The prayer of Jabez is a short prayer said by a man who would have been obscured by history were it not for the fact that the Bible records this about him: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ 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.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
God himself testifies that Jabez was an honorable man – that is very high praise indeed! If the Lord considered Jabez to be honorable then it was because he, like Noah and Enoch and all the other men of God before him, had set his heart to walk righteously before the Lord. He made the Lord his God and did not turn his heart to any idol. We can also assume that he is a man of humility because we know that God sets his face against the proud. Given his prayer points, Jabez knew who the Source of his life and blessings was and was not ashamed to call upon Him.
In the Old Testament, names were portends of a person’s character and nature. Jacob’s name means “trickster” and that is what he was. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because he would be “the father of many nations”. Nabal, the husband of Abigail (she would become one of David’s wives), was called “the Fool” and that is that he was. Names carried weight in the Bible and were taken very seriously. Jabez was considered to be a “man of sorrows” because of his name.
Notice that the text pointedly says “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel”. Perhaps Jabez grew up in a time when idolatry was rampant in Israel or maybe the author just wanted us to have no doubt exactly who Jabez prayed to and who answered his prayer. Jabez prayed to the one true God alone and asked Him to bless him. He knew that anything he gained would not be by his own strength but through whatever provision God gave because every good and perfect gift comes from God. God answered this prayer because he loves to bless his children when they seek his face.
The Prayer of Jabez asks the Lord to expand borders or increase territory; in other words, Jabez asked the Lord to bless him with more responsibilities. Jabez must have been faithful in whatever little he had so the Lord expanded his “borders” to include more. The Lord was pleased to say to him, “you have done well with what I have already given you, good and faithful servant. I will set you over much.” When we set the Lord and his kingdom in the center of our lives then he promises to give us everything else we need. When we follow God with all our heart, he will exalt us.
Jabez depended on the Lord for guidance and safety from harm and God answered him. The Psalmist attests to this provision in Psalm 16: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken…You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” When we truly trust in the Lord and don’t lean on our own understanding, when we really depend on him for every step we take and don’t make decisions on our own, then we can trust that we will never be led wrong because God will be the one doing the leading.
The prayer of Jabez is considered extraordinary because God answered it. Blessings, provisions, safety and guidance are something we all pray for but rarely do we see the Lord answering it as he seems to have for Jabez. Jabez’s secret lies in one thing – he was completely dependent on the Lord God for everything, he did not rely on himself. This is exactly what Jesus asked us to do. His promises to us will be fulfilled without exception when we meet the conditions of his standards. Rely on God completely, and we too will see God answering our prayers for blessings, provisions, safety and guidance.