In our last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ we dug into the life of Jonah and saw through his life how God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience. We also introduced that we would be doing a 3 part series of how if we would respond to God’s “Never-Ending Pursuit” of us that would result in a victorious life for us. As a refresher the trilogy of posts will delve into these 3 Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.
Simple enough right? But I know myself; in the busyness of life establishing (and maintaining) a consistent “quiet time” can be a challenge. Not familiar with that term? You can check out this post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★ that goes in-depth about it but in a nut shell, it is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God through prayer, reading the Bible (Word) and for me I enjoy having worship music on. This could be at night or in the early morning, or any time in between that does not really matter, what matters is spending time with God. The pursuit of our Father in Heaven is all He desires! God wants a relationship with us.
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
“If my people” would “humble themselves and pray and seek” Him and turn away from sinning, God will hear us and forgive us! Wow! This is not an obligatory prayer before your meal, or a lukewarm petition. God’s desire is for us to truly want to pray, to be passionate in our time with Him. And it is not intended to be a monologue…that you tell Him all that you need and then say Amen…It should be a dialogue where you listen for a response which could be an impression you feel or something that you comes to mind. And this is something that is developed over time.
Before I accepted Jesus as my savior and pursued a relationship with God I know I prayed many milquetoast and meaningless prayers where I bargained with Him like God let me pass this test and I’ll go to church this week, or God get me through this hangover and I will never drink again. The problem with these prayers is that they were not sincere and were just attempts to bribe God to get me out of trouble. Too often we pray when things are terrible for God to help us out but once that is done God gets nothing…no thanks, no gratitude even if He did everything we prayed.
There is a song by the late great country singer Johnny Cash called a “Boy named Sue.” He tells the story about how his father named him Sue and that he spent his life fighting everyone as a result of it. The song most certainly is fictitious but in the Bible there is a man who was the equivalent to Sue. His name was Jabez. In 1 Chronicles 4:9 it says that:
“His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’”
The name his mother gave Jabez literally means…“he causes or will cause great pain.” Now that may not seem like a big deal, but in Old Testament times, a person’s name was an indication of his future. And a name like Jabez was like a curse that would predestine a person to a life of ridicule and grief just like the “boy named Sue.” However, Jabez rose above the curse with a very simple prayer.
“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,
That I may not cause pain!
So, God granted what he requested.”
Jabez was a man who knew the power of prayer and is a great example of how to open the pipeline to God. First and foremost we can learn that just like Jabez, we need to believe with all our heart that God will honor our prayer. Now Jabez’s prayer may seem to be common sense but how many of you have ever prayed so boldly? Most people feel that they should be grateful for whatever they have and it’s better not to press your luck by asking for more since there is so much suffering in the world. That is completely opposite from the truth. If you look at the first part of his prayer:
Jabez is asking God to provide him with resources. Now don’t misunderstand me, that does not mean that you can ask God for a Rolls Royce or a mansion in Beverly Hills. As we discussed in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★, “God is not a vending machine! Too many pastors and churches have sown into the “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” or in this case that you are praying for God to give you with lots of stuff! That is not what blessing means. The kind of blessing Jabez is talking about in a biblical sense is to ask God for “supernatural favor.” It is asking God to bless us not with more of what we can do for ourselves, but for Him to do the miraculous through us to glorify the kingdom of God. What a different perspective then the conventional though of our culture. God has so many blessings for us and is just waiting for us to ask for them. In Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV1984) it says:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Jabez asked and he received. The prayer of Jabez is a special prayer asking for God’s blessings. But something you have to realize is that God’s blessings are not always the blessings that we think that they ought to be. The blessings that He will bestow upon us are so much more abundant than we could even imagine. When Jabez asked God to “bless him indeed” he didn’t say “God I could use a new car, or a million dollars”; rather he left it up to God to decide how, when and where to bless him. He prayed that God would give him nothing more and nothing less than what God had planned for his life. The blessing can come in many different forms and for reasons that you would never expect. In the second part of Jabez’s Prayer he asked for God to:
Now when I first read that I immediately thought of real estate. That Jabez wanted more land but what he was really asking for was more influence, more responsibility and more opportunity to make a difference for God in his life. Asking your territory to be enlarged is a very dangerous request though. You are saying to God give me a greater sphere of influence and more opportunities to impact people for Christ. It is being totally open for God to use you as a tool for His purpose. That means stepping out of your comfortable schedules and routines and being ready at any moment to fulfill God’s master plan. It means seeing “interruptions” as “opportunities!” This was true for me on Thursday on my flight home from a business trip in Indiana. My plan was to plug-in my ear buds to relax with some music and write this post! But as a man sat down next to me and proceeded to talk with me, God opened an incredible door to speak life into his situation. Though I was exhausted from 2 days of meetings, and had other plans for the 2 hour flight, I was thrilled to be able to partner with God to share the truth from His Word to help encourage him. It truly was the highlight of my day!
When you ask for your territory to be enlarged, it is an awesome responsibility but the rewards are immeasurable. More than any other part of the prayer of Jabez, this concept of “enlarging my territory” has to be the most bizarre and unexpected request. How many people do you know go up to their boss and say “would you give me more work and responsibility?” Most people feel that whatever they are currently doing is enough and that they do not have the skills to handle anything more.
Through the Holy Spirit, He will speak the words of encouragement or healing or compassion that the person needs to hear. That is what happened to me on Thursday! The man in seat 16A asked me if I was a pastor but I am not, I’m an architect, and he kept saying “how is it that you know all of this?” The answer unequivocally is God! That is the point of this part of Jabez’s prayer, by asking for “the expansion” you are taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that when you are reaching out to people who God will give the words to speak when you are open to be used, He will break all the boundaries and restraints holding you back. The third part of Jabez’s prayer:
Is the equivalent of the Star Wars catch-phrase…“May the Force Be With You.” Jabez realized that once God started to bless him with resources and expanded his territory that he was going to need help. It is all too common for people to ask for more responsibility and once it has been given they feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves. It is at this point that we need the hand of God to carry us and work the impossible through us. In his book “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life,” Bruce Wilkinson said that:
“The Hand of God is a biblical term for God’s power and presence in the lives of His people…As God’s chosen, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed…unless God Steps in.”
I shared some of this in the ★ Why I Do What I do ★ section of the blog, starting this blog was a huge step of faith because of the commitment level. It takes much more effort than just throwing up a status update. But God certainly expanded my territory through this blog and without a doubt has had his hand on my preventing epic failure. He has equipped me with a boldness to share things from my heart and do things that I never imagined possible. It has been an amazing experience! The fourth part of the Prayer of Jabez states:
This is critical to pray. As God blesses us, and our territory is expanded and the supernatural power is surging through us, we are most vulnerable to stumble and fail. When you are enjoying spiritual victories and seeing God’s unbelievable plan unfolding it is easy to feel invincible and impervious to the attacks of the devil. But, Jabez knew that once you start treading on the devil’s territory, a giant target would be placed on you. You become public enemy #1 in his eyes. I can attest to that fact. With the devil’s attention focused on you like this, it’s best if you don’t try to play with temptation. Don’t fall into the devil’s trap by testing your strength to resist from sinning because that is the quickest way to fail. Bruce Wilkinson made this point in the book that:
“It is better to stay out of the arena than to challenge the lion.”
What is the best offense? A good defense! And that of course as you can already guess, is prayer! In the book of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles how to pray, “The Model Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 is often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer,” or as I knew it growing up, “The Our Father.” The final verse shows how important to pray to God for deliverance:
“And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13
In regard to temptation it is best not to press your luck. If there is no temptation we will not sin; so stay clear of situations that will lead you to sin or cause harm to you or someone else.
There is such a tremendous power in prayer. When Jesus was on the earth He was always praying to the Father. In fact the only thing that the apostles ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. Jesus’ ministry was not just about healing and preaching but about praying. He lived a life of Prayer. It was through His prayers that God worked all the miracles and wonders. In the life of Jabez, here was a man who started off badly but ended victorious from a simple prayer. And let’s not miss the final part of that prayer…
And God’s response…“So, God granted what he requested.” I heard a missionary say once:
“That when we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.”
God will work in your life through your prayers. When you pray, you are opening up a pipeline to the creator of heaven and earth and the possibilities are endless!! Your pray doesn’t have to be a formal, rehearsed prayer but rather God desires it to be one from the heart. You don’t have to have your eyes closed or be in church. Sometimes the most powerful prayers can be in the car as you’re driving to work or school. Regardless of what you are doing, or who you are with, God will honor your prayers and welcome the fellowship time between you and Him. Talk to God like a friend and open your heart to Him. The miraculous can be done with a prayer!
If you are interested, you can check out the second installment called
that covers the Pursuit of Feeding on God’s Word!
If you the introductory post, you can go here:
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