When it’s right to want more

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Roger Campbell

Christian Columnist

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Each morning I stand before a large map on my study wall to pray a brief prayer from the Old Testament known as the prayer of Jabez.  It’s been my daily practice since sometime in the 1970s when I first truly took notice of this prayer sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb amidst the family tree of Judah.

What is the prayer of Jabez?

It is a prayer by a man who longed for more than he had and dared ask God to give it to him.  This is his prayer:  “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!” (I Chronicles 4:10).

Some may plod on year after year without challenging their faith, but not Jabez.  Some may be content to stay in spiritual ruts, but not Jabez.  Some may be willing to just go through routines of prayer without expecting big things, but not Jabez.  He wanted to reach beyond the spiritual borders that had confined him for years and asked God to enable him to do so.

What about this kind of praying?

Is it right to ask for more than we have?

The last line of the verse that records the prayer of Jabez answers that question:  “So God granted him that which he requested.”

Does this mean God approves of praying selfishly?

Not at all.  The New Testament teaches us some prayers are not answered because the one praying wants to consume what he hopes to receive on his own lusts (James 4:3).   But the prayer of Jabez has a built in safeguard against this motive.  He asks God to keep him from evil and from inflicting pain.  In other words, he prayed big so he could use what he received for the glory of God and the good of others.  No wonder God answered his prayer.

Does this mean that all prayers offered with the right motives are immediately answered?  Does it mean that God is sure to increase our outreach or enlarge our territory when we intend to use increased blessings properly?

Not quite.

Faith is also a factor.

Faith dares to expect answers to our prayers.  Doubt cringes and cowers at every obstacle.  Faith is bold, believing God will overcome every barrier to blessings.  So we can pray and believe and receive or we can pray and doubt and go without.

Our involvement may also be required in receiving what we want.  Faith must be expressed in some kind of action.  Nothing works unless we do.

Some time ago, a young doctor, whom I had never met, removed some stiches from a wound in my hand and when I asked him if he attended church he replied that he prayed to St. Mattress on Sunday mornings, meaning sleep is more important to him than worship.

But St. Mattress doesn’t answer any prayers, so I reminded my sleepy listener about the One who died with wounds in His hands – the One who loves us and was always busy, as we ought to be, for the good of others and the glory of God.

Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.