Meaning: He makes sorrowful
His Character: Jabez was a pious man who tried to live righteously.
His Sorrow: His birth caused his mother pain, and she gave him a name that means sorrowful.
His Triumph: He prayed for God to bless him and enlarge him, and God honored his petition.
Key Scriptures: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10
Jabez was a descendant of Judah. It is believed that he lived after the conquest of Canaan during the time of the judges. Jabez is mentioned during a genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles. The author interrupts the genealogy to briefly tell us about him, which is a reason to take note. We learn that he was named Jabez by his mother because his birth was exceptionally painful. The Bible refers to him as more pious than his brothers.
Jabez is remembered for his prayer request that is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. The prayer is, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!”
In his prayer, he asked for four things. He asked for God to bless him. He asked for God to enlarge his coast. He asked for God to keep His hand on him. He asked for God to keep him from evil.
The first thing Jabez prayed was, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed.” Jabez recognized God as the source of all blessings. In his request, he was asking God for supernatural favor. He did not say what he wanted those blessings to be. He trusted God for the results.
The second thing Jabez prayed was, “enlarge my coast.” The word coast can be replaced with the word territory. When Jabez says this, he is not just referring to physical land, wealth and prosperity, though I am sure that was part of his request. He was also referring to his relationship with God and his spiritual impact on those around him. He was referring to expanding his influence.
The third thing Jabez prayed was, “that thine hand might be with me.” Jabez wanted God to protect him and lead him in all that he did, every moment of his life. He wanted God with him through all trials and circumstances that came to him.
The fourth thing Jabez prayed was, “that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.” Jabez’s name means sorrow. He was praying to be protected from the meaning of his name.
I am not sure what caused Jabez to pray those words. As mentioned, his mother named him sorrowful. Names were very important during Biblical times. A name was a wish and a prophecy for that child. People often ended up living out the meaning of their name, which is a reason for the names changes in the Bible. Jabez did not want his name to define his future or anything to do with its meaning. Perhaps he prayed to cancel that label and that his life would not be sorrowful.
His life certainly ended up far from the meaning of his name. He prayed, and God heeded his prayer. In Jabez, we see a person who defied the label placed on him. He believed in the power of God and prayed that power into his life.
Today, the Prayer of Jabez has been marketed as a book (part of the prosperity movement) and turned into a song. But I think the lesson of Jabez’s story is his faith and belief in God. God answered his words and his prayer. When praying to God, it is perfectly suitable to pray using scripture. It is also okay to pray for blessings. Just remember you are blessed to bless others. At the end of the day, God knows your voice and your needs. Like Jabez, call on Him.