Study 4 THE PRAYER FOR TRUE PROSPERITY
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10
In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we read of Jabez who was a man of prayer. There is no doubt at all that he prayed for others, but the particular emphasis that is made in these two verses is that he prayed for himself. It is not selfish to pray for ourselves, for it is only as we are blessed that we can be made a blessing to others. It was when Jabez prayed for true prosperity, and the Lord answered that prayer, that he could be made a great blessing to other people. A careful study of the prayer of Jabez shows us that it contained four characteristics.
- (1) Jabez prayed intelligently. We are told that he “cried out to the God of Israel” – that is to say, the Covenant God, the true and living God. It is quite evident that Jabez had been instructed in the school of prayer, and therefore his prayer was informed and intelligent. Very much prayer is unintelligent and is therefore unprofitable (example in Luke 18:11-12). The fundamental condition of prayer is that we must know God as our loving Heavenly Father – look up Matthew 6, and compare verses 6 and 9.
- (2) Jabez prayed earnestly. Notice the intensity of his prayer. This is evident as he cried out to the Lord. He did not simply say, “Lord, bless me!” but “Oh, that you would bless me…!” We cannot fail to sense the reality and the passion that are present in this earnest cry to God. This must surely challenge us, for often we pray passionless, half-hearted prayers, and is it any wonder that such prayers do not reach the Throne of Grace? – look up Genesis 32:26, and compare Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:1-8.
- (3) Jabez prayed definitely. He knew what he wanted and he asked for what he wanted; there was nothing haphazard about his praying. His prayer was preceded by careful thought and meditation, and when he came to the moment of presenting his petition he was able to make his request in clearly defined terms. How important it is to be definite when we pray! – look up 1 Samuel 1:10-11.
- (4) Jabez prayed effectually. When Jabez prayed, “God granted his request”. There is tremendous encouragement in these words, for the God of Jabez is our God, and just as God answered this man’s prayer so He has pledged His word to do the same for us – look up and compare Jeremiah 33:3; Mark 11:24; John 15:7 and James 4:2.
These, then, are the four characteristics of this amazing prayer that Jabez offered for himself. Now notice from this prayer of Jabez how to pray that God will give you true prosperity. In verse 10 we are told that Jabez prayed for four things. They are clearly mentioned, and we cannot do better than follow this man’s example and pray as he prayed:-
1. We should pray for Grace.
Jabez prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me…!” What did he mean by this request? Every believer is already wonderfully blessed (Ephesians 1:3); but surely Jabez was praying for God’s blessing that he might be the man God wanted him to be – see what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10. We can only be what God wants us to be by His grace; therefore let us pray for grace, and there is plenty of grace available (2 Corinthians 9:8). In 1 Chronicles 4:9 there is the hint of a possible reason why Jabez needed special grace, for his name means ‘Sorrowful’. Perhaps there was some secret tragedy concerning his birth, but whatever it was he needed grace, and of course he received it, just as we will receive the grace we need (2 Corinthians 12:9).
2. We should pray for Growth.
How beautiful it is to hear Jabez saying to the Lord, “Oh, that you would…enlarge my territory!” – compare 2 Peter 3:18. Many Christians are content to remain in a state of spiritual babyhood (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). We need to pray that the Lord will enlarge our territory, increase our capacity, deepen our faith, inflame our love, give us more opportunities, make us more usable and conform us more to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). It is a very costly thing to ask the Lord to enlarge your territory as undoubtedly it will mean testing, for it is by testing that we grow. Without testing we remain dwarfs, we remain flabby and ineffective, but if the Lord is to make us strong for Him we must be tested (1 Peter 1:7).
3. We should pray for Guidance.
Jabez prayed…”Let your hand be with me.” The hand of God is an expression that denotes the power of the living God in action (Ezra 7:9), and compare Psalm 139:5. God wants us to live a guided life (Psalm 37:23). He has made provision for our lives to be ‘ordered’, as Whittier has expressed it so beautifully:-
- “Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress:
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.”
How glorious it is when striving, strain and stress are taken out of our lives and when, because the hand of the Lord is with us and upon us, we are able to live ordered lives and experience the beauty of His peace!
4. We should pray for Godliness.
Jabez prayed that God would keep him from evil, “that it may not grieve me” (KJV), or, “that it might not spoil my life.” What a prayer to pray! It reminds us of 2 Timothy 4:18 and, thank God, the Lord is able to deliver us from evil and to enable us to live a life that is glorifying to Him, a life that is pure, holy and Christ-like!
In verse 9 Jabez is described as God’s “honourable man”. Why is this? What is the secret of becoming one of God’s honourable ones? The secret is – prayer, much prayer and more prayer – look up 1 Thessalonians 5:17.