I have read this story from the Sermon Central website
A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with fever. She left her work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication for her daughter. When returning to her car she found that she had locked her keys in the car. I am talking about when the cars had manual locks and not the electronic locks of today which prevent such problems. She was in a hurry to get home to her sick daughter. She didn’t know what to do, so she called her home and told the baby sitter what had happened and that she did not know what to do. The baby sitter told her that her daughter was getting worse. She said, “You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door.” The woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been thrown down on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time or other had locked their keys in their car. Then she looked at the hanger and said, “I don’t know how to use this.” So she bowed her head and asked God to send her some help. Within five minutes an old rusty car pulled up, with a dirty, greasy, bearded man .The woman thought, “This is what you sent to help me?” But, she was desperate, so she was also very thankful. The man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. She said, “Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medication and I locked my keys in my car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?” He said, “Sure.” He walked over to the car, and in less than one minute the car was opened. She was overjoyed and through her tears she said, “Thank you so much! You are a very nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour.” The woman was even more joyful and with sobbing tears cried out loud, “Oh. Thank you God! You even sent me a Professional.”
All of you might have heard numerous sermons on prayer. The bad news this morning is that you are going to hear another sermon on prayer. After yesterday’s session , I am sure some of us, atleast some of the men must be in a mood to pray more. Or am I speaking only about myself here? Jokes apart, I believe that during this time of disturbance and persecution, prayer is one thing that is required a lot. Be careful though, not to be praying for only the persecuted, please do pray for the persecutors too. They are God’s creation too, and God loves them, and wants them to be saved too.
All of us struggle at times with what to pray for. All of us believe that we serve a prayer answering God. However, I am sure no one in this congregation are naïve enough to assume that prayer is a blank cheque that Jesus has given us. (after all Jesus did say “ ask in my name and it will be given to you isn’t it?) I am reminded about what Pastor Vasudevan tells us about God’s response to Prayer, Viz, 1: Yes, son , here it is, take it 2: Not what you ask for, but I have some thing better for you, 3. Not yet son, you are not ready for it yet, and 4: You must be joking.
If at times we do not know what to pray for, there is good news for us. We do not need to struggle, the word of God tells us that the spirit will help us in what we want to pray for. Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
There are many prayers in the Bible. The Book of Psalms is the most known and most read ones. For today’s meditation, I am going to take a very small prayer probably not known to many people, unless you have heard about or read the Book “Prayer of Jabez by By Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, published way back in 2000. What I am going to speak about is largely adapted from that book, with some of my own studies thrown in.
I want to look at this from the point of view of Leaders. Now.. before you shrug and decide that , if this is for Leaders, it is not for you.. hold on a minute. Let me remind you of the definition of Leaders that I have quoted multiple times from John Maxwell. He defines Leadership as influence, so what has that got to do with me, you ask… The truth is , once you accepted Jesus Christ, you accepted his instruction to influence other’s lives, hence you accepted a leadership position. If you do not believe me, go and read John15:16. Jesus is not giving us a chance, he says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, so that you can bear fruit..” Now some of you might extend the argument saying that Jesus was talking to his disciples and not to us common Christians. Well.. we can go on running away from it, but the fact is that we are called in to influence others, and thus we are called to be leaders
Before I start talking about this prayer, let me give you a little historical background about the book. This book became an international bestseller, topping the New York Times bestseller list and selling nine million copies. It received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book of the Year award in 2001. In this world anything that is popular will get commercialized, and this book was no exception. The popularity of the original book has led its publisher, Multnomah Press, to extend the line to a number of derivative works targeted at niche audiences, as well as to offer the books in audio and video formats. They also authorized a wide array of official “Prayer of Jabez” merchandise including key chains, mugs, backpacks, Christmas ornaments, scented candles, mouse pads, and a framed artist’s conception of Jabez himself . A line of jewelry was introduced in 2002 . So ever since this book became a success, the subject of Prayer of Jabez has been highly commercialized.
So let me make this clear. I have taken a risk in picking this subject up for sermon today. I am ofcourse encouraged by yesterday’s session where we were challenged to take risks, and I pray that the risk will be worth it for some of us sitting here this morning. When we hear about this prayer and know about the things that already spoke about the Book on this subject, we could get into some extremes, One Extreme being , we get Skeptical, Is there not too much publicity associated with this small prayer? Is it already not Commercialized too much through a book? Is this Prosperity Gospel?
We could go into the other extreme too , of treating this prayer as a Mantra which will resolve all problems in our lives. Remember, this can happen to the Lord’s prayer also..
We can look at this as a magic formula to get God act/intervene on our behalf.
I want us to be aware of these two extremes, and then know the truth that this is simply An acknowledgement of God , his almighty nature, our helplessness, and our cry to let His will be done in our lives. God does not owe us anything.. We cannot manipulate God by any prayer..
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
I would like to quote John Wesley from one of his sermons on prayer
“The purpose of your praying is not to inform God, as though he didn’t already know what you wanted. No, it is to inform yourself, to fix your wants more clearly in your heart and to remind yourself of your continual dependence on God who is always more willing to give than you are to ask. Then you will be more willing to receive the good things he has prepared for you.”
So what is this Prayer of Jabez?
Some of the books of the Old Testament are never read. I do not want to embarrass you by asking, but I an sure there are some OT books that some of us have never opened. The Book fo Chronicles is not the worst, but still is one of the books we tend to avoid. Especially where we have long list of Genealogies. Take a look at 1 Chronicles, open the chapter 1, what do you see? An endless list of names. If you have the patience to go through the list , by the time you reach Chapter 4, you would have gone through about 600 odd names. Then suddenly at 4:9 the author breaks this list to pause and speak about one person called Jabez. Let us read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “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.” And God granted his request.
I pity this fellow Jabez. His name meant Pain.. Imagine some one calling you Hi pain.. How are u? Hi Pain, can we go out for dinner?
Name is one of the circumstances that we come into world with.. We have absolutely no control over this. During olden times, there was no system of affidavit to change the name. so you live with the name given…
I want to us to ask this question this morning. How many of us feel constrained the way we are? .. Need not necessarily be our names.. But may be our talents.. May be our lineages.. May be our heritage.. May be our physical appearances. May be our financial position, qualification etc…
And let us look at Jabez.. He prayed…. What did he pray for?
“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.“
Four parts to the prayer
· Bless me (Blessings)
· Enlarge my territory (Provisions)
· Let your Hand be with me (Presence)
· Keep me from harm (keep me from Evil) (protection)
What can we learn from this prayer?
Is it OK for us to ask God to bless me? Isn’t it selfish? You know what.. do you want to ask God to curse you instead? What blessings do we ask for? The word blessing is a much Clichéd word.. Misused.. To bless, in the Biblical sense means to ask for or to impart supernatural favor. When we ask for God’s blessing, we’re not asking for more of what we could get ourselves. We’re crying out for the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has the power to know about or give to us.
Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it. (“The Lord’s blessing is our greatest wealth; all our work adds nothing to it.” (10:22 – TLB)
Why do we need to be blessed: So that we can pass it on… Talents/ Treasures.. , spiritual gifts.. Keeping a blessing to self is selfish. If you ask for a blessing for your self alone it is with selfish motive..
James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Why do we need to ask? Does He not know what we need.. Matthew 7:7, here is what Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” James 4:2 You do not have, because you do not ask God.
Enlarge my territory
Listen to what Dr. Wilkinson says about this part of the prayer of Jabez: ”From both the context and the results of Jabez’s prayer, we can see that there was more to his request than a simple desire for more real estate. He wanted more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark for the God of Israel.”
Management Jargon. Think outside the box..
John Wesley brought the church out side the church walls.. He said, “ World is my Parish”.. It was not an easy journey. He got ridiculed and spat upon.. He got discouraged and returned to England.. But later on.. this became the largest movement in Americas through others, what is known today as the Methodist Church.
Whether it be in Church., Business or Work.. We get constrained by our boundaries, set by us.. We say. we do not have enough money.. Not enough people.. Not enough time.. This will never work… I want us to know this morning, that when we do this, we insult our god who said..
Isaiah 54:2-3 ;2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
I would like us to note this down. This is a key thing to remember.
Wilkinson formula A. My abilities + experience + training + my personality and appearance + my past + the expectations of others = my assigned territory.
B. My willingness and weakness + God’s will and supernatural power = my expanding territory.
Holds good for Church too.. What is the mission of BBF? How do we expand our territories.. Are we asking god for help? Are we constrained by our limitations? Do we need to do this?
There is one condition though. : When you ask , we should be prepared to go and occupy.. John Wesley said World is my Parish, and he went out and preached the Gospel.. Needs to be prepared to go out and occupy.. God’s command to Joshua. Go and occupy the land that I am about to give you? This morning I want us to ask ourselves, are we really prepared to go out and occupy what God is about to give us?
Let your hand be with me
God’s hand is Mighty:
· To create (first and on going through Christ ) 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
· To save: Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
· To Protect:
God’s hand is righteous: His hand will deliver the righteous judgments upon this earth and its people. It will triumph in the end..
Gods hand is active: (not an inactive god.. Who has created us and left us to our own destiny..)
· To bring justice
· To advance His Kingdom. (great commission..)
· To change lives.. From darkness, from alcoholism.. From sinful ways
Like Jabez, we are in desperate need for the hand of God to act on our behalf, and we need to invite Him to do it!
Keep me from harm
This is very similar to the Lord’s prayer. God protects us.. Examples from Bible: Job 1:9-10 ;9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.
Acts 12:1-11 : Peters miraculous escape.. Daniel.. Daniels friends..
Let us Seek his hedge around us..
The KJV translation interestingly puts this verse slightly differently : “Keep me from Evil, so that I may not cause pain”.. All of us are, and will be tempted by Satan.. Even Jesus Christ was.. By ourselves are we capable of resisting temptation? Seek God’s help..
Our part: Flee from evil.. Avoid temptations if we can.. Obtain habits in pursuit of righteousness.. Quite time.. Prayer time.. Bible reading.. Etc..
God’s part: Trust in the promise.. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
We just need to be able to take the way out.. Yielding is sin.. And sin is not acceptable to a holy god we serve..
So , this morning, after having seen the Prayer of Jabez a little bit more in detail, may I encourage you to ask the following questions?
· What attitude do I display that might be limiting what God wants to give me/my church or what God could do through me within this church family?
· What fear is stopping me today from asking God to bless me?
· What misconception about prayer is giving that fear power over me?
· The next time I face that fear, what should I do?
Now let the Lord preserve all of us from all evil: Let Him preserve our souls. Let the Lord preserve our going out and our coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Amen