Friday, 24 August 2012

The Prayer of Jabez

You might remember the prayer of Jabez, which was made famous by Bruce Wilkinson.  It became one of those fades that our Christian sub-culture is so prone to; there were prayer of Jabez journals, fridge magnets and the like.  However, Wilkinson's take on this prayer was much criticised for learning towards the prosperity gospel.  So I was interested to see that Spurgeon also taught on these verses.

The prayer reads as follows:
Jabez was more honourable 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 (1 Chron. 4:9-10).

A friend of mine works in Zimbabwe and was telling us about some of the unusual names that he had come across.  Some people there name their children with English words that they like; he heard of one person who was called 'Crossbar.'  Jabez wasn't held back by his name; his mother chose a name that sounds like the Hebrew word for pain because she gave birth to him in pain.  But her tears were turned to joy for Jabez was an honourable man, more honourable than his brothers.  'To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy.'

Spurgeon's sermon on the prayer of Jabez only focuses on the first petition of Jabez: 'Lord bless me indeed'.  I would have liked to know how Spurgeon understood Jabez's request for increased territory, but alas he does not deal with this.  Certainly, Spurgeon cannot be accused of preaching a 'health and wealth' gospel as he spends his time pointing to the limitations of temporal blessings.

Do we feel comfortable asking God to bless us?  What blessings should we seek from his hands?  Why would it be foolish for a Christian to focus their prayers on becoming financially wealthy (see Proverbs 30:7-9 and 1 Tim. 6:10)?  Why is it important to pray with an attitude of 'if it is your will'?  Spurgeon suffered many bouts of ill-health but he could say, 'I am certain that I never did grow in grace one half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.'  In what ways can family and friends be both a blessing and a snare?  What are the dangers of reputation and fame?  What sort of blessings might we not want (see John 15:1-2 and Hebrews 12: 3-11)?  How does the approval of people compare with the approval of God?  

Spurgeon writes, 'I commend [the prayer of Jabez] as a prayer for yourselves, dear brethren and sisters; one which will be available at all seasons; a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer which would never be unreasonable in your joys and sorrows.'  He sees great blessing in receiving God's commendation; how good it will be to hear the words 'well done good and faithful servant' (Matthew 25:21).  'Commend thou the feeble service that through grace my heart has rendered.  That will be to bless me indeed.'  'Other blessings may bring us some cheer, but in Thy favour is life.'

Spurgeon also explains that:
'... anything which helps me to glorify God is a blessing indeed.  If I be sick, and that helps me to praise him, it is a blessing indeed.  If I be poor, and I can serve him better in poverty than in wealth, it is a blessing indeed.  If I be in contempt, I will rejoice in that day and leap for joy, if it be for Christ's sake - it is a blessing indeed. 
Praying with Spurgeon:
'My God ... let me never make a god of silver and gold ... I beseech thee, bless me indeed.  As for these worldly possessions, they will be my bane unless I have thy grace with them ... My Father ... enrich me with thy love, give me the gold of thy favour ... do thou bless me indeed, and I will be content ... My God, bless thou me indeed, for what profit were it, if my name were in a thousand mouths, if thou shouldest spue [sic] it out of thy mouth? ... My God, bless me indeed.  Give me a healthy soul.  Heal me of my spiritual diseases ...'

1 comment:

rach said...

paul this is great stuff. thanks for your blog!