Augustine said, “God is more anxious to bestow his blessings on us than we are to receive them.” Though Jabez is an obscure biblical character, his unforgettable prayer teaches us that God is listening. Jabez believed God would hear and heed prayer. God also wants us to ask for great things. We approach the throne of grace with boldness.
HOW TO DEVELOP A STRATEGIC PRAYER LIFE
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 presents a man, Jabez, who had developed a strategic prayer life. As someone once said:
The greater the blessing, the greater the responsibility. Jabez was an honorable man, dependable, faithful. He asks for God’s hand on his life. Intimacy with God is critical. Jabez specifically prayed that God would be with him. The greater the blessing the greater the temptation. Jabez knew that if God were blessing him, then the enemy would be tempting him. He asked God to keep him from evil. God’s blessing is never in short supply: God wants the world to be full of Christians willing to pray the Jabez prayer.
PERSONAL PRAYER LIFE THAT IS STRATEGIC
The Prayer of Jabez is a popular book that turns this prayer into a formula for prosperity. However, the story of Jabez is far different than a prosperous one. The words in the prayer imply that Jabez has had a hard life. His name means “pain” and it relates perhaps to the idea that his childbirth was a difficult one.
The prayer recited here is not one of blessing and prosperity. Everything about the context shows that this is not that kind of prayer. Instead, this section reflects the way that a person should attempt to pray:
I should be respectable when I pray.
“more honored than all his brothers.”
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. In other words, Jabez was more respected. Therefore, his prayer life would be filled with honor. We don’t know how dishonorable his brothers were. But from the context, we can see that Jabez lived an honorable life. This can be seen in the way he prays to God. We don’t know the reason for the prayer, just the background of the petitioner.
I should want to pray.
“If only” is a phrase that reveals a sense of respectability in my prayer life. It not a “You must” or a “you have to” or a “you should.” This prayer shows us that when you come to God, you are not just praying to a genie who grants every wish. This is not you asking God for the lottery. Instead, there is a sense of humility in the asking.
I should be specific when I pray.
FOUR SPECIFIC CATEGORIES OF PRAYER REQUESTS
There are two prayer requests for the protection of God and two prayer requests for the presence of God.
The privilege of God – “bless me”
Not everyone can ask for God’s blessing. This is a sacred thing that only those who belong to God can ask.
The provision of God – “extend my border”
Jabez is asking that God “extend” which is an element of God’s provision. God can provide. The idea of extending territory was a way in which one shows the level of power one has. It is very possible that is Jabez’s case, his “pain” is directly related to his status in society. He might be disabled, or he might be poor. Extending his border would show that God is showing him favor.
The power of God – “let your hand be with me”
God’s hand is a symbol of God’s power. When His hand is with you, nothing can stop you.
The protection of God – “keep me from harm”
Jabez was clear to ask that God keep him from harm. In his case, harm was related to pain. Whether by disability or violent act, Jabez is well away of the trauma associated with harm and pain. Jabez is asking for God’s protection to help him accomplish what he needs.
In November 2000, a tiny book entitled The Prayer of Jabez was released. The book is based on 1 Chronicles 4:9–10. Author Bruce Wilkinson has broken down the verse to demonstrate how a person can pray for himself or herself to be blessed so that their ministry to others may grow and Christ receives the glory. Used first by Wilkinson in 1972 as a seminary student, he has seen his ministry “Walk-Through-The-Bible” grow from his own standup teaching to a worldwide teaching ministry.
In 2002, Bruce felt the Lord’s call to minister in Africa. He started “Dream for Africa” a faith-based humanitarian movement that helps the poor nations in sub-Sahara Africa find solutions to hunger, poverty, and AIDS prevention. Still praying that the Lord would use him in a way that brings glory to Christ, Bruce prayed in 2003 that 100,000 gardens would be planted in 2004 in Africa. He didn’t know where the volunteers to help plant those gardens would come from nor did he have the materials for those gardens. But miraculously, more than 100,000 new gardens were planted in 2004 that provided food for over 500,000 people in Africa!
The Lord is looking for those men and women who want to be used by Him.
 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2002 Edition. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 197–198. “A Man Called Jabez,” by Drew Wilkerson.
 Peter Kennedy, Preaching Illustrations, vol. 1 (WORDsearch, 2009), 143–144.