Is it OK to pray for myself? I mean does God think I am being selfish? I sometimes think I am when I do. Somehow it feels better to ask someone else to pray for me. But each time I begin to ride this wave of doubt, the Lord steers me to Jabez. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) There is only this one brief mention of him in the Bible. We know nothing else about him….which begs the question, why is he there at all?
“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
Jabez asked the Lord for 4 specific things...all for himself.
1. First he asked that God would bless him. Asking for a blessing can mean asking for protection or favour, certainly desirable at any age. However as we age we may feel we need more protection than we did when we were younger. Seniors face unique pitfalls such as health deterioration, things like possible mobility issues making us more and more fearful of falls, hearing loss, or even incontinence. We also fear a loss of cognition, keeping both dementia and scammers off our doorstep. Yet God’s blessing might also mean seeking his approval.
As we navigate next steps in our lives we need his divine approval in knowing the right path to take. We may be trying to decide if we should volunteer or get involved in this or that, or if we should invest our time and energy in some new training. When should we give up our driver’s license, or which retirement home is best for me or perhaps for my parent are often other decisions that press in on us. Maybe we simply need God to help us learn when to say no to family or friends, or even to former duties or responsibilities.
2. Jabez asked God to enlarge his territory. This might have meant land. We just don’t know. It is possible however that since Jabez was a God-fearing man, afterall he was petitioning the Father in this prayer, he was referring to his sphere of influence. How many times do we ask God to open doors for us to have more impact on others, for new opportunities? Or, as we age do we simply feel our task is completed. As Susan Macias says in her podcasts attached here, we are not done yet. The task God has assigned us is not concluded till we take our last breath. There is work to be done and our lives are always on full display as an example to others, especially those who are younger than we are, most importantly our children and grandchildren.
3. Let your hand be with me was his third request. Jabez was asking for God’s daily strength in his life. He wanted to walk with God! He recognized that walking in communion with God was the best place to be. In the prime of our lives this may not have seemed as urgent a need as it does now in our golden years. We ran through life back then. We certainly didn’t walk. But now that we are engaged at a more careful and measured pace, we finally are able to recognize and reap the benefits of our slower gait. We can so clearly see the grace that has always been extended to us on our journey as we now walk at the “pace of grace” ( google Michael Todd)
4. Jabez asked that God keep him from harm so that he would be free from pain. Nobody enjoys pain, physical or emotional. This was a plea for future protection shielded safely in the cleft of the rock. As we age we are more acutely aware that our journey is winding down but we can be firmly anchored, unafraid in the harbor away from the storm.
Still when we read his prayer we might miss a few things. Jabez cried (or earnestly called) out to God. When was the last time I desperately cried out to God for his blessing? I believe that crying out is much different than asking. We are not told that at the time of his prayer that he was in any particular distress. Yet, we do know that his mother said she bore him in pain and thus, gave him the name Jabez. It seems that Jabez’ earnest desire was to rise above his name. Maybe that is why he was crying out recognizing that God was his source of strength and hope. Names were extremely important then. The meaning of your name was highly significant. It seems he desperately wanted to shake off the negativity of it. Jabez was seeking God in prayer so that he could rise above his name and change the direction of his life. Like Jabez we need to recognize that our past cannot hold us in its grip if cry out to God. No matter the moniker that we may have carried for years, its inferences or its innuendos, we can be blessed in the years still ahead if we call on God to raise us up. Crying out to God cannot be overemphasized.
“And God granted his request.”
We don’t know exactly why God answered this prayer that Jabez prayed for himself. However the key may be found right at the beginning.
“And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren.”
We can only speculate about why or how Jabez was found to be more honourable, why he was held in greater regard than his brothers, but it must have been hugely important to draw our attention to him in the first place. There must have been other men of honour then, as there are now, but Jabez’ degree of honour was exceptional. It would serve us well to ponder this.
Jabez’ obscure little prayer was bold! We know that what he asked for for himself God granted. He wanted more…and he knew God was his provider, his source. He knew that God was the only one who could lift him from his current position, change his reputation because of the implications of his name, and give him a larger sphere of influence. He knew that God was the only one who could protect him…and moreover, Jabez was even so bold as to ask for God’s favour!
So, should we pray for ourselves? Indeed we should! Big, Bold, Beautiful petitions from an earnest heart that genuinely seeks the Father!