1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (from The Message)
Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor. His mother had named him Jabez (Oh, the pain!) saying, “A painful birth! I bore him in great pain!” Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: “Bless me, O Bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection - don’t let evil hurt me.” God gave him what he asked.
A few years ago an enterprising Christian wrote a little book called “The Prayer of Jabez.” It took the church by storm and we even had small seminar in the Burlington District about the book and how good and profound it was...and all the benefits that would come from bold prayers. But I still remembered the old Jewish curse: “May God give you exactly what you pray for.”
Back in the day, when Susan preached and I listened at the 11am service, I would write the pastoral prayer while she preached, trying to incorporate what she preached into the prayer. It helped (sometimes) to make the points she tried to make. It also helped me to pay attention. A lot of my report cards in elementary school said that I needed to pay more attention...even though I got mostly E’s (which meant “excellent”). Here I might insert an “eye roll” emoji.
But you didn’t notice that I prayed NOT as Jabez prayed but in accordance with the Jewish curse. I was in the ER years ago with a man who was dying of a stroke. He was a sweet man, loved in his community and church. His well-meaning nephew prayed a bold prayer that this man might not die of this stroke. This man did, indeed, recover. He came back to life; mean as a snake. His wife was forced to move out of the house. He didn’t go back to church. His neighbors shunned him. His property failed. As his life was restored, other lives became miserable.
If we truly believe in prayer, then we should be very careful in what we pray. My friend Tom asks all the time if I believe in prayer on the golf course. In the events that have transpired, perhaps, Tom, I’ll start praying on the golf course again. John Greenleaf Whittier is one of my favorite poets and wrote one of my favorite hymns. Look at the words that rhyme...and be amazed at what they say...and what they pray.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives that service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the pulses of desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm. Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser