1 Chronicles 4
About 20 years ago, author Bruce Wilkinson made two verses of 1 Chronicles 4 famous with his book, The Prayer of Jabez. Who knew that a genealogical chapter of the Bible could produce something so lucrative? I remember the book well. Though I never actually read it, I remember the firestorm it caused in the Christian church. Many people were excited about it—going to their weekly group study about Jabez to learn how to garner some extra wealth from God. And an equal number of people were extremely opposed to it, shocked that any Christian should ask God for more.
The whole thing is stated very simply in the Scriptures: "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.' And God granted his request." (vs 9-10)
I heard one pastor go so far as to say that God will always answer this prayer from His people. And while I agree that God will always hear our prayers and answer them—every single one of them—I’m not quite sure I would agree that God will always grant this prayer. Especially when God knows that it wouldn’t be in a person’s best interest.
Have you ever thought back over your life and considered all the things you’ve asked God to do for you? Do you remember all those things you thought you wanted or needed so badly that you were just dying to receive from God’s hand? How many of them do you now remember and think, I’m sure glad God said "no" to that request! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got quite a substantial list of things that I praise God for denying to me. I shudder to think of what my life would look like if God had said yes to everything I wanted.
Often, we are not careful about what we wish for, and I think we often ask for things from God that would be harmful to us in some way. But God knows just what to grant and just what to deny. In the case of Jabez, it seems it was perfectly appropriate for God to grant his request. But if I prayed the same prayer, God might see fit to give me a different answer. And it wouldn’t be because God hadn’t heard me or that He didn’t love me as much as Jabez.
We are so quick to judge things in this shallow way. If I see somebody receive a blessing from God that I want, too, I assume that if God loved me as much, He would also give me the same thing. But any parent knows that you don’t raise any two children in the same way. Sometimes you can give your children the same things. Sometimes you can’t.
So I don’t look at the prayer of Jabez and see a model for getting wealth out of God. I look at the prayer of Jabez and see, once again, the evidence of a God who hears us and responds to us. He knows us well. He knows our hearts and our individual situations. And He will give us just what we need, exactly what is right for us, in just the right time.