Chapter 2 So Why Not Ask? Oh that you would bless me indeed.
You are at a spiritual retreat in the mountains with other who want to experience a fuller Christian life. For the duration of the retreat everyone has been matched with a mentor. Yours is in her seventies, and she's been touching lives for God longer than you've been alive. On the way to the showers the first morning, you walk past her room. Her door is ajar, and she has just knelt down to pray. You can't resist. How exactly does a giant of faith begin her prayers? You wonder.
You pause and lean closer. Will she pray for revival? Pray for the hungry around the world. Pray for you?
But this is what you hear: "O Lord, I beg you first and most this morning, please bless…me!"
Startled at such a selfish prayer, you pad down the gall to your shower. But as you're adjusting the water temperature, a thought hits you. It's so obvious, you can't believe you haven't thought it before:
Great women and men of the faith think differently than the rest of us.
By the time you're dressed and heading for breakfast, you're sure of it. The reason some women and men of faith rise above the rest, you decide, is that they think and pray differently than those around them.
Is it possible that God wants you to be "selfish" in your prayers? To ask for more -- and more again -- from your Lord? I've met so many earnest Christians who take it as a sign of immaturity to think such thoughts. They assume they'll seem impolite or greedy if they ask God for too many blessings.
Maybe you think like that. If you do, I want to show you that such a prayer is not the self-centered act it might appear, but a supremely spiritual one and exactly the kind of request our Father longs to hear.
First, let's take a closer look at Jabez's story.
Not Pain, But Gain
As far as we can tell, Jabez lived in southern Israel after the conquest of Canaan and during the time of the judges. He was born into the tribe of Judah and eventually became the notable head of a clan. Yet his story really begins with this name: "His mother called his name Jabez, saying, 'Because I bore him in pain."
In Hebrew, the word Jabez means "pain". A literal rendering could read, "He causes (or will cause) pain."
Doesn't sound like the start to a promising life, does it?
All babies arrive with a certain amount of pain, but something about Jabez's birth went beyond the usual -- so much so that his mother chose to memorialize it in her son's name. Why? The pregnancy or the delivery may have been traumatic. Perhaps the baby was born breach. Or perhaps the child's father abandoned her during the pregnancy; maybe he had died; maybe the family had fallen into such financial straits that the prospect of another mouth to feed brought only fear and worry.
Only God knows for sure what caused the pain of this anguished mother. Not that it made much difference to young Jabez. He grew up with a...