Buried deep in the first book of Chronicles, interrupting the flow of chronological lists, is a very short and poignant story. The story of a man whose very name means “he will cause pain.”
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ 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, so that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.
Imagine a boy growing up with a name like that. Every time he heard his name, it was reminder that he caused his mother pain. What a burden. No wonder he called out to God in the way that he did. It seems that the effect his name and beginnings had on him was a determination not to be the source of any more pain to anyone else. Rather, what he wanted was for God to bless him, enlarge his territory, have His hand with him, and keep him from evil.
What am I thinking about?
The way that I read this story, he wasn’t seeking something for his own sake. That “enlarge my territory” wasn’t selfish, but a desire that God would equip him to bless and make life good for the others. He was asking for the things that he needed in order to pass on that blessing and help and strength to others around him. So that his life could contradict the meaning of his name.
I have often thought about this man’s prayer. So many times I start praying for my friends and my family, whoever God puts on my heart, and 10 seconds later my train of thought has taken off down the wrong track, full speed. I’m thinking about what to make for dinner, how to handle a situation at work, or something like that. Why is it so hard for me to focus on the others?
Or, for example, I see someone that I know is going through a hard time. I want to help them, spend time with them, encourage them, cheer them up. But suddenly it becomes hard to find the time. When am I going to be able to have a little me time? Or I start to get nervous that I’m not going to know what to say or how to help. It becomes too easy to find an excuse.
The prayer of my heart
It has become painfully obvious to me that it is incredibly easy just to allow my whole time, energy, focus, and so on, to revolve around myself. “Look out for number 1.” It’s the mantra of the human race. But I know that’s not the way God wants me to have it. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it says that “the greatest of these is love.” I need to direct my thoughts away from myself and my own interests. I need to have a love for others that spurs me rather to do good for, pray for, bless them.
So the prayer of my heart is the same as the one that Jabez cried out to God. “Enlarge my territory, expand my heart, so that I can have more room for the others in it. So that my love can grow and flourish and overwhelm all that self-absorption that is so natural to me. Bless me, so that I can pass that blessing on. So that I have the words to say to help. That I know what I can do for them. Have Your hand over me, so that I keep myself on the paths of righteousness always, and keep me from evil, so that I can be a light and an example. So that my life can shine as an example of a true Christian; one who has the love of God abiding in me.” (1 John 3:17)