Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School: Is Prayer of Jabez Selfish Or Selfless?

(v9) "Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, 'Because I bore him in pain.' (v10) 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."
The Prayer of Jabez at first glance appears to be a selfish prayer. Jabez, whose name means "Son of Sorrow," is mentioned only once in the Bible among a long list of names. Jabez asks God in 1 Chronicles 4:10 to enlarge his territory and bless him indeed. Despite using the words, "me," "my," and "I," a total of five times (NKJV) in one paragraph, God answers his prayer.

Why did God answer the prayer of Jabez? I believe God answered his prayer not because Jabez was selfish but because he was selfless. Jabez didn't want to live up to the expectation of his label. He didn't want to live according to the label of his name. That intrigued me because so many African American children are mislabeled, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood. They don't achieve because no one expects them to achieve. When we read the label on a bottle of Aleve, it says "pain reliever." Aleve is one of the most popular pain relievers on the market today. That's because what's on the outside matches its contents. Aleve works. Aleve alleviates pain.

However, no one wants to have anything to do with the contents of a package whose label reads "pain causer." We see a man walking down the street in a "wife beater" undershirt, and invariably he is labeled not by what's on the inside of him but by what's on the outside. Someone will lock their door or move to the other side of the street because it is assumed that he causes pain. Although Jabez caused his mother pain coming into the world, the label of his name was contrary to the content of his character. We know this to be true because at the outset the text states "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers" (v9). Though he was more honorable than his brothers, it was Jabez, and not his brothers, who carried the stigma, the negative name "Son of Sorrow." Jabez prayed to God that he may not cause sorrow, "that he may not cause pain." So, what looks like a selfish prayer really isn't selfish at all. Jabez prays for other people that he would not cause them pain. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we would pray this kind of prayer everyday?

Oh, Lord, we pray right now in the name of Jesus for the mislabeled, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood. Oh, Lord, don't let society's, and our own families' negative labeling cause pain! Let the "slow learner" graduate from Harvard, and "athlete" win the Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, Lord, let the "ADHD" skip a grade, and the "physically challenged" win the Olympics. Oh, Lord, let the "angry black woman" become university president and even president of the United States. Oh, Lord, enlarge the territories of their honor and bless them indeed! Help us all live by the precepts in Your Word. Help us to be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. In Jesus Name, Amen.

READ: Article posted today in The Root, Black Reading Skills: Reports Miss The Mark Show Me the Numbers: Here's why standardized tests don't tell the whole story.
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