Bruce Wilkinson, the author of the “Prayer of Jabez”, published a follow-on book entitled, “Beyond Jabez” in 2005. One of the reasons that he wrote this sequel was to address some of the criticisms he had received because of the success of the “Prayer of Jabez”.
For many people the “Prayer of Jabez”, which probably outsold its sequel by millions, ended up being nothing more than a means to an end. What they wanted was something that they were absolutely certain would work, a prayer that God was guaranteed to answer, and that would bring to them everything they ever wanted. And I think Bruce Wilkinson might be a little disappointed that people didn’t recognize Jabez’s prayer as a call to a more honorable, God glorifying life.
In a very real sense, Jabez’s prayer was about accessing God’s abundance, but probably not in the way we might think.
The problem is that many people have a rather narrow view of abundance. And I don’t mean that they tend to think of it only in terms of money and miss all the “important stuff”. Because some people will write off abundance by saying that Jesus wasn’t really talking about money.
The truth is that Jesus was talking about money when He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11, NIV)
How we handle money will determine how we will handle a lot of things. If we can’t be trusted to be faithful with it, then we probably can’t be trusted with the true riches either. And in that sense, the parable of the talents teaches us that being faithful with worldly wealth means that we use what we have to create more, and then give it all back to God because He’s the one who gave it to us in the first place.
But when it comes to abundance we often make the mistake of thinking that it means having money. And while money is involved, money is the result of abundance and not the cause of it. In other words, we don’t experience abundance because we have money; we have money because we live in abundance. What abundance really means is represented by the part of Jabez’s prayer when he says, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!”
If we simply look at “territory” as the land that he farmed and managed, then we can relate it to our lives by seeing that he asked God to increase his responsibilities. By having more land Jabez would be able to plant more crops and have a larger harvest. That would mean that there would be more grain for others, and perhaps even more work, and more pay, for his workers. In one sense he was asking God to make him a greater servant.
It comes back to a general principle that says: The more wealth there is, the more there is for everybody and the greater the wealth within a society, and the world, as a whole.
But a person who grew up in poverty, and can only see himself working at a low paying job, struggling to get by month to month, and never being able to get free of his situation, will never be able to experience, let alone create, that kind of wealth. In his limited view of the world, a better life, even one of greater contribution and service, is impossible.
When the Bible tells us, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), it is saying that with God there are no limits. When we put our faith in Him we see that not only is more possible, but that there is an infinite number of possibilities. The only thing that limits us is what we are able to believe and what we are willing to receive.
If we use the prayer of Jabez in our lives, we should recognize that we are asking God to open our eyes, and enlarge our vision, of what is possible. The abundance that we have in Christ comes from the realization that we are now reconciled with God and through Him we have access to unlimited possibilities.
But simply having access to infinite possibilities won’t help us if God’s hand isn’t with us. Jabez went on to pray, “Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
As overwhelming as it may seem to recognize that our possibilities are unlimited, and that we may even be able to do harm through some of them, we also need to remember that it is only through God, and the wisdom that He gives us, that we will be able to take advantage of them. Which is why James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
When we come to God in faith, knowing with absolute certainty that God will give us the wisdom we need, suddenly the abundance of infinite possibilities will become the means by which we access God’s blessings. What we will find is a greater level of service to others will become clear to us, and as we serve more and more people, God will lift us up and give us greater blessings.
And, yes, that does mean more money as well as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and all of the other non-material blessings He wants us to enjoy.
If we are missing God’s abundance it’s because we are not open to see all the possibilities that He has for us. As we ask Him to open our eyes so that we can see them, we also need to ask Him for the wisdom to use them in service to others. And if we then act in faith on what God reveals to us, we will understand what Jabez meant when he said to God, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” (1 Chronicles 4:10), and we will enjoy the abundance of Jabez.