Prayer of Jabez – Revisited

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 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.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

In the early 2000s, the “prayer of Jabez” caught on like wildfire throughout the American Christian community. The prayer comes from an obscure scripture passage buried in a section of 1 Chronicles that lists descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel.

For years you could find people asking God in prayer to bless them, enlarge their territory, and keep them from harm (Remember that?). And while there is nothing wrong with praying for these things, it often had a prosperity gospel ring to it that was unhealthy. People kind of forgot the first line of the passage that talked about Jabez being more honorable than his brothers. They also tended to skip over the pain of Jabez’s birth.

I honestly hadn’t thought about the prayer of Jabez for two decades, that is, until the Lord spoke to me about it in the car the other day. Seriously.

I was listening to the local Christian radio station (95.1 Shine-Fm) which was doing a fundraiser. The radio DJ thanked a grandmother who gave $30 a month to the radio station for each grandchild. ($30 a month is the financial contribution that makes you a financial partner with the radio station).

What was extraordinary about this woman was that she didn’t just give $30 a month so that her grandkids would have a Christian radio station to listened to. She gave $30 a month FOR EACH GRANDCHILD. When each kid was born, she added a new financial partnership. So, since her 5th grandchild was just born, she was increasing her giving again.

Do the math. $30 a month X 5 grandkids = $150 a month…every month…just so she could ensure a Christian radio station would be available for her grandkids when they got older. I was really amazed and delighted by this woman’s generosity when I heard the story. That’s when the Holy Spirit whispered* to me, “That is what ‘enlarge my territory‘ means.” Wow! I wasn’t expecting that!

First, I couldn’t believe God was reaching back two decades and bringing the prayer of Jabez to mind again. But the Holy Spirit was giving me a new perspective on it. Enlarging our territory doesn’t just mean greater blessing (having 5 grandkids) it means greater responsibility, greater sacrifice, greater giving ($30 a month for each one).

Then I heard* the Holy Spirit say, “This is what ‘stretch out your tents‘ means.” I knew that phrase was from a passage of scripture but I couldn’t remember it, so I had to look that one up.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
    strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.

Isaiah 54:2-3

The expansion of influence, blessing, and territory means the expansion of generosity, sacrifice and taking responsibility for what is now under your “tent.”

So when we pray, “Lord, expand my territory” or “Lord, stretch out my tents” do we understand what we are really praying? Are we sure we want to pray that? God is happy to answer our prayer, but will we be happy with Him answering our prayer? It will mean no longer listening to the radio station for free. And it will mean not just donating $30 a month but $150 a month. It means taking responsibility for things that become our new territory.

So often we have no idea what we’re praying for. Thank the Lord He doesn’t always give us what we ask for. Yet, with this new insight, I do believe God wants us to pray the prayer of Jabez and the words of Isaiah 54:2. We just need to be prepared for what His answer will mean for our lives.

[*when I reference hearing the Holy Spirit whisper or speak to me, I don’t mean an audible voice. It is often a thought or picture that passes through my mind that doesn’t come from me. It often comes out of the blue with an idea that is surprising or unsuspecting. Some Christians call it the “still, small voice” of the Lord similar to what Elijah experienced on Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:12).]

Comfort and Mystery

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
    Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
    human beings who are but grass,
that you forget the Lord your Maker,
    who stretches out the heavens
    and who lays the foundations of the earth…

Isaiah 51:12-13

So often we comfort ourselves by using the tool of “comparison.” We feel like we are struggling financially and so we compare ourselves to someone with less and say, “At least I’m not that poor.” We feel like our career has stalled and so we compare ourselves to someone who got fired and say, “At least I have a job.” This is often how we comfort ourselves when we are facing a hard time.

But using comparison to bring comfort has an ugly side to it. When you are the one completely broke, when you are the one who lost their job, when you are the one with a terminal illness, comparison only leads to more despair. Far from bringing comfort, comparison brings feelings of deep pain and hopelessness.

God makes it clear that He alone is our comforter. We need to take our pain to Him and let His presence exchange our sorrow with joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “…you will fill me with joy in your presence…” It’s in the presence of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles“(2 Corinthians 1:3-4) where we find comfort and a lasting joy that can’t be taken from us by hard circumstances. Comparison can never do this!

The Lord recently revealed something to me in regard to mystery. We humans tend to be hypocrites when it comes to what mystery we’re comfortable accepting. We ask questions regarding the mysteries of pain and suffering but never ask the same questions about our blessing and provision. We don’t wrestle through why we were born into a country with freedoms, a strong economy, job opportunities, clean water and sanitation. We know it is a mystery as to why we were born here and others were born into countries with none of these things. Yet, we accept this mystery often without a second thought.

However, we love to ask “why me” when we get an illness, or have a financial crisis, or troubled relationships. We embrace the mystery of blessing just fine but can’t bear to embrace the mystery of suffering. If the answer to the question “why was I born into a middle-class family in the one of the greatest countries in the world” is above my pay grade, then certainly why my friend got cancer is above my pay grade. Both are mysteries and both are beyond my understanding. To accept one as mystery and demand answers for the other is hypocrisy.

The healthy response to suffering in our life is to take our grief and our pain to the Lord. We take it to Him and allow Him to comfort us. When we think we have to make sense of it and figure it all out, we step out of our role as trusting sons and daughters of the Father. Embracing mystery and trusting the Lord with things that are beyond our understanding is a part of living in a broken and fallen world.

What mystery in your own life is the Lord asking you to trust Him with?

What do you need to take to the Lord to receive His comfort?

Power of Words

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3:5-6, 9-12

God wants us to be careful with our words, not because our words are weak and meaningless but precisely because words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

The apostle Paul talked about the use of language to the Ephesians when he was encouraging them to live a life of holiness. He said, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”(Ephesians 5:4). Basically, obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking become the opposite of expressions of gratitude.

And I believe James takes this idea even further as he addresses language that becomes curses. Our harsh words toward people can be used by the enemy to curse their lives and give the enemy access to that part of a person’s life. The small spark of our careless words said in anger can become a forest fire in the life of the person we spoke against.

An unintentional curse works like an email sent to a person with a virus attached to it. If the person reads the email but doesn’t open the attachment, the email does little damage. But if the person opens the attachment, a virus is unleashed on the person’s computer.

In the same way, when a harsh word is spoken, if the person resists the word and decides to reject it rather than accept it as true, then the harsh word does little damage. But if the harsh word is spoken and the person receives it and believes it is true about themselves, the enemy unleashes destructive forces in that person’s life through that word. This same principle applies to harsh words we speak against ourselves. At some point, the curse has to be rejected, broken, and the power of that word removed from the person’s life.

The power of words is especially true for people in positions of authority. The words of people in authority over us (parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, etc) carry a lot of weight. So if a harsh word comes flying at us from them, it is even more difficult for it not to become a curse. This is why James starts chapter 3 with the warning, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”(James 3:1). And I believe this includes teachers of every kind in our lives, not just teachers in the church.

Words of blessing and encouragement are powerful too. They have creative power to bring life to a person. God spoke creation into existence in Genesis 1. Jesus is called the Word of God (John 1:1-5). When our words line up with the loving words of God that He is speaking over a person’s life, there is creative power in them to bring about God’s future for that person. Our words become like that parent that helps to get their child started as they learn to ride a bike. Our words of blessing can build stability and momentum until the person can start pedaling on their own.

Inheritance (Part 1)

An inheritance is something sons and daughters receive when a parent dies. Throughout the New Testament, this language of inheritance is used to describe what has been made available to believers in Jesus because of His death and resurrection. Sometimes it has been taught that this inheritance is something believers get in eternity when we die, but that is only partially true. What is different about this inheritance is that, because Jesus already began to usher in the Kingdom of God and continues to do so through those who belong to Him, much of the inheritance is available to us before we die. It is available now!

Paul starts his letter to the Ephesians trying to explain this to them. He writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). In other words, as believers our inheritance in Christ is already in the heavenly realms collecting interest. It is already ours because of Christ.

Some of this inheritance is already being poured out to us. Paul lists some of the pieces of the inheritance that are ours now: “adoption to sonship,” “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace,” “the mystery of his will ….which he purposed in Christ,” being “included in Christ” (Ephesians 1:5,7,9,13).

All of these things are part of the inheritance, but maybe the best part of the inheritance that we get to experience now is this: “you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession”(Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit is a foretaste, a deposit, of the full inheritance that is awaiting us in eternity.

Paul isn’t done listing all the pieces of our inheritance that we get to experience now. So much of the letter to the Ephesians is Paul helping the Christians there understand all that is rightfully theirs as sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If we don’t understand how our inheritance works and its significance in our life right now, we’ll never step into all that is available to us in Christ. We’ve been given so much more than salvation. That certainly would have been enough! But our gracious Father has given us so much more!

And we’ve been given so much more so that we could give it away. Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give”(Matthew 10:8). If we don’t know all that we’ve been given in Christ, we’ll never be able to give it away to the world!

Blessings and Curses

Paul reminds the Galatians that Jesus became a curse for us so that blessing might flow to us. He wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'[Deuteronomy 21:23] He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit”(Galatians 3:13).

I used to not understand that blessings and curses are real things. I would read the Old Testament passages that seemed to indicate that the blessing of a patriarch would help shape the future of the child who received it (Genesis 27). I would read about how a prophet was hired to put a curse on Israel (Numbers 22). Yet, I just thought words simply encouraged or discouraged. I didn’t think they had any real effect in this world. But I was wrong!

Scripture tries to warn us again and again that our words impact things in the spirit realm and in the natural world. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

James 3:8-10 says, “…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

So how do blessings and curses work?

Some curses are intentional but most are unintentional. An intentional curse is an evil appeal for harm to come to someone, especially in voodoo, witchcraft/Wicca and occult practices, and it is usually spoken aloud. An unintentional curse usually comes in the form of harsh and condemning words spoken about a person or words of hopelessness and despair spoken over a person’s life (usually from someone in authority over them like a parent, coach, doctor or teacher).

An unintentional curse could be a father, in a moment of anger, saying to his child, “You’ll never amount to anything!” Those words sink in and are believed. Later that child struggles to be successful and wonders why. Or it could be a doctor saying, “You’ll never have children,” or “You’ll never recover.” These words kill hope and help to bring about what they proclaimed.

The key to these harsh or hopeless words becoming curses is how they are received. If these words are accepted by the person, and there is an agreement made in their hearts, these words then give the demonic world access to the person’s life to bring about that word of cursing. They become self-fulfilling prophecies because the enemy takes advantage of them as access points.

Harsh and hopeless words are like an email sent with an attachment that has malware or a virus. The email may contain harsh words, but the real damage comes when there is an agreement with those words in the person receiving them. It’s like clicking on the attachment that allows a virus on your computer. But if the attachment is never opened, no matter how many emails are sent, the person will not be harmed. This is why we must be vigilant about the words that come against us. We must reject any word the enemy may try to use against us.

The best news of all is that Jesus became a curse for us! He took all of that cursing upon Himself so that we don’t have to deal with it. In the place of cursing, Jesus offers us blessing. He offers us His words over our lives that bring His blessing. And just as curses can have real effect in our lives if we agree with them, blessings can have even more effect if we agree with them.

So not only do we need to speak words of blessing over the people around us, allowing the Holy Spirit to ignite those powerful words in that person’s life, but we also need to stand in agreement with the words that Jesus says about us. Standing in agreement with the words of Christ over our life will help us immediately detect and reject any unintentional words of cursing that may come our way.

If you feel that you’ve agreed with too many harsh or hopeless words that have come your way, make the declaration below to break those curses off of your life in Jesus’s name. Just be sure to say it out loud when you take your stand!

“In the name of Jesus, I break every curse of words against me. I take every word captive that’s been spoken over me, that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness. I cast them to the ground. I call a blessing to follow me in their place. I take back every curse that I’ve spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground and I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I could live in blessing!”

From Rodney Hogue’s teaching in Empowered