Tag Archives: prayer

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!

Jude’s Advice

In Jude’s letter, he warns Jesus’ followers to be on the alert for ungodly people in the church.

After detailing their characteristics, Jude tucks in a bit of advice at the end of his letter.  Implicitly, it is his recommendations on how followers of Jesus can avoid being ungodly, offering three prescriptions to promote godliness:

  1. Build up your faith.
  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Remain in God’s love.

These, then, are three essentials that we are to actively pursue: faith, prayer, and love.

Although some items on Jude’s list of ungodly behaviors may be far removed from us, other aspects might be quite close, such as speaking against things we don’t understand and being divisive.  What about grumbling and finding fault?  For those who follow Jesus, these are apparently all forms of ungodliness.

However, we can do much to avoid these errors as we actively seek to build up our faith, pray with the Holy Spirit’s power, and abide in the love of God.

By following Jude’s advice, we can avoid the error of ungodliness.

[Jude 1:20-21]

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?

Be Careful What You Pray

When you pray, be careful what you pray — I’m serious, be very careful.

In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples (also called “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”), one part says:

“Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.”

Some translations use the word “sins” or “transgressions” in place of debts, but the intent is the same.

The request is that God will forgive us…to the degree we forgive others.

That is, if we forgive fully, we are asking God to forgive us fully.  However , if we only forgive partially — keeping grudges, holding onto ill-feelings, or harboring hate — then we are asking God to only forgive us partially.  Our lack of forgiveness towards others could limit the amount of forgiveness we receive.  Ouch!

So when I pray that prayer, I do so carefully and with some trepidation; some days, I even want to skip that part!

However, skipping it is not the answer.  A better solution is to be steadfast and diligent in forgiving others — then we can likewise expect the same from God.

[Matthew 6:12]

Esther Was Not Like Cinderella

I’ve always liked the story of Esther.  She was a peasant girl who won a national beauty pageant and became queen.  In my imagination, I’ve given this tale a Cinderella-like grandness, with Esther and the king, falling in love and living happily ever after.

Alas, the story does not mention love and fails to include any thoughts of happiness.  Let’s review the facts:

  • Esther and her people had been taken captive and forcibly relocated to a foreign land; she was a spoil of war.
  • Esther did not opt to take part in the beauty contest; all attractive virgins were compelled to participate.
  • Esther’s heritage prohibited her from marrying outside her faith; to do so would be a shameful and disobedient act.

Add to this these reasonable conclusions about Esther’s “relationship” with the king:

  • Even after she was made queen, he seemingly continued to enjoy the company of other women in his harem.
  • She was estranged from him; she had not been “summoned” by him for thirty days.
  • She feared him; she could be summarily executed by merely approaching him without permission.

In the New Jerusalem Bible, we are treated to the prayer that she offered in the midst of this.  She says, in part:

  • “I loathe the bed of the uncircumcised” (that would be the king)
  • “I am under constraint” to wear the crown, that is, to be queen
  • “Nor has your servant found pleasure from the day of her promotion until now”
  • “Free me from my fear”

Sadly, there is no love, happiness, joy, or satisfaction in her role as queen.  Even so she did use her unwanted position to save her people, the Jews, from a certain annihilation.  So this account of Esther isn’t a love story, at least not in the traditional sense.  It is, however, a tale of valor and bravery — and a reminder that one person can make a difference.

More Righteous

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]

His Request Was Granted

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]

Not Cause Pain / Do Good

The fifth and final line in Jabez’s prayer is

that I may not cause pain.”

At first glance this is an unclear and somewhat wordy request.  However, it can be reworded for clarity.  To not cause pain, is simply to do good.

Here Jabez is reminding himself — as much as he is telling God — that the purpose of his prayer is not self-serving or self-centered, but to do good for others.  Indeed, his first two requests address this desire directly, while the next two are to provide for help and protection in doing so.

His motives are pure and his intentions are good.  His prayer’s conclusion confirms that.

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

Keep Me From Evil

The fourth line in Jabez’s prayer is:

that you would keep me from evil

If this request sounds vaguely familiar, there is good reason.  In the best known prayer in the Bible, often called “The Lord’s Prayer,” there is the line “deliver us from the evil one.”

Just as Jesus taught his followers to pray, Jabez is doing the same, asking for protection from the attacks of the devil.

Remember that Jabez has just asked for more blessings to bless others and for more opportunities to help others.  The devil, opposing both those initiatives, will go after anyone attempting to do so.  This is why Jabez next asked for God’s help, following it with this request for protection.

[Read more on The Prayer of Jabez; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV, Matthew 6:13 NIV]

That Your Hand Would Be With Me

The third line of Jabez’s prayer is:

that Your hand would be with me

Having just asked God for greater blessing — in order to bless others — and more influence — in order to help others — Jabez realizes that he needs God’s direction and guidance so that he may proceed wisely and justly.

Indeed, having more blessing and more power can easily become a heady thing, distracting or even corrupting the recipient   Jabez, being aware of this risk, makes his third petition one of soliciting God guiding hand.

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