A number of years ago, the “prayer of Jabez” became the in thing. This short prayer recorded in 1st Chronicles 4 became the subject of books and articles globally.
The chronicler tells of Jabez, a man more “honorable than his brothers.” Jabez prays that God would bless him and “enlarge [his] border.” In addition, he asked that God’s hand would be with him and he would be kept from harm “so that it might not bring [him] pain.” [1 Chronicles 4:9-10]
Scripture says Jabez’ name means pain. His mother gave him the name, she said, “Because I bore him in pain.”
1st Chronicles says, “God granted what he asked.”
Before the Story Begins
But, before this story even begins, we understand that Jabez was truly a God-follower. He was “honorable.” And he was seeking God’s help through prayer, not his own ability, to get more wealth – in essence what enlarging his border would do. He was dependent on the Lord.
So, how did Jabez get to that point?
I would suggest that it came from an “enlarged heart.” The psalmist in Psalm 119 says,
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
[Psalm 119:30-32 (ESV)]
Notice, the psalmist says he had chosen “the way of faithfulness” and was clinging to the Word of God. But, note that he ends this paragraph saying he will follow God when He enlarges his heart. What an interesting way to put it, don’t you think?
It is important firstly to note that the word, “heart” [לֵב] in Hebrew means “feelings, will, and even intellect.” The scripture writers do not really distinguish between thinking and feeling.
The enlightened West, and even the Greeks, have done much to separate emotion and thinking, but this comes more from experience than scripture or even neurological studies. Though they come from two different parts of the brain, their interaction is almost as if they are one.
The psalmist is suggesting he follows the Lord because his whole inner man, in the language of scripture, is enlarged by God.
Returning to Jabez, he prays from an enlarged heart for an enlarged territory.
If we love the Lord and therefore, have enlarged hearts, we may wish to seek to have enlarged territories. As leaders, there is much to be seen in the model of Jabez.
Enlarged territory means enlarged influence. Some leaders seek that influence that they may be enlarged. They will be powerful. They will rule with authority. They will control. They will gain fame or fortune. They will be important. [see article]
But, that is not how Jabez’s prayer should be applied. He apparently had an “enlarged heart” to follow the Lord before he ever asked for territory.
Because the Lord answered his prayer and there is no more spoken of Jabez, we can assume that Jabez had motives that were coming from that enlarged heart – from an honorable man who had godly motives.
Though no man is sinless in his motives, and Jabez most likely had some desire to spend it on himself [as James says], he apparently had good motives as well.
And I would imagine those motives were to enlarge his ability to minister to others:
- His family
- His servants
- His world
Do you, as a leader, wish to expand your influence?
First, seek that the Lord would enlarge your heart to follow Him. That you would, with the Psalmist, choose the “way of faithfulness,” cling to God’s Word, and run in the way of His commands.
Secondly, seek greater influence for the good. The good of your neighbor not your own greatness. Make it your motive not to spend your enlarged territory on your pleasures, but on the edification of those around you.