Read 1 Chronicles 3-4, Zechariah 2, and John 17 today. This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 4.
In 2000 Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book titled The Prayer of Jabez based on our passage for today, specifically 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. That book was a monster best seller with over 9 million copies sold. Many people—Christians and non-Christians—following the teaching in Wilkinson’s book have prayed the prayer of Jabez, asking God’s blessing on their lives. They treat this passage, again because of Wilkinson’s book, like it is a secret formula, almost a magic incantation for bringing God’s blessing on your life anywhere you want it.
But 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 is not an incantation or a secret formula to unleash God’s blessings in your life.
To understand Jabez’s prayer, we need to understand that God had promised material prosperity to the Jewish people if they walked in obedience to his laws. This goes all the way back to God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12. There, and in later passages, God promised land to Abram’s descendants.
What made Jabez “more honorable than his brothers” was that he believed God’s promise and asked God to fulfill it in his life. Jabez’s prayer was consistent with the covenant God made with Israel. The other descendants of Judah after David turned to idols as the source of their prosperity. They worshipped other gods in disobedience to God’s law and hoped to obtain more land and more prosperity from these gods. They also abused others to get what they wanted.
Jabez was different and “more honorable” because he had faith in God and prayed consistently with God’s promises for his people.
What Jabez’s prayer teaches us is that God is honored when we pray according to his revealed will—that is, according to what the Bible says.
When we pray in faith asking God to honor his promises to us in the word, God is pleased and will answer us according to his will. No Christian is promised the kind of material prosperity that Jabez prayed for. What God promises to us is to provide for our needs, to give us spiritual power to overcome sin and to become like Jesus, and to be with us as we go spreading the gospel to all the nations.
What if we prayed for those things instead of asking God to heal our chronic problems?
How would that transform our prayer life?
How would it change our church?
What might God do in this world if we prayed like Jabez—not aping his requests but applying the spirit of them to pray according to God’s promises?