Jabez was more honorable than his brothers … Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. [1 Chronicles 4:9,10 (ESV)]
When doing genealogy research, the names and dates don’t mean as much to me as the tidbits of information that sometimes come along with them. From on-line sources, I learned that my great-grandfather, who started as an immigrant farm boy, “rose to business heights.” His business creed was “fair dealing,” and his great ambition was “to raise the standard of business honor, and his accomplishments and his methods through the years of his career stand as a monument to this creed.” An associate said, “He was the most considerate man I ever have known, and he had high ideals for everything, not excepting his business.” From family lore, I knew he was a successful businessman but now I know that he was an honorable man.
Admittedly, with the strange names and all those begats, the genealogy in the Bible is pretty boring. Every once in a while, however, we come across an interesting snippet and wonder why it is included. For no apparent reason, in 1 Chronicles, we learn that two brothers, Ezer and Elead, were killed trying to steal livestock, that Ulam’s sons were mighty warriors and expert archers, and that someone named Jabez said a prayer for a successful and pain free life and God gave him what he wanted.
When reading about Jabez, we might think that all we need for health, wealth and happiness is prayer! Some people say that God will always answer the prayer of Jabez as written in Scripture and I wonder, why that one? Why not one of mine? Why not the Apostle Paul’s when he asked three times for the removal of the thorn in his side? Why not Jesus’ when he asked (and so fervently that he sweat blood) that his cup of suffering and punishment pass from him? Did God love them less than Jabez?
Did Jabez have the right combination of words and, if we use those same words, will our prayers be granted? Let us never make the mistake of thinking the power of prayer lies in our words—it lies in God. Neither our thoughts or nor our prayers control reality; God’s the one in charge! While God will do what we ask if our prayer is in accord with His will, the problem is that much of what we want isn’t in His will. No matter how often we pray the prayer of Jabez, it just isn’t going to happen if that’s not God’s plan. God’s purpose is character building and salvation, not giving us a life without trouble or pain.
People sometimes miss the first part of the Chronicler’s description of Jabez—he was more honorable than any of his brothers. Honorable people are honest, compassionate, trustworthy and take responsibility for their actions. Honorable men don’t stand back and just pray for success—they work at it with dignity and grace! Like my great-grandfather and Jabez, they are men of God. While men of God believe in prayer, they also believe in hard work and fair dealing and, like my great-grandfather and Jabez, they will be remembered as successful. They may not necessarily have the blessings of wealth or a life free of trouble and pain; they will, however, have a rich life!