Today's devotion from 1 Chronicles 4.
Several years ago, a popular book was written about these few verses in 1 Chronicles 4. The Prayer of Jabez became very popular. It was a small book, easy to read, and bent toward the charismatic/prosperity camps (read popular because it said what we wanted to read). Now, don't take me wrong, it had some good points. I read it and generally liked it, but I knew to read it carefully regarding the ideas of "naming and claiming".
While Bruce Wilkinson's book shouldn't be banned or burned, the purpose of Jabez's place in Scripture shouldn't be reduced to a misplaced notion that God wants to bless as mankind defines blessing (materially), and the only thing keeping him from doing so is that we do not ask. There was once another work called, "The Prayer of Jabez." This other work predated Wilkinson's by more than a century. It was not a book, but a sermon preached by none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
In his message, Spurgeon commends the prayer recorded in our text today. Yet, he did not shy from a painful truth: God's will (i.e. blessing) may be on the other side of sorrow. He proclaimed:
To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those projects that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings.
I'm almost certain that even though "God granted what he asked," Jabez did experience pain. Those that he loved died. He aged and experienced aches and weakness. His world was broken and dark just like ours. Oh yes, Jabez felt pain. So, how are we to interpret the purpose of these verses tucked away neatly within this genealogy?
While none of us desire pain, there is no magic prayer that will keep you from experiencing loss or hurt. There is, however, a God who can hold you when you experience the trials of this earth. One who cares deeply about you, and will walk with you. A Father who will, in His own way, bless you and keep you from evil. That is what these verses are about. It is an early version of the prayer Christ taught us in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a prayer born from dependence for blessing (daily bread) and protection (deliver us from evil).
By all means, call upon God to provide and protect, to bless and keep from evil.