23rd July 2020: “Lord, I would be so grateful for the opportunity to start over. A start that you don’t need, but I do. A start that will hopefully enable me to have the same confidence as before (only with way more humility)... I truly look forward to a role that is everything I described before*, but most importantly I want to be a good steward of the opportunity in every way possible and to demonstrate excellence in a way that I sometimes feel I’ve fallen short here. I don’t know where you plan for me to be, but I’m so thankful you never let me go.”
*Requests (4 of 9)
Promotion by December 2020.
That the role I go into would make sense i.e. I’m not just applying because I need the money; there’s actual progression attached.
That my manager, team, and overall work environment would match what I have here.
That it would present the right amount of challenge and other areas of my life wouldn’t suffer because of it.
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “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 him what he requested.” - 1 Chronicles 4:10, NKJV
Whenever I’ve heard this story, the emphasis has always been on the first part of his ask: “oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” It’s as if Jabez’s prayer ended there. It didn’t. In fact, I would argue that what he says next matters far more than what he says first. That being said, I resonate with the order of his ask. I, too, tend to lead with the things that are front of mind, but unlike him, I sometimes neglect to take a wholistic view by considering the ‘additions’ (see below). The first thing to note from this verse is that he turns to God for his blessing. In a world that focuses on being ‘self-made,’ the value of turning to God can often be overlooked by the need to hustle and grind to get to where you want to be in life. Could Jabez have found a way to enlarge his own territory? Possibly. Does God always expect us to ask and do absolutely nothing else? No. Not every situation requires you to petition God for your blessing, but it’s important to evaluate whether using your gifts and talents has become a guise for your self-sufficiency. In other words, have you become so connected to your own ability to make things happen that involving God seems inconsequential?
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson makes reference to the fact that when you pray, you’re asking God to complicate your life. Although it may be a ‘good’ complication e.g. a new job, promotion, or spouse, it’s still a complication nonetheless. Jabez spoke of physical territory (land), but the same prayer could be applied to non-physical things too. Perhaps you desire God to enlarge the territory of your remit at work (and salary too!), or may it’s the territory of your friendships as you seek to make new or deeper connections with your loved ones. You could also want God to enlarge the territory of your love life by bringing you a long-awaited spouse, or the child that will fulfil your yearning to be a parent. It could even be the territory of your mind or resources as you struggle to complete the qualification that’s in touching distance. Regardless of how you relate to this prayer, remember that an answered prayer comes at a price: complication.
Additions How often do you pray and then forget about God until you need something again? We’re all prone to it. The beauty of Jabez’s prayer is that he harbours a keen sense of connectedness, a desire for closeness. Whilst different versions render it differently, I love that in the NKJV, “that Your hand would be with me” is a clause on its own. In other words, territory enlargement and protection from evil aside, he just wants God. “He’s got the whole world in His hands” is a song you probably heard or sang as a child, but there’s a difference between the passive action of being held by God as He holds the whole world, and inviting Him, actively, to hold you. There are many things that I have prayed for, but in my darkest moments the thing I’ve wanted most is for Him to hold me. My desire for His nearness is often ignited in trials, but it needn’t be so. Jabez is on the cusp of a blessing, and he has no intention of abandoning God should he receive his gift.
Remain connected to the Giver as you enjoy your gift.
The inclusion of protection from evil seems off-topic. Surely, he’d want to continue listing the things on his ‘wish list’ - maybe more cattle for his land, or servants to help him tend to it. Does he feel guilty for his ‘worldly’ request and now wants to end it on a more noble note? On the contrary, I think his prayer was intentional. He understood what he was asking for and the potential cost: evil. The enlarged territory was a blessing that could also turn into a curse. Likewise, the job, spouse, or degree that you prayed so hard for (and God gave you), could also be the thing that turns you away from Him. Even before he’d received an answer, Jabez was thinking about the consequences of getting what he wanted. It’s easy to think about what might happen if God says ‘no’, but reflect on, and pray about, what happens if God says ‘yes.’ Are you ready for the stress of your new job? The flaws a spouse or child highlight? The superiority-complex your new qualification might bring? Never underestimate the potential for a blessing to turn into a curse.
Answer Jabez received the answer he’d been praying for. Whilst there are occasions where scripture emphasises the length of time it took between a prayer and the subsequent answer, this passage gives no such clues. In the absence of signposting, let’s assume that it was one prayer followed by a swift answer. In addition, there also doesn’t appear to be any caveats in what God granted i.e. He said yes to everything. I mention these points because oftentimes you may experience a delayed answer, or a partial granting of your request. Jabez is only mentioned four times in the Bible, and we don’t get to find out about the aftermath of this answered prayer. How did he feel? What else did he pray for? What did he tell others about this experience? It’s unlikely that every prayer he prayed was answered quickly or in the way he expected. Yet there’s clearly a reason that scripture mentions this particular part of his life. He strikes me as someone that would have been just as excited if God had answered ‘yes’ to everything except the land as he probably was when God said yes to everything including the land.
God is gracious even if the answer isn’t what you expected. Your response to prayer requests reveals what matters most to you. Did God say ‘no’ and now you never want to pray again? Has God ‘delayed’ and now you never want to trust Him with a time-sensitive request again? I don’t mean to minimise the hurt that both scenarios cause, but I do want you to reflect on whether your relationship with God is conditional. Conditional on blessings. More specifically, conditional on the blessings you want to receive and not necessarily the ones He wants to give you. If Jabez was sugar-coating the ending, then God would have known that he was simply trying to sweeten Him up. I believe He granted the whole prayer because Jabez understood that He was asking for a complication, and he prayed for the character to sustain his blessing. Had he only asked for the land, oblivious to what receiving it might entail, perhaps God would have said ‘no’ to keep him out of harm’s way.
8th November 2020: “Lord, you are truly faithful and I’m incredibly grateful. I really don’t know what to say... I’d never considered it and I’m still not 100% sure that I’ll be good at something I’ve never done. I’m so apprehensive, but really excited at the same time... It really matters to me that any job doesn’t cost me my mental or spiritual health no matter how good the opportunity**... I’m glad that this job came about in the way that it did because the journey truly is a testimony and a reminder that I didn’t do this by myself - YOU orchestrated this and I’ll forever be grateful that this feels like a new chapter: Grace the accountant.”
Requests (4 of 12)
That I would be conscious of and make a concerted effort to improve things that could have been better in this role.
That I would be mindful of the need for excellence and maintaining that standard.
That the level of stress would be manageable.
That I would be able to give back to support someone else in their career journey.
1. Count the cost - beware that an answered prayer doesn’t just change your circumstances... it also changes you. It would be naive to assume that that the change you seek will simultaneously leave you unchanged, it will likely demand more of you. Are you truly ready for more?
2. Pray sincerely – Jabez’s prayer isn’t a magic formula to get what you want. The sincerity of your prayer will either deepen your desire, or show you that it’s not what you truly want because you have a greater appreciation of the attached complications.
3. Reflect thoroughly - what do you want God to do? How will you respond if that doesn’t happen? If a ‘negative’ response from Him has the potential to shatter your spiritual relationship, what can you do to prevent this? As referenced above, I find it useful to journal my thoughts/prayers.
4. Be discerning - not every answered prayer is God’s perfect will i.e. you’re aligned in your desires... sometimes it’s His permitted will i.e. something He allowed but wouldn’t have necessarily chosen for you. Strive to always to be the recipient of things which are His perfect will. However, His permitted will doesn’t necessarily mean a bad experience is on the horizon.
5. Steward responsibly - a ‘yes’ (perfect or permitted) means it’s now over to you to be a good steward of the thing you prayed for. Don’t let your prayers be in vain.
So... God wants to enlarge territories of your life you’re not even aware of yet, but He’d never give you something prematurely. Seek His heart and He’ll show you what you’re ready for in this season.
About the Author
Grace is in her twenties. Born and raised a Christian and is passionate about God’s word. She loves writing and sharing devotions. You can check out her blog, The Holy Grain, for more. Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to connect with her.