’t actually know the man, you have certainly been bombarded by the mountain of Jabez products, books, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and who knows what else.
Now, let me say at the beginning that I have a multitude of problems with the Jabez book. I believe that the author did not intend any of these problems, and am certainly not attempting to malign his heart. Without trying to be nasty in any way, I fear that the book denies God’s sovereignty when it declares that God has a storehouse of blessings that he desperately wants to give us but cannot because of our failure to ask him for them. I believe the book also can lead people to a sort of superstitious faith, relying on a sacred chant or secret knowledge to guarantee the cooperation of its deity (not unlike the pagan fertility cults that surrounded Israel at the time of Jabez).
Putting all that aside, I do believe that there is something that we can glean from these verses and from the Jabez book, though I truly do not recommend it. When we read these verses, we do see that a man asked God to bless him, and God did. How often do you find yourself “wishing” that God would do something about your life circumstances and yet not actually asking him to act? How often do you ask for God to bless your friends and family while not asking for his blessing on your own life? One thing in the Jabez book is very much true: We, for some reason, have a blind spot in our prayer lives when in comes to simply asking God to do good in and through us.
In case you are immediately reacting to the last paragraph by saying that God could not want me to pray his blessing on myself, remember that God is a wonderful, loving, and sovereign God. He does what he does for the sake of his name and his glory. If you keep this concept in mind, you will have to ask for his blessing in the light of a desire that his name be glorified. John Piper, in the wonderful little book The Dangerous Duty of Delight, reminds us that it is our duty to seek our joy in God’s glory. If Piper is correct, then asking God to bless us, pour out is spiritual life and goodness on us, for the sake of giving us joy in his glory is not only an acceptable prayer, it is truly our responsibility.
So, if you haven’t read the Jabez book, I wouldn’t recommend it. if you are a Jabez fan, I’d encourage you to be sure that you do not look at the verses above as some sort of spiritual secret formula to force God’s hand (yes, I know the author does not say that). Instead, live a life focused on God and his glory. Find your joy in him. And do not neglect to ask God for his blessings, for his glory, to be seen in your very own life. Jabez is one evidence that men have asked for God’s blessing and God has granted their request. If we leave Jabez there and turn to God for the rest, we are in good hands.