Thursday, January 20, 2011

Be Careful What You Pray For!

"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." I Chronicles 4:10

Many Christians know this scripture as The Prayer of Jabez. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a little inspirational book published in 2000 titled, “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life”. I read the book, as did most of my friends, and the pastor preached a series of sermons based on the principles inspired by the scripture and bestseller.

Oh, that You would bless me indeed… Not a little, but INDEED. The adverb is used here as an intensifier. In praying this, I’d be asking the Lord to not just show me a tad bit of kindness, but also bless me big. In this context Jabez was petitioning God for favor and mercy. Mercy. Indeed.

Enlarge my territory… It was, apparently, the desire of Jabez’s heart to share his faith with as many people as possible. Most of us hate the idea of getting out of comfort zone, but not this man, Jabez. Whatever God had to do to widen his sphere of influence, he was open to it. I felt the same way.

…that Your hand would be with me… That was far and away the easiest part of the prayer to REALLY mean from the heart. I wanted the Lord to cover me, keep my family and me safe, and walk with us every minute of the day.

…that You would keep me from evil… Temptation is everywhere. I pray everyday that God will keep me from myself. You know what I’m talking about—we are always at war with the desires of our sinful human nature.

…that I may not cause pain. I’ve not always been successful, but it has always been my prayer and desire that I not cause pain for anyone else. I know that I can be thoughtless and selfish, so this little prayer reminded me that with I could do all things through Christ and with His strength—even be a nicer person.

I was inspired to pray the short prayer with my family every day. So, each morning before breakfast, we recited the words together.

It didn’t take long for our morning ritual to become second nature. We blessed our breakfast, and then every adult and child at the table narrated the scripture in unison.

Be careful what you pray for.

I really did want God to bless us big, to keep me from sinning, and to keep us safe. I did indeed want God to expand my territory, and I thought I knew how He might do that. He ended up giving me a bigger platform than I ever expected, and He did it His way.

Our meth-addicted daughter ran away from home and my territory expanded to addicts and liars. She went to rehab and we became friends with counselors, parents of prodigals, and people from all over the country. Our drug-addicted son went to prison and our territory expanded to include parole officers and other broken-hearted parents.

As if living with the disappointment and brokenness caused by the choices of our kids wasn’t enough, the pastor of the church we attended asked us to leave because our son was “too hard”. The pain was crushing, but our sphere of influence once again expanded to other people in other churches.

In an earlier post I lamented the church’s lack of compassion and action in regards to parents of prodigals. Nothing excuses bad behavior and acts of judgment and condemnation. I want to remind myself, however, that if not for the ugliness I might still be sitting on that comfortable pew—not speaking, not sharing, not growing more passionate about God.

So, I will continue to pray, “Lord, expand my territory in any way you choose to do so. Make me uncomfortable so that I’ll get off the pew!”


  1. How is it that, the desire of Jabez’s heart to share his faith with as many people as possible comes from "Enlarge my territory"?

    1. Jabez appears to be a humble man. He seems genuinely interested in the welfare of others ("that I may not cause pain"). I, therefore, do not think he selfishly just wants "more", but I believe he wants more with a purpose.

      How would you interpret it? Just wondering.

      Thank you!