Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?

As a kid I took seriously the warning in the Bible to avoid vain repetitions when we pray. Even at a young age I knew that reciting a memorized prayer over and over did not impress God. In fact I suspected it sorely vexed him.

Given this I was highly critical of my church for spewing forth the Lord’s Prayer in rote unison each Sunday morning. I’d wag my head at their babbling. Though I’d participate, I hoped God knew that in my heart I didn’t go along with their repetition. Gee, don’t they read their Bible to know they’re not supposed to do this?

They so ingrained this habit in me that all someone needs to do is begin droning “Our Father…” and I’ll jump in without the slightest hesitation. The church has programmed me to perpetuate their vain repetition – even though I know I’m not supposed to. Reciting a memorized prayer over and over does not impress God. Click To Tweet

So, then, it will surprise you to know that each morning I say the Prayer of Jabez:

“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!” (NKJV)

Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?But I don’t repeat this simple little prayer every morning because I think God needs to hear it again. With him, once is enough.

I say this prayer every morning because I need to hear it again. I need to remember what this prayer says and to consider ways that God has answered it in the past 24 hours – or what I may have done to thwart it.

Then when I have duly reminded myself, I add an addendum that often goes something like this: “Thank you God for hearing my prayer and answering it: in the past, in the present, and in the future.”

That’s a prayer worth repeating.

Do you see value in saying the Lord’s Prayer or Prayer of Jabez? If your church recites the Lord’s Prayer in unison each week, what do you think about it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Matthew 6:7, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Women in the Bible: The Mother of Jabez

Though an entire book was written about his prayer, we actually know little about Jabez. The Bible only mentions him in two obscure verses, buried among a lengthy genealogy. We know even less about his mother, not even her name.

We do know his birth is difficult, and the name she gives him reflects the physical pain his arrival caused her. This is all we know about her.

However, we can infer more of her traits from the character of her son. Jabez is an honorable man, more honorable than others. We also know he has a deep connection with God, for when Jabez prays a bold prayer, God answers it.

We can implicitly connect these qualities with his mother, the woman who raised him. Surely Jabez’s mother is a godly woman, who taught her son how to live an honorable life, follow God, and to pray with effectiveness. What more could a mother give to her son?

What can we do to raise godly, honorable, faithful children?

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

What the Prayer of Jabez Means To Me

In my prior post, I made a couple of tweaks to the prayer of Jabez.  The original text reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”  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.

Consider my paraphrase:

Jabez was a man of honor and integrity, but his mother had nicknamed him “hemorrhoid’ and always called him a “pain in the butt,” because his birth was so painful.  And Jabez pleaded with God: “Bless me abundantly — so that I may bless others — and grant me much influence; keep me on the right track, so that I may do good things, and no longer be viewed as a pain in the butt!”  And God said “yes!” to his petition.

That’s what the prayer of Jabez means to me.

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Don’t be a Pain in the Butt

When I study the Bible, I use multiple versions (translations), depending on my mood and goals.  One version that I seldom use, however, is the New King James Version (NKJV).  There’s no particular reason, it’s just how things have worked out.

There is only one passage that I have memorized using the NKJV.  It is 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the “prayer of Jabez,” which reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 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.

I like this rendering because, unlike the over versions I’ve checked, the reoccurring word “pain” connects his past — his birth — with his hope for the future.  To make my point, consider a couple of tweaks in today’s vernacular:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother had nicknamed him “hemorrhoid’ and always called him a “pain in the butt,” because his birth was so painful. 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 no longer be viewed as a pain in the butt!” So God granted him what he requested.

The mother of Jabez gave him a terrible legacy — and the God of Jabez took it away!

What’s Your Favorite Bible Verse?

What is your favorite verse in the Bible? Is it John 3:16? That seems to be one commonly cited. Or perhaps, it’s commonly cited, only because it is the only one people know.

As a teen, just to be contrary and catch people off guard, I would claim that my favorite verse was John 3:17. It’s a good one, too, and worthy of consideration.

Or how about: “God helps them who help themselves.” That may be a popular and comforting thought, but I can’t find it in my Bible, so that doesn’t count.

My favorite verse, at least for this season of my life, is quite a bit more obscure. It’s the last part of 1 Chronicles 4:10. To save you the effort of looking it up, it simply says, “And God granted his request.”

The back-story, found in that verse and the preceding one, is that a guy named Jabez prays. After he prays, the Bible simply records that God answered his prayer.

I find that wonderfully comforting and joyfully encouraging to know that God answers prayers. That is why this is my favorite verse.

You Don’t Have to be a Pain

The obscure Old Testament character Jabez is only mentioned in two verses in the Bible.

A reoccurring theme (if two verses can have a reoccurring theme) is pain.

The birth of Jabez is marked by pain and his mom gives him a name to let everyone know that.  What a terrible legacy to give a boy, a name that serves as a constant reminder — to him and everyone else — that he caused pain and is likely destined to continue to cause pain.

Jabez could have opted to live up to those expectations, allowing his name to be a self-fulfilling prophecy or he could attempt to overcome it.  He chose the latter, asking God to keep him from causing pain.

And God answered that prayer!

Regardless of our past or the hand that life has dealt us, we don’t need to let that define us.  We can overcome it and become something else, something better.

God helped Jabez do just that and he can help us to; we only need to ask.

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

My Favorite Verse

Just as we may have a favorite color, make of car, movie, or vacation destination, some people also have a favorite Bible verse.  My favorite verse is not a common one and comes from an obscure passage in the Old Testament.

It is about an honorable man who prayed — and then “God granted his request.”

This is a simple phrase and seemingly not profound, but it is most encouraging to me.

There is often a mystery to praying: when God answers, how he answers, and if he answers the way we expect him to.  During dry times, it may seem like he never answers, but there are also times when the answers are quick and obvious.

This verse is a powerful reminder to me that God does indeed answer prayers.

[For the full story — all two verses — see 1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

What is your favorite verse to share?

Book Review: The Prayer of Jabez

The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life

By Bruce Wilkinson (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, is a short work and a compelling read.  It is based on a brief, two-verse Biblical account of an obscure ancient man, named Jabez.  All that is known of Jabez is recorded in these two verses, which provides a short bio, a brief prayer, and a concise pronouncement of the outcome.

The book greatly expands on the aforementioned two verses, informing readers of the man, his life, and his character, before delving into his concise prayer to God.  Only five lines long, Jabez’s succinct entreaty carries with it great meaning and significant applications for us living several thousands of years later.

Throughout the book, Dr. Wilkerson shares his own thirty-year journey with the prayer of Jabez, educating and inspiring us in the process.  Although he lived a long time ago, Jabez and his prayer is still relevant today, being insightful and instructive to all who will consider it’s deeper meaning and applications.

[The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, by Bruce Wilkinson. Published by Multnomah Books, 2005; ISBN: 978-1590524756; 96 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

Save

Jabez Was More Righteous Than His Brothers

One final reflection on the Prayer of Jabez.

In the scant bio for Jabez, it describes him as a good man, saying he “was more righteous than his brothers.” Righteous is a word that we don’t use too often nowadays, but means to be morally upright. Jabez then was a good, morally upright person.

Now, consider that characteristic with the final phrase in this passage, “So God granted him what he requested.”

That begs the question of causality. Did God give Jabez what he asked for because Jabez was good or was Jabez good because God gave him what he asked for?

The answer, I suspect is “yes” — to both questions — which certainly gives us something to contemplate in respect to our prayers and relationship to God.

[Read more on The Prayer of Jabez; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV]

God Answers Jabez’s Prayer

After Jabez’s short and concise prayer comes encouraging words of confirmation and affirmation. The Bible simply notes that “God granted him what he requested.” How exciting!

Although I don’t know the mind of God, I suspect that had Jabez made his requests for selfish reasons, the results may have been different.

Indeed this is something to consider in our own prayers. If we see things through God’s perspective and pray accordingly, the outcome will likely be different than when we selfishly give God our list of “gimmes.”

[Read more on The Prayer of Jabez; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV]