Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I Chronicles 4:9-10
9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 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.
The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson came out in the year 2000 as I was getting ready to begin high school. It was on the New York Times bestseller list and sold millions of copies. If my memory is accurate, the book was designed around the devotional practice of praying the aforementioned prayer for thirty days and, along the way, noticing how God answered prayer believing for life change results. This all had a prosperity spin to it. It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for the author. By giving people a format to pray this singular, short prayer asking God for material blessing, the author was indeed materially blessed by the number of books he sold.
Paul encourages children to obey their parents in the Lord. A Christian household in envisaged here. Parents have the holy responsibility of training and instructing their children in the way of the Lord. Even if Christian children have non-Christian parents, they must still obey their parents except when obedience directly conflicts with their duty to Christ. The commandment to obey one’s parents is the first commandment with a promise. And the promise sounds a lot like the prayer of Jabez.
The prayer of Jabez is one man’s prayer in the middle of a long genealogy. The Lord’s Prayer and the Book of Psalms are clearly intended for us to use regularly in our devotional life. There is nothing wrong with asking God for blessing and success. Nor is it wrong to ask God for protection or to be spared momentary pain. However, the prayer of Jabez wasn’t designed by God to be the best example of how we should pray. God’s ultimate answer is yes to freedom from harm and pain. God’s ultimate answer is yes to living a long life. In the end, the earth will be restored. God’s promise to his people is everything will be alright in the end. That’s God’s ultimate answer for his family. Until then, we can count on trouble and pain and suffering through life. We can count on many of God’s answers to be no. We can also count on being surprised by miracles of extraordinary faith and healing. Through it all, it is well. Through it all, God is with us and for us.
Holy God, bless us by enlarging our circles of influence for your glory. Keep your hand upon us today. Open our eyes to see your face in those we serve. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.