Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Prayer of Jabez
by Pastor Jyh Jang Lim
"9 And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested" (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
We would like to study an Old Testament prayer that has become very famous in recent years. It has become so famous that in some circles it is regarded as more important than the Lord’s Prayer. It has, in fact, become a kind of evangelical mantra.
If you want to be "extravagantly blessed by God," you must pray this prayer. "You must pray it every day," says Dr Bruce Wilkinson. God longs to give you abundant blessings, but you must ask Him to do so by using this prayer. This prayer "can release God’s favour, power, and protection. You’ll see how one daily prayer can help you leave the past behind—and break through to the life you were meant to live" says the advertising blurb at the back cover of the little book which has sold millions of copies.
I am referring, of course, to the Prayer of Jabez.
We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honourable than his brothers. He was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow.
What was the reason for her sorrow, we are not told. But the sorrow that she endured gave way to everlasting joy as the child grew, for he became an honourable man. Indeed, he became the only man to receive an honourable mention in a list of more than a thousand names in the first 9 chapters in 1 Chronicles. What is even more amazing is that his prayers should be recorded in the midst of a section of the book, which is otherwise purely a genealogical record.
It is this prayer of Jabez that we are considering. We know this prayer to be an effectual one because we are told that God granted Jabez his request. So it is a prayer we want to learn—not that we may chant it like a mantra, but that we may incorporate the principle ideas into our own prayer life.
This prayer has 4 petitions:
a. Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed,
b. Enlarge my coast,
c. That thine hand be with me,
d. That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!
That Thou Wouldest Bless Me IndeedLet us consider the 1st petition: "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."
1. God would have us ask for a Blessing.
One of the first things that we must learn from the prayer of Jabez is that God stands ready to bless His children.
The apostle Paul reminds us that our God is the living God "who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Tim 6:17). And "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).
Our God is living and true, unlike the idols of man’s imagination. He has reconciled us in Christ and adopted us as His sons and daughters. So He is not only able to bless us richly, but He is pleased to bless us.
However, God would have us ask Him for a blessing as Jabez did and as Jacob did when he wrestled with the Lord at the ford Jabbok (Gen 32:26).
The Lord Jesus Himself reminds us to ask if we are to receive:
"7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Mt 7:7-8)
And again, as He told His disciples:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:23-24).
What shall we do but to learn to ask for a blessing if we want to receive a blessing? God is pleased to bless us and He is ready to bless us, but He would have us receive His blessing through prayer.
But secondly, let us remember that…
2. What we may deem to be a blessing is not necessarily God’s blessings.
This is the main problem with the book by Dr Wilkinson. For Dr Wilkinson, blessing equals success. Blessing in ministry means increase opportunity to minister. Blessing in business means more profit. Blessing in health is to enjoy healing and long life. Blessing in examinations means good grades, etc.
But this is not what the Scripture nor does experience teach.
Riches and honour are not necessarily blessings. The rich fool thought that he was of all men most blessed, but God required his life that very night.
Having a prosperous business is not necessarily a blessing, for riches have become a curse for many. We read it in the newspaper everyday. And we read it in 1 Timothy:
"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Tim 6:9)
Having long life or being spared of death is not necessarily a blessing. Moses gives a hint in this regard when he says:
"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow…" (Ps 90:10)
Indeed, having our prayers answered according to our own desires is not necessarily a blessing.
The story is told about a mother who brought her dying child to her minister to ask him to pray for him. The minister prayed earnestly, but with a qualification, "if it be Thy will, restore this child." When the mother heard the qualification, she was appalled. She cried out: "I cannot bear that: I must have you pray that the child shall live. Do not put in any ifs or buts." "Woman," said the minister, "it may be that you will live to regret the day that you ever wished to set your will up against God’s will."
The child lived.
But 20 years later, this woman would have a sword pierce her heart as she watched her son being hanged for felony. Had the Lord taken his life earlier she would have been spared the tremendous suffering that she had to endure. It would have been far better for her had the child died in infancy. So having our prayers answered according to our own will is not necessarily a blessing.
The apostle Paul thought that it would be great if the thorn in the flesh be removed. Three times he prayed for it to be removed. Perhaps he thought that if the infirmity were removed, he would be a more effective servant of the Lord and his ministry would be enlarged.
But the Lord refused to grant his request. Instead at the end of the third season of prayer and fasting, He said unto Paul:
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9a).
It was then that Paul finally understood in his heart that God’s blessing is not necessarily in the way that we imagine. So he exclaims:
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor 12:9b).
The man who receives a blessing is blessed.
Our Lord teaches us that we can be blessed even when we are persecuted for our faith.
"11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…" (Mt 5:11-12)
We can be blessed though our outward man perishes. Indeed, many have testified of how the times of their illnesses were the times they drew nearest to God and felt most blessed.
We can be blessed though we be poor. The poor widow who cast her two mites into the treasury of the temple was more blessed than the rich people who cast in their wealth.
The Scripture is clear, that what is a blessing in the eyes of man is not necessarily a blessing in the eyes of God.
When we ask God to bless, we must never ask Him to bless according to how we think He should bless. We must seek a blessing indeed.
3. We must learn to ask God’s blessing.
Jabez prayed: "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."
Notice the two words ‘thou’ and ‘indeed.’ Jabez does not want man to bless him. He does not want the world to bless him. He does not want to be blessed by anything. He wants to be blessed by the LORD alone.
And he wants to be blessed indeed. Now, the word ‘indeed’ is not found in the Hebrew. The Hebrew has a repetition of the word ‘bless.’ Jabez is saying something like: "Oh, that to bless, you would bless me." But the idea is captured in the English, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed."
Jabez does not want an apparent blessing. He is not interested in temporary material blessing. He wants a blessing that is eternal and spiritual.
We must learn to pray as Jabez did. But we must bear in mind that it is God’sblessing indeed that we are looking for. We ought to pray for a blessing that is a blessing indeed in God’s eyes. We ought not to simply pray what we desire in our hearts.
But did not the Lord Jesus promise us that whatever we ask we shall receive? Well, yes, He did. But common sense should teach us that God is not promising to give us anything—even if what we ask will hurt us. Indeed our Lord makes this qualification very clear in His instructions on prayer. Turn to Luke 11:9-13—
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Is that all He says? No; read on:
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
What did the Lord promise that the Father will give? Do you notice His specific reference to the Holy Spirit? Now some think that the Lord is referring only to Pentecost and that He was urging the disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit. Well, it is true that the Lord did urge His disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit. In John 14 and 16, He again urges them to do so.
But I believe that our Lord is not only teaching the disciples with regard to Pentecost; He is teaching all of us to pray for the Holy Spirit. He is teaching us to pray for more of Him or for more of His influence.
He is teaching us to pray with a view to sanctification or growth in Christ-likeness.
I would submit to you that this is exactly what we should be praying for when we pray, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed." We ought in other words to desire a spiritual blessing and more faith that we may see and receive His blessings.
That is to say:
We should not pray: "Bless me with wealth." Even when we desire wealth, it must be with an eye to sanctification. So we pray as Argur did—
"Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Prov 30:8-9).
Or we should pray as Spurgeon suggests:
"My Father, you have denied me this outward and seemingly good blessing, enrich me with your love, give me the gold of your favor, truly bless me; then allot to others whatever you will. My soul will wait upon your daily will for my life; bless me with true riches and I will be content."
Likewise we should not simply pray: "Lord bless me with good health" or "Lord, heal me!" We ought to consider our physical health in tandem with our spiritual health.
If you are in good health, you should thank God for your good health and pray that God may bless you indeed by healing your spiritual diseases, by keeping you from complacency and by helping you to be a blessing to others who are less able.
But if you are in poor health, cry out to the Lord, "O, that thou wouldst bless me, indeed. I desire to be healthy that I may serve Thee, but Thou hast a purpose in my affliction. Grant that as I await Thy healing hand, I may have the grace to wait patiently and to trust that good will come out of this trial."
Or consider the blessing of the family. Some of us desire marriage; some of us desire children; some of us desire peace and harmony in the home. We must pray and not simply glide along like unbelievers. But how should we pray?
Let us learn to pray:
"O that thou wouldest bless me indeed. Thou dost know the desire of my heart. Grant O Lord, my desire. Yet not my will but Thy will be done. Give only if by this means I may better serve Thee and I may better glorify and enjoy thee."
And when we have thus prayed, let us humbly wait upon Him believing that His will for us is best for us.
Or consider, finally, the church. We desire the church to grow and to be a more effective instrument of praise and witness for the Lord.
Let us pray: "O that thou wouldest bless us indeed!"
But let us remember that a greater number in the church is not necessarily a blessing.
And while we desire that those who have left us would come back, let us also remember that it is not necessarily a blessing if they come back.
Let us therefore learn to pray: "O that thou wouldest bless us indeed! Yet, not our will, but Thine will be done."
Let us remember that the blessings of God which are blessings, indeed flow from Calvary’s tree and the bleeding sides of our Lord.
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).
A blessing is a blessing indeed only if it comes from the hand of Christ and draws us to Christ. As such, those who would not have Christ would have no blessing.
Draw nigh therefore to Christ and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all His blessings shall be added unto you according as you ask in His name.
The Prayer Jabez is not prescribed in the Scripture for us to use as a kind of mantra as some evangelicals today make it to be.
Enlarge My CoastsThe Prayer of Jabez, you will recall is recorded in the midst of nine chapters which is otherwise purely a genealogical record. Indeed, Jabez is not even mentioned in the genealogy. His biography is recorded but not his genealogy! All we are told is that Jabez was more honourable than his brothers; and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow. Everything else we know about Jabez is his prayer. So we know that this prayer must have some special spiritual significance. We do not know how Jabez prayed this prayer. Did he pray it in public and it was recorded? Or did he use this as an outline for his daily petitions before the Lord as Matthew Henry suggests? We do not know. But we know that this is an effectual prayer and we can learn from it and incorporate the principles into our own prayer life.
In the first part of this study, we considered the 1st petition: "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed." We saw then that God would bless us, but He would have us ask a blessing. We saw also that what we may deem to be blessings are not necessary God’s blessings, and so we must learn to ask that God would bless us truly. Our eyes therefore must be set on Christ and upon heavenly treasures even as we ask the Lord to bless us in our present life.
In this second study, we want to consider the 2nd petition: "Enlarge my coast."
What does this petition mean?
1. Literal Meaning
On the surface, ‘enlarge my coast’ appears to be a request to be given more land! The word ‘coast’ can also be translated ‘border’ or ‘territory.’ So Jabez is asking the Lord to enlarge his territory or lengthen his borders.
We don’t know anything about Jabez. Was he a landowner? Was he a captain of the army? Was he a businessman? Why was he seeking to have more territory? Is he asking the Lord to grant him success in the wars he was fighting? Is he wanting a bigger portion of the land allotted to the children of Israel? Is he desiring to do business in a larger area than what he is doing? We don’t know.
But one thing we know: God answered his prayer. So we know that he must have prayed according to God’s will; and we know that he did not ask amiss that he might consume it upon his lust.
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jms 4:3).
Jabez received what he asked for. It was not greed that motivated his petition to the Lord, or the Lord would not have answered his prayer.
2. Literal Application
But what is it to ask God to enlarge our coast? How should we pray this petition? Well, if you are living in the same situation as Jabez, then you can indeed pray the prayer literally. God would answer your prayer whether to enlarge your property, to enlarge your business or to enlarge your influence—so long as you do not ask amiss that you may consume it upon your lusts (Jas 4:3).
In other words, if you were to pray that God would enlarge your coast literally, you must make sure that it is not greed that motivates you.
But if we do not pray this petition literally, how should we pray?
3. Spiritual Application
Well, we can be sure that to pray that God would enlarge our coast would include praying that God would enlarge our hearts, and so enlarge our portion in Himself and in the heavenly Canaan. This ought to be our desire and our prayer. So we should pray as the apostles did: "Lord, increase our faith."
So let us pray that God will give us more opportunities to learn and to grow in grace.
Likewise, it would be certain that we may and should pray that God would increase our talents with which we may serve Him. So it is right to pray: Lord enlarge my gifts. Or, Lord, give me more opportunities to serve Thee. So order my life that I may be a blessing to others as Thou hast been a blessing to me.
So it is right to aspire to the office of an elder in the church. The apostle Paul talks about that. Likewise it would be right to aspire to serve in particular areas in the church that we may be a blessing to others. If we find such a desire in our heart, we should pray.
Many years ago, when I first started attending church, I was rather taken aback to see how callous the elders and deacons who were standing at the entrance of the church were. I was new at the church and no one welcomed me. And when someone eventually shook my hand it was a mechanical handshake because he was talking to someone else. This went on for week.
Eventually, I shared my perplexity with a brother whom I could confide in. He gave me a piece of very good advice. He said something like: If you think you might be able to do a better job, pray that the Lord would put you in the situation. He was essentially teaching me that God would enlarge my coast.
Well, I prayed that prayer and in a few years I was standing at the entrance of the same church, shaking hands and welcoming the worshippers.
Do you, brethren, desire to be more greatly used by the Lord whether at work, at home or at church? Pray that the Lord would enlarge your coast.
And shall we not pray the same as a church? What is it to pray that the Lord would enlarge our coast as a church? Would it not be to pray, according to the promise of Isaiah, that God would enlarge the place of our tent so that we have to lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes (Isa 54:2).
That is, shall we not pray that, He will increase our numbers? Shall we not pray that we may be so large as to overflow this hall and the meeting hall we use on the Lord’s Day? We must not be afraid to grow. Growth will come with problems, but what a blessing it will be if God grants us increase—whether through more children or through more conversions.
And not only so, but shall we not pray that the Lord will grant us more opportunities as a church to serve Him? We have a golden opportunity in Cagayan de Oro. Our elder is there. Will we not pray that the Lord will bless the work? Will we not pray for more opportunities that we may be a blessing to others according as the Lord has blessed us as a church? Shall we not expect great things and attempt great things for God with His blessing?
Shall we not pray that the Lord enlarge our coasts as individuals and enlarge our coasts as a church? This then, is how we should pray "enlarge our coast." May the Lord grant us that as we learn to pray that He will enlarge our coast, we may see more and more of His power in our lives individually and as a church.
That Thine Hand Might Be With MeThe 1st petition is "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed." We saw that God would bless us, but He would have us ask a blessing. We saw also that what we may deem to be blessings are not necessarily God’s blessings, and so we must learn to ask that God would bless us truly. Our eyes therefore must be set on Christ and upon heavenly treasures even as we ask the Lord to bless us in our present life.
The 2nd petition is "Enlarge my coast." We saw that this is a prayer to enlarge our hearts as well as to enlarge our talents and opportunities that we may glorify and enjoy God.
The 3rd petition is in the words ‘that thine hand might be with me.’ So the petition is, "Let thine hand be with me."
Jabez is asking that the hand of God would be with him. What does he mean?
The hand of God refers simply to the power and presence of God.
So Jabez is asking the Lord to be with him, to work powerfully in him and to manifest His power through him.
He is pleading with the Lord: "Lord, be with me; manifest Thy power through me; and work powerfully in me." These three sub-petitions are closely related, but it is instructive for us to look at them separately.
1. Lord, Be with Me
What does it mean to ask the Lord to be with us? Isn’t the Lord omnipresent?
Yes, the Lord is omnipresent, so when we ask the Lord to be with us, it must be to ask the Lord to bless us and to manifest His power to us.
When Jacob was fleeing from Esau, he met the Lord in a vision at Bethel, and then he vowed a vow. Look at what he says in his vow (Gen 28:20):
"20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Gen 28:20-22).
What is Jacob saying when he speaks of his desire that God would be with him? He is hoping,—is he not,—that God would lead him, and watch over him and bless him in whatever he does? He does not wish to walk alone. He knows that if he walks alone, he may never go back to his father’s house. He desires that God would hold his hand and lead him.
Now, Caleb also prayed that the Lord would be with him, but in a different context. Turn to Joshua 14:12. It was the days of conquest and Caleb wanted Hebron for his inheritance. He says—
"Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said" (Josh 14:12).
Like Jacob, Caleb desired that God would go with him, or to lead him, to protect and to bless his endeavours. He knew that only if the Lord was with him would he drive out the Anakims.
What was true in the days of Jacob, Caleb and Jabez is still true today. Therefore let us seek to have the same mind as these our fathers in the faith.
Let us pray "Let thine hand be with me," desiring that God lead us, watch over us and bless us in all that we do. Let us not assume that anything will turn out well unless the Lord be with us.
Ezra puts it beautifully when he says
"The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him" (Ezra 8:22).
So let us pray: Lord, be with me as I go for the interview. Be with me as I sit for the exam. Lord, unless thou go with me, I will not go.
But the prayer, "Let thine hand be with me" is also the prayer…
2. Lord, Manifest Thy Power through Me.
Caleb, in speaking about his desire that the Lord would be with him is speaking also of his desire that the Lord would fight for him. That is, he not only desired that God would lead him, he desired that the Lord would strengthen him and his fighters to enable them to win the battle.
Thus, when we are facing any crisis or event, which can be described as a battle in anyway, we can and should cry unto the Lord to help us and to manifest His power through us.
But let us not restrict ourselves to praying this prayer only in crisis situations. We ought to desire that the hand of the Lord be upon us in all that we do, that we may do it well and do it in a way that will glorify His name.
Nicodemus told the Lord Jesus:
"Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (Jn 3:2).
Nicodemus recognised the power of God in the miracles which the Lord did.
In the same way, we ought to be conscious that we cannot do anything which would redound to the glory of God in the eyes of the world, except God’s hand be with us. "Without me, ye can do nothing, says the Lord" (Jn 15:5).
Read the book of Ezra and Nehemiah and you cannot fail to notice how often the hand of the Lord is mentioned.
There is a tacit recognition in these books that the great work of rebuilding the temple and the wall could not have been carried out except that God manifested His power through His servants.
Let us learn to acknowledge God’s hand and crave that God’s hand will be with us to bless the labours of our hands that His power may be manifested.
Let us pray this as a church: Lord, may thy power be seen through the preaching of gospel. Would thou show thyself through the mighty fruits of conversion?
And let us pray like Nehemiah: "O God, strengthen my hands" (Neh 6:9). Let me, O Lord, be an instrument to manifest Thy glory.
But finally, let Thine hands be with me is also the prayer…
3. Lord, Work Powerfully in Me.
The LORD promises through Isaiah:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa 41:10)
The Psalmist says:
"Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts" (Ps 119:173).
So when we pray: "Let thine hand be with me," we are also praying, Lord, help us! Help us to live a holy life for thy glory. Sanctify us and make me the kind of person you want me to be.
Or using the prayer of Paul on behalf of the Ephesians—
(1) Strengthen us with might by thy Spirit in our inner man, (2) that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, (3) that we being rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height of the love of Christ (Eph 3:16-19).
Let Thine hands be with me is therefore: Lord, be with me to lead me, manifest thy power through me and work powerfully in me.
Keep Me From EvilNow, the 4th petition is in the words, "that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!"
This petition, you will realise is very similar to the 6th petition of the Lord’s Prayer—"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
But there is a slight difference. In the Lord’s Prayer, the petition is a request to be kept from sin and temptations. In the prayer of Jabez, it is a petition to be kept from all evil.
What is ‘evil’? Evil can be understood absolutely or relatively. Evil in the absolute sense of the word is what is contrary to the Law of God. So evil is sin.
But evil in the relative sense is anything that grieves us. Now, Jabez, appears to be speaking of evil in the relative sense of the word since he desired to be kept from evil that it might not grieve him. His name means ‘grief’ or ‘sorrow’; but he desired that he might not be grieved or sorrowed. And the LORD granted him his request.
Now there are three things that particularly grieve the children of God.
First, troubles grieve us. It may be a disaster, or an accident, or the loss of a loved one, or a failure.
Secondly, all relationship strains grieve us.
Thirdly, sin grieves us—whether our own sin, or the sin of others.
So what Jabez is requesting is that he may be kept from evil—whether the evil of trouble, or the evil of relationship strains, or the evil of sin whether his own or that of others.
Let’s consider briefly his request.
First, Jabez desired to be kept from the…
1. Evil of Trouble
There are some who say we should not be concerned about troubles in our lives. We should not pray to be delivered from them, but to be delivered in them, they say.
Well, I find this rather unnatural. Of course when we are in the thick of a trial, whether illness or some calamity, we ought to pray to be preserved through the difficulties, and that good will come out of the trial.
But is it wrong to desire to be delivered from the trial? Is it wrong to ask to be kept from evil? It is evident that the Scripture does not regard it to be wrong, for Jabez asked to be kept from evil and the Lord gave him the desire of his heart.
And not only Jabez, but our Lord Himself prayed this prayer when He says: "If it be possible, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but thine be done."
Now, of course, in the case of our Lord, the bitter cup was not taken from Him. He had to drink it to its dregs—which teaches us that it does not mean that so long as we pray, then God will keep us from evil. Our heavenly Father knows best and He will answer our prayers according to what is best for us and for His glory.
Jabez prayed to be spared evil, and the Lord granted him his desire. He was spared the grief of having to deal with many troubles in his life. This is the way that the Lord blessed him.
Of course, the Lord can bless us even in troubles. But shall we not rather be spared from troubles if we help it. Well, in a certain sense we can help it. Our life is in the hands of the Lord. We must not think of our life as fated. Nothing is fated. Everything is in the hands of the Lord. And the Lord is pleased to deliver us from evil upon our request.
Shall we not learn to pray, therefore, as Jabez did?
Shall we not pray for ourselves? Shall we not pray for our nation? Shall we not pray for our church, our families, and for each other? Is there something you fear will happen? Will you not commit the matter to the Lord, asking Him to keep you from evil? Do you fear losing your job? Pray that the Lord will keep you from the evil of losing your job. Do you fear losing your wife? Pray that the Lord will keep you from the evil of losing your wife.
But secondly, Jabez in asking to be kept from evil, would also be desiring to be kept from the…
2. Evil of Relationship Strains
This is closely related to the evil of trouble, but it has to do with relationships. Much of our troubles in life are not due to accidents, or illness or deaths. Much of our troubles have to do with relationships.
Of course, if we were all without sin, we would have no relationship strains. There will be no problems in heaven! But today we are all sinners and when sinners get together, we can expect trouble. Our sin makes us like porcupines so we will poke one another without trying.
This happens even in the church. Today we are all rough edges. And God has put us together in order that we may sharpen one another. Now, when two rough surfaces rub against each other too hard, heat will be generated and sparks will fly.
Recognising that this will happen, what shall we do? Shall we not specifically ask the Lord to keep us from evil that comes from this direction?
What will happen when we pray this prayer? Well, God will surely hear our prayers!
How? Well, I suppose, in the first place, He will keep us from talking to the wrong person at the wrong time so that we might be spared from unnecessary quarrels. For is it not true that very often we get into misunderstandings because we say something at the wrong time? If we had said the same thing on another occasion, things might be different, but we said it then, and a row exploded.
In the second place, will He not give us wisdom to relate to others in a way that will not produce unhappiness? We are all made differently. It is foolish to think that we can relate to everyone in the same way.
To one person, we may be able to give a slap in the back and say, ‘Come out of it, brother!’ To another person, we may have to be much gentler. When we ask the Lord to deliver us from relationship strains, I think one of the things the Lord does is to give us the wisdom to discern.
In the third place, I believe when we ask the Lord to deliver us from evil due to relationship strains, the Lord will teach us to be less sensitive so that we may not be so easily hurt by others.
You see, we tend to be very idealistic when we are in the midst of other believers. But if we recognise the pitfalls that sin has dug in the paths of relationship, so that we ask the Lord to deliver us from such evil, then would we not be more careful and would we not be more forgiving should we be dragged into one of these pits?
But now thirdly, the petition, keep me from evil is also a prayer to be kept from the…
3. Evil of Sin
This is the principal part of this prayer and it is the part that our Lord emphasises in the Lord’s Prayer.
The other day, my younger son, suddenly declared during dinner: ‘All the bad things that happen to us happen because of Satan’. ‘Satan makes us fight and quarrel and disobey,’ he says. I was rather taken aback by the comment and for a moment did not know how best to respond.
Well, it is true that Satan and his cohorts do cast fiery darts at us. But let us beware of attributing every sin to Satan, for in ourselves there is enough wickedness to set the whole forest on fire.
Every one of us is carrying a tank of kerosene on our back. We are all ready to explode given the right conditions. Indeed, were it not for the grace of God, would we not have exploded many times over?
Shall we not recognise this and ask the Lord to cover us with His wings that we may be kept from evil—whether of our own sin or the sin of others.
Lord, keep me from temptations. Remove those tempting thoughts from my mind. Keep Satan and his cohorts at bay; and restrain me from any sinful acts that I may be tempted to engage in.
Keep me from being dragged into the sin of others. Keep me from being influenced or hurt by the sin of my boss or my colleagues.
Help me to do that which is right. Help me to seek forgiveness and help me to forgive. Cause that love may cover a multitude of sins.
Jabez prayed: ‘Keep me from evil that it may not grieve me.’ Shall we not learn to pray the same? May the Lord hear our cries and spare us from troubles, relationship strains and sins that grieve us and hinder our testimony for His name’s sake.
But let us learn to pray not only this petition, but let us learn to pray as Jabez did in his four petitions—
Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!
May the Lord grant us that we may learn the principles and gain some ideas on what we should pray for from this beautiful prayer.
Pastor Jyh Jang Lim is pastor of Pilgrim Covenant Church, a Reformed Presbyterian Congregation founded on the 4th of July, 1999, and located on Henderson Road, Singapore, South East Asia. This sermon was first adapted from an exhortation preached at Pilgrim Covenant Church Prayer Meeting on November 12th to 27th, 2004.
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