It is as vivid as yesterday. I walked into the hair salon and as I waited for my ‘girl’ to get to me, I again opened the little book that had my rapt attention. [Truth is, I do not go anywhere without a book. There are just too many wonderful things to think about, challenging thoughts to entertain, new things to learn!] On this day, the book was The Prayer of Jabez#. One man’s exploration into a single obscure verse from the Old Testament changed my life - though I did not know it right then. (In fact, it is in retrospect that I see it so clearly today)
The verse? And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. 1 Chronicles 4.10.
Challenge accepted! I walked out onto Castro Valley Boulevard into the sunshine, intent to memorize the verse and pray it daily. Done.
Let’s step a little closer please. Why did God grant Jabez his request? First, he prayed fervently and intently, purposefully to God. He did not throw up an obligatory, mono-syllabic prayer of ‘thanks’ for dinner, this was not a bullet prayer as he was driving Highway 98 . . . no Sir, he prayed with all of who he was that God would put him in the game. But wait . . . also note:
he prayed that God would bless him.
‘Bless me?’ I thought, 'that is strange.' Sure, I prayed that God would bless my family - naming them one by one; I prayed that God would bless and heal those in need, specifically by name, I prayed that my dad would come to Jesus, etc . . . but pray for myself - that I would be blessed? No, Sir. In the way I was raised to think, that would be self-indulgent, kinda selfish. But here it was:
Oh that You would bless me . . . So God granted him what he requested.
Coupled with Jabez’ request for personal blessing was that God would enlarge his territory--his ability to impact others for God. Sign me up. I wanted to be used of God. At the time, my influence included my four children and a group of young moms I led called Mom’s Connection. I had started the group when Danny was just three months old - we read and studied how to be better mothers; we collaborated, we prayed together, laughed, went to the park together and sometimes cried. Challenged by the Jabez prayer, I prayed that God would enlarge my territory.
I never lost sight of that prayer, never stopped praying it. It would be about two years later when our family moved 400 miles south to San Clemente into a neighborhood of lots of families, lots of boys (28 within about a 10 house span). One boy mom, Ally, invited me to a Bible study at a nearby church, even bringing me the homework so I was ready should I be able to go. That year, I had a toddler, a kindergartner, a junior and senior in high school - diapers, reading primers, roller hockey, varsity volleyball and even football, and a husband who travelled more than 30 percent of the time. Life was full; it was wonderful. Sigh.
But a strange thing happened when I went to the Bible study on that Tuesday morning. After the whole-group teaching session, we broke into small discussion groups. The leader looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry, we do not have room for you. This group is already a little too large.’ ‘But, she doesn’t know anyone, I brought her,’ my new friend Ally said. ‘I’m sorry - it won’t work,’ she replied. I wanted to hold up my five pages of completed homework and plead my case, but that seemed kinda dumb, so I kept still. No room . . . I got the message.
Six days later, Danny (two years old) had kidney failure, which is a whole other nightmare/blessing, when the let your hand be with me part of the prayer was definitely answered! Weeks later, as I began to emerge from hospital stays and tiny blood pressure cuffs multiple times a day, I thought, ‘well, I still need a Bible study! I still want to ‘do life’ with other women.’ I do not know if it was God’s whisper or my own idea, but I decided to start a group in my home - for my neighbors, fellow hockey moms and park acquaintances. It would be a place where everyone was welcome. God blessed and multiplied that group many times over.
As for the that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain part of the prayer, this is similar to what Jesus included when teaching the disciples to pray: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Turns out that ~>an awareness that giving into temptation, tiptoe-ing or running headlong into evil, will always cause<~ pain is important in our daily choices.
So God granted him what he requested. Want to see God move in your life?
Want to see prayer answered before your very eyes? Pray the Prayer of Jabez ~ a prayer of vision, of a God-given dream, a prayer of purpose for your life.
Go ahead . . . pray, dream, envision how you can influence the world around you for good, for God, for eternity . . .
Because it has never mattered more,
Make My Life a Prayer to You, Keith Green, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOfhr_AiZNk
(so fitting because I saw/heard him sing this live in Castro Valley, same town where God gave me the Jabez dream prayer)
# - The Prayer of Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson.